March 19, 2002 - Coke Sign

If you're into Baton Rouge history and neon signs, you just know that "Things go better with Coke!" But the Capital City's big Coke sign has been dimmed for a decade. Now the good news -- the big red logo downtown will soon be lit up again.

It was a time when you might come downtown to buy a street corner hot dog for lunch. Post-war Baton Rouge, when the big Coke sign went up on top of the drug store at Third and Florida. "You know, it's a great sign," says Gary Sligar, president of the Baton Rouge Coca-Cola Bottling Co. "It's a great location. At one point, when it was installed in maybe 1946, it was a gathering place. It was a place where people could go for refreshment and enjoyment. It's historic, it's nostalgic."

Coca-Cola put up 60 or so great big ceramic and neon signs in downtown areas all across the USA in that post-war advertising blitz. The one in Baton Rouge is one of the few left. And it doesn't work. Sligar explains, "We had several storms, we had hail, we had rain, we had hurricanes, and over time it just broke in so many places that it would cost too much money to repair it."

Hurricane Andrew pretty near finished it off ten years ago, and it came within an inch of hitting the scrap heap. Now it's on its way back. Coca-Cola is putting up the money for the restoration of the 56-year-old sign.

The current owner, Pete Richoux, says he's donating it to the Arts Council, and the Arts Council will provide the money for the upkeep of the sign. "We just think it belongs in downtown," says Gary Sligar. And even local hot dog legend Chicago Al is back -- with street corner hot dogs for lunch. If all goes according to plan, the old Coke sign should be lit up again by late May or early June.