Skipping Girl Sign
The Skipping Girl Sign or Skipping Girl Vinegar Sign, colloquially known as Little Audrey, is the first animated neon sign in Australia. The sign is located at 651 Victoria Street within the inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford.
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 in four sequential positions to give the appearance of motion.
The sign was designed by artist Jim Minogue (who would go on to build the Nylex Clock in 1961), and built in 1936 by Electric Signs, later called Whitewall Neon, then Claude Neon. 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.
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, a used car dealership.
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. The 1970 version was listed by the National Trust (Victoria) in 2000, and has also been listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
The sign was illuminated until 2002 when the sign's owners decided to cease funding of the power and maintenance required for operation.
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.
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 run on power generated by 27 solar panels under their 100% GreenPower energy plan until 2014.
In the Melbourne made-for-television film 'Bachelor Girl' (1987, dir. Rivka Hartmann) the sign features in a scene in which heroine Dot Bloom cycles past late at night.
She is also referenced by another Melbourne band, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, in their song "It's All in the Way".
On 1 September 2015 the Skipping Girl Sign was featured on a series of stamps commissioned by Australia Post. The series was called "Signs Of The Times" and was one of three signs to be highlighted. The other two signs were the "Dandy" Pig sign in Dandenong and the Pink Poodle Motel Sign in Surfers Paradise in Queensland.
- Borsari's Corner in Carlton, Victoria
- Dingo Flour sign in North Fremantle, Western Australia
- Nylex Clock in Cremorne, Victoria
- Pelaco Sign in Richmond, Victoria
- Cilento, Jeanne-Marie, "Living in luxury with Abbotsford's Little Audrey", The Age, 10 February 1996
- 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
- The Encyclopedia of Melbourne, eds. Andrew Brown-May and Shurlee Swain, p. 664.
- Elizabeth Tucker (2008) Children's Folklore: A Handbook, series 'Greenwood Folklore Handbooks', Greenwood Publishing Group, USA
- Roud, Steve (2010). The Lore of the Playground: One Hundred Years of Children's Games, Rhymes & Traditions, Melbourne Australia:Random House. p.166.
- 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.
- Webb, Carolyn, "She's Not Very Bright, But Audrey Wants To Glow Up, And That's A Good Sign", The Age, 6 May 2008
- National Trust (Victoria) File No. B6017
- "Skipping Girl Neon Sign, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H2083, Heritage Overlay HO353". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria.
- Kleinman, Rachel, "Skipping Girl sign wins protection", The Age, 7 February 2002
- Dimech, Adam, "Discovering Melbourne's Neon Heritage", Adam Dimech Online, 5 September 2010
- Johnston, Matt, "Skipping girl gets a light facelift", news.com.au, 14 March 2009
- AGL Energy "Skipping Girl - Keeping Little Audrey Skipping", AGL Energy, Viewed 10 October 2011
- Heazlewood, Andy "Skipping Girl Vinegar interview for SPIN magazine", YouTube, 25 November 2008