Former Mr. Peanut sign from Peabody, Mass. lives on in Arkansas

When I was a child, back in the late 50’s and early 60’s, whenever my Dad would take the family on rides north on U. S. Route 1 toward Salisbury or New Hampshire, I was always looking for landmarks such as the Leaning Tower (on the Prince Spaghetti House, now Prince Pizzeria) or  Ship’s Haven (later The Ship Restaurant).  In fact Route 1 was loaded with roadside visuals, not so much now but back then it was always an interesting ride. The one roadside gem I recall looking for the most was the large Mr. Peanut sign that was situated in front of the Planters Peanut House located on Rte. 1 north in Peabody. The sign was approximately 30 ft. high, you could not miss him.
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Well, by the late 60’s, Planters had closed the store and it subsequently became the Half Dollar Bar, a roadside watering hole. The sign remained in place. It was painted to look like a guy wearing a black tuxedo but was still recognizable as Mr. Peanut by the unique shape. The bar closed and was demolished by the mid-to-late 80’s. At that point the sign remained on the site which was fenced-off. As I recall, it was Pete Phillips, a colleague of mine from the Society for Commercial Archeology who found out the sign was threatened with demolition and I believe he may have been the person who contacted Planters Peanuts and told them of the sign’s impending doom.

Well unlike Dunkin Donuts who will not restore their one remaining 1957 vintage roadside neon sign in Brighton, Mass., Planters came and rescued the sign in 1988 and eventually restored it to its former glory. It is currently located at their large processing plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Here is a shot courtesy of Debra Jane Seltzer, taken recently which coincidentally is from a similar angle to my shot (above) from the 1980’s (although slightly closer)

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When I mentioned the sign’s origins to Debra after viewing her photo on Flickr, she questioned me on that fact and I said sure there were many signs similar to this but I remember when it all happened. I did some digging through my SCA NewsJournals and found the mention from Pete Phillips in the Spring 1989 issue (the very same issue that Diner Hotline first appeared).  Pete’s report mentioned the sign went to Alabama. I sent an email to Planters Peanuts asking them if it was the same sign and unfortunately, the email went to parent company Kraft Foods who could not answer the quetsion. I then got the bright idea to call Planters in Fort Smith and was put through to someone who works in the Plant Managers office. They told me that the sign in front of their plant was in fact the one from Massachusetts.

You can see Debra’s website by clicking on the link in my blogroll and you can get to her photos on flickr and see where she’s been recently by clicking this link …  http://www.flickr.com/photos/agilitynut/

12 thoughts on “Former Mr. Peanut sign from Peabody, Mass. lives on in Arkansas

  1. Larry – That’s amazing! The Fort Smith Planters plant was a customer of mine at my former company. I wouldn’t have guessed the background of that sign in a million years.

    Thanks for featuring it!

  2. Dave, Yeah we have to chalk that one up to the parent company recognizing their heritage and history with a little help from the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology).

  3. Larry – Thanks for sharing the history behind this great sign. It’s a fun read. Your 1980s photo is wonderful as you really get a nice feel for the restoration they did.

    Jeff

  4. Thanks Jeff, They certainly did a first class restoration. Thanks again to Debra for the use of her wonderful “Now” picture to go along with mine from the 80’s. I heard from Pete Phillips who was instrumental in contacting Planters back then. He saw the blog and applauded my follow-up research on this item that he was involved in back in 1988.

    • Christy, my sentiments exactly! If you do a “search” on my blog here, you will see I actually found a postcard of the store back in the heyday.

  5. The Mr. Peanut sign brings back memories of childhood when our family still lived in Ipswich, MA and dad used to commute to his animal practice in West Peabody, the “West Peabody Animal Hospital”. He used to have morning and evening hours, and at least 2 times he stopped in to the Planter’s Peanut place to buy me red pistachio nuts. By the time we got home my face was all red from opening he pistachios with my lower teeth. I do not know why they colored the nuts red, but the dye ran all over the place covering my lower lip. My father told me my mouth looked “like a possum’s ass in pokeberry season”. He told me pokeberries gave possums diathermia, hence the lookalike. It’s great to remember these old times. There was a lot of love in my family. Many fathers would never have bothered to stop along the way home to treat their kids to something special like pistachio nuts which I went for in a “big way”. My dad was good to us kids. He took us to work all the time.

  6. Some time in the nineties there was a tongue-in-cheek article in a long gone free newspaper (I wish I’d saved it) telling the story of Mr. Peanut on Rte. 1. It said, after years of suffering the indignity of his Half Dollar Bar makeover, during the middle of one summer night he bent over, unbolted his legs, and proceeded to walk northward on Rte One heading toward Maine, never to be seen again.

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