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Correction! My uncle just corrected some of my errors. The Crest marquee was already built by the theater owner (Fox?) and my grandfather’s shop (then a partner in Olsen signs)created all the neon work. If you look at the marquee today, it is pretty ugly without all that beautiful neon so I’d say my grandfather (and his team) really made that marquee pop! My uncle also corrected me in saying that my grandfather’s shop also created the other theater signs in Fresno. They were there before my grandfather arrived in Fresno. His and Olsen sign companies just serviced the signs. What do you expect? I was a little kid at the time and just thought my “gramps” did all these beautiful things! I still got in for free in most of the theaters!
Here is a night picture my grandfather took of the Crest Theater neon sign in all its glory back in the theater’s heyday.
My grandfather owned Kaden Neon and Plastic Sign Company back in the 30’s through the late 60’s and designed and built the neon signs and marquees for many of the famous theaters in Fresno including the Warnors, Tower, Wilson and Crest. He also designed and built many other famous neon signs in the Fresno area. My uncle designed the old Manchester center sign. I even got to work in my grandfather’s shop in the early 60’s and he allowed me to design and build a motel drive sign. I think the motel is now a hooker hangout! In the summers that I worked for him, I got to watch my grandfather design the signs from scratch. Then I watched Howard build the metal housings. Then Joe would paint them. Then I watched Woody do the masterful bending and filling of the glass tubes and watched them come to life on his work table. I remember playing with the mercury that he used. It formed a ball in my hand and when I dropped it on the floor, it broke into hundreds of tiny ball bearings as it danced across the floor. It was very expensive and Woody got mad at me when I did it. Of course now we know how toxic Mercury is! Then I got to go and help Al and Lee put the signs up with their 80 foot cranes. Very scary indeed! My grandfather was a master craftsman and as honest as they came back then. He was very respected in Fresno during Fresno’s greatest period in my book…the 40’s through the 60’s.