Skipping Girl Sign

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View of the Skipping Girl sign in Victoria streetscape

Coordinates: 37°48′41″S 145°00′39″E / 37.8113°S 145.0108°E / -37.8113; 145.0108

The Skipping Girl Sign or Skipping Girl Vinegar Sign, colloquially known as Little Audrey, is the first animated neon sign in Australia.[1][2] The sign is located at 651 Victoria Street within the inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford.[3]

Construction[edit]

Construction consists of a painted metal structure outlined in neon tubing depicting a little girl skipping rope. At night the sign's outlines are illuminated, the skipping rope being displayed from four sequential positions to give the appearance of motion.

1930s version[edit]

The sign was designed by artist Jim Minogue (who would go on to build the Nylex Clock in 1961), and built by Neon Electric Signs in 1936. The company rented the sign to Nycander & Co who in turn placed the sign on top of their Nycander factory at 627 Victoria Street in 1936. The sign advertising their "Skipping Girl" brand of vinegar was immediately popular, becoming a well loved landmark. The origin of the connection between vinegar and a skipping girl is a skipping rhyme, usually "salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper, if I dare, I can do better..." to which the rope would be spun faster.[4][5][6]

When the Nycander factory was demolished in 1968 the sign was removed. Neon Electric attempted to reacquire Little Audrey, but the demolition company Whelan the Wrecker claimed ownership and sold it to CE Haywwood Pty Ltd, a used car dealership.[7]

1970s version[edit]

Following public outcry, a Mr John Benjamin of the nearby electroplating factory Crusader Plate worked with the local council to acquire and reinstate the sign on his own roof. Since the original had been sold, a smaller version was built and placed on the roof of the electroplating factory at 651 Victoria Street in 1970.[8] The 1970 version was listed by the National Trust (Victoria) in 2000, and has also been listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.[9][10]

The sign was illuminated until 2002 when the sign's owners decided to cease funding of the power and maintenance required for operation.[11]

In May 2008, an appeal was launched for public donations to restore the sign by energy company AGL Energy, the National Trust (Victoria), the Heritage Council of Victoria, the Melbourne Restoration Fund, the group 'Friends of Audrey', and representatives of the sign's owners Spring & Parks Pty Ltd. Following the appeal, in March 2009 funds for a full restoration were successfully raised.[12]

The sign at dusk

Little Audrey was taken down for repairs on 23 March 2009. After restoration works were completed by Delta Neon, the sign was placed back on its perch on 10 June of the same year. Power is currently being paid for by AGL Energy using their 100% GreenPower energy plan until 2014.[13]

Cultural influences[edit]

Melbourne indie pop group Skipping Girl Vinegar named themselves after the sign, stating "We love her, she's part of Melbourne, and an authentic old world pop icon."[14]

She is also referenced by another Melbourne band, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, in their song "It's All in the Way".

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cilento, Jeanne-Marie, "Living in luxury with Abbotsford's Little Audrey", The Age, February 10th 1996
  2. ^ Heritage Alliance (2001) Historic Electric Signage In Victoria: A Study of Historic Illuminated Signs. Report prepared for Heritage Victoria and the City of Yarra August 2001
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Melbourne, eds. Andrew Brown-May and Shurlee Swain, p. 664.
  4. ^ Elizabeth Tucker (2008) Children's Folklore: A Handbook, series 'Greenwood Folklore Handbooks', Greenwood Publishing Group, USA
  5. ^ Roud, Steve (2010). The Lore of the Playground: One Hundred Years of Children's Games, Rhymes & Traditions, Melbourne Australia:Random House. p.166.
  6. ^ Alice Bertha Gomme (Editor) (1898) The traditional games of England, Scotland, and Ireland: with tunes, singing-rhymes, and methods of playing according to the variants extant and recorded in different parts of the Kingdom, Volume 2, Part 1 .United Kingdom: D. Nutt, is an early reference which records the vinegar rhyme and versions have been recorded frequently in other literature, in the USA, in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  7. ^ Webb, Carolyn, "She's Not Very Bright, But Audrey Wants To Glow Up, And That's A Good Sign", The Age, May 6th, 2008
  8. ^ National Trust (Victoria) File No. B6017
  9. ^ "Skipping Girl Neon Sign, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H2083, Heritage Overlay HO353". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. 
  10. ^ Kleinman, Rachel, "Skipping Girl sign wins protection", The Age, February 7th, 2002
  11. ^ Dimech, Adam, "Discovering Melbourne's Neon Heritage", Adam Dimech Online, September 5th, 2010
  12. ^ Johnston, Matt, "Skipping girl gets a light facelift", news.com.au, March 14th, 2009
  13. ^ AGL Energy "Skipping Girl - Keeping Little Audrey Skipping", AGL Energy, Viewed October 10th, 2011
  14. ^ Heazlewood, Andy "Skipping Girl Vinegar interview for SPIN magazine", YouTube, November 25th, 2008

External links[edit]