Friday, September 29, 2023

Doo wop League Eyes Neon ‘Garden’

By Rick Racela

WILDWOOD – How does your garden grow? The Doo Wop Preservation League’s own garden is being planted with neon, metal, and transformers.

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The league is preparing for a “neon garden” to spring up next to the planned Doo Wop Museum.
Jack Morey, who is chairing the $1 million dollar project, said on Oct. 12 that the Surfside Diner site will house the museum, band shell, and garden, and has a goal of opening for the 2006 summer season. The venture is a joint effort between the Wildwood and the league. Morey said that the league would be the lead curator for the museum.
Doo Wop Preservation League President Dan MacElrevey described the undertaking as “historic.”
“The neon garden will run along the sidewalk and entrance way of the museum and con-tain many of the signs from motels and restaurants that have since been demolished,” said MacElrevey. “And inside the museum we’ll have a description of the signs as well as all the memorabilia from our old Pacific Avenue location.”
Just how many neon signs make a garden? According to Morey, he’d like at least seven re-stored signs to adorn the museum’s landscape.
Randy Hentges, owner of ABS Signs, and Fred Musso have donated their time to appraise, remove, and restore signs from all over the Wildwoods for display in the garden’s exhibits.
MacElrevey referred to Hentges as “Mr. Neon Sign” because his company has been build-ing many of the area’s signs for over 40-years.
Hentges told the Herald that the garden is still in the planning phase, but he’s already re-ceived quite a few calls, especially from motel owners, who would like to donate their sign to the garden.
“Motels owners shouldn’t demo their signs along with the building,” he said. “If a sign is donated to the league, it is tax deductible.”

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Hentges and MacElrevey have been working to provide sign owners with an accurate ap-praisal.
“The sign may have historical value but still be in really bad shape,” Hentges told this newspaper. “A sign may be worth $11,000 when I first built it, but now there is substantial wear on it. A lot of factors go into the appraisal and we’re still coming up with the best way to go about it.”
According to Hentges, the process of removing and moving a sign into temporary storage is difficult. A team from ABS Signs, accompanied by a bucket truck or a crane, could be de-tained for a number of hours on one removal project.
“Its always a lot easier to take down a sign than to put one up,” he said. “But in this case, we have to take it down with minimal damage and then transport it.”
The unique look of the Doo Wop signs may be architecturally interesting, but Hentges said it adds to the complications.
“Many of the signs are made up of two or three pieces. Any one sign can be made a whole lot of ways,” he said.
Hentges added that it would be time consuming to restore the signs to their former glory.
“Right now I’m the only one who knows what condition these signs are really in. Some are going to take a lot of work and other may not be salvageable at all,” said Hentges.
Currently, the Cavalier Motel and the Hi Lilli Motel signs are slated for removal. They’ll join others like the Swan Motel and Hudson’s Restaurant signs in storage until the garden is ready to be tilled.
Although the Doo Wop Museum has a reported $420,000 donation from the Byrne Fund and $168,000 from the New Jersey Sports Expo Authority, Morey told the Herald that con-struction couldn’t begin until another $200,000 in funds is acquired.
Morey also credited the city and the convention center for their continued support.
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