Vol. 17: Neon Signs in Warsaw (3): Flashing Neon and Border Neon Signs

Flashing neon signs and border neon signs would appear to be the almost exclusive preserve of Japan, and we hardly ever saw examples of them in Europe. We were thus very surprised to come across both types in Warsaw. But both were white and therefore seemed somehow typically Eastern European.

Flashing neon signs decorate the walls of department stores. The neon tubes arranged like a windmill flashed on and off in rapid succession or turned on and off together. In this sense, the method was exactly the same as that employed by neon signs in Japan. Border neon signs are set on arcades straggling the sidewalks. Although the signs, used to advertise music halls and the like, are often very large, the clumsy combination of non-matching tubes would be quite unthinkable in Japan. Perhaps the preponderance of white signs reflects some kind of restriction imposed by municipal ordinances, but it seems a sorry sight to anyone accustomed to vividly colored neon signs in Japan. But they do emit an almost weird degree of brightness in a city with very little street lighting, shrouded in darkness and with almost no one around. The first McDonaldfs restaurant had just opened in Warsaw several weeks earlier, and it alone seemed to generate radiant light. The scene seemed to symbolize the nighttime scene in Warsaw, as the city becomes subject to the first waves of capitalism.

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