Not quite neon, but still of interest, I hope.
St. Regis Cab Call. (T. Rinaldi)Thankfully, the lettering on the sign offers a clue to its raison d'etre: "ST. REGIS CAB CALL," it says. Otherwise, frankly, I wouldn’t know what the hell to make of it. The three incandescent digital panels below, it would seem, could be set to indicate any number up to nine-hundred ninety-nine.
Met Opera Cab Call, c. 1905. (Shorpy / Detroit Publishing Co. / Lib. of Congress)Today the cab call signs seem all to have vanished, with this one exception. Sort of remarkably, the St. Regis keeps the sign in working condition: the numbers are set to read zero-zero-zero now, making this perhaps the very last authentic, functional, exposed bulb sign of its type in the city.
The mystery, though, is this: so how did it work? Were the numbers supposed to indicate how many fares were lined up under the awning? Would this really require a three-digit number? Or was there some other secret code going on?
Alas, no one at the St. Regis seems to know, so the secret of the St. Regis Cab Call remains the domain of Midtown past.
IN OTHER NEON NEWS:
• Riverside Liquors on the Upper West Side is moving - and they're taking their sign with them.
• Mystery neon brought to you by the MCNY.
• Check out Kirsten Hively's neon photos at Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
UPCOMING NYNEON TALKS:
• July 22, 2013, at the NYPL / Mid-Manhattan Branch.