York diner Neon Will Shine Again
Lee’s Diner neon sign fully lit in better days along U.S. 30.
Neon lights and diners have been on the same menu for decades.
Since neon’s invention, the bright lights are a beacon for weary and hungry travelers to find a retro oasis if only for a couple of hours. A good example is the Lee’s Diner green-and-red neon sign of classic design mounted on a black metal box standing proudly on a pole along the Lincoln Highway west of York, Pennsylvania.
It was manufactured and erected in June 1952 by the York-based George E. Platts Sign Service. The original diner owners, Elmer, Grace, and their son, Leon Paxton, paid $575 for this two-sided sign to advertise their new Mountain View diner business. An additional $28.50 was paid for three floodlights to be affixed to the top of the sign to light the parking area. In 2020, the neon sign was removed for restoration by the PA Chapter of the Lincoln Highway Association.
Original receipt for 1952 installation of the neon sign from Lee’s Diner records.
Goerge E. Platts, Sr. owned and operated Geo. E. Platts Sign Service, later called Signs by George for 26 years before his retirement in 1970. His son, George E. Platts, Jr. joined his father in the business in 1948 and operated the company until his retirement in 1992. In 1948, the George Platts Sign Company is listed among a half dozen sign companies in York including, the Keystone Sign Company, Dunlap Advertising Service, Penn-York Advertising, Inc., the Robert Mundorf Sign Company, and the White Rose Sign Company. Today, only Mundorf Sign Company continues to operate as a family-owned business. Local sign painters, paperhangers, and decorators were a highly skilled trade and neon sign repair and creation has become almost a lost art form that is found in museums as much as along the roadside business.
George E. Platts, Jr. tended the Capitol Theatre neon marquee for about 40 years
Photo by Paul Uttermohen, The York Dispatch (York, Pa.), April 9, 1991
In March 2021, the Lee’s Diner neon sign began the next step in its restoration journey. Lincoln Highway Legacy, LLC, has taken over the project through completion. The total costs associated with the restoration of one side of this neon sign from removal to reinstallation will be about $2,500. Mundorf Sign Company assisted with the removal of the sign after maintaining it for decades. York neon expert, Craig Dengler – owner of Dengler’s Neon is completing the neon restoration with help from some friends. Great to have our own York sign experts bringing this beautiful piece of York County retro history back to life.
I established the Lincoln Highway Legacy LLC in 2020 to promote our local Lincoln Highway history and to preserve its legacy from the Susquehanna River west to Abbottstown. The Lincoln Highway is America’s coast-to-coast Main Street. If you know of a local business or organization in the York area that is interested in displaying this classic neon sign inside their space along the Lincoln Highway, please contact the Lincoln Highway Legacy at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information at www.lincolnghighwaypa.com