You'd think a 15-foot neon sign, like the one that hung outside of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1, couldn't go missing. But it did.
Denver history buffs probably remember the sign. It lit up in red, blue and gold outside of the VFW location at 901 Bannock St. starting in January 1949. It went along to the VFW's second location at 955 Bannock St. when they moved in 1994, and there it hung until the Post sold the building in 2007.
The people in charge put that sign and one other into storage, with hopes of hanging them again at their third home. The VFW moved into the current location on Santa Fe Drive in 2014, and went looking for their signs.
"That's when we learned the story. The [storage] company had been purchased by an out-of-state company. At some point, when it was in storage during those seven years, the sign got tossed out," said Michael Mitchel, the foundation director for VFW Post 1. "However, we were fortunate enough that Seth Totten over at ACME Neon pulled it out of the dumpster."
Totten is a guy who restores neon signs in Denver. He even made the neon sign that hangs outside of Union Station in Downtown Denver. The VFW's large neon sign was roughed up but otherwise fine. A second, smaller sign had been crushed.
The VFW had no idea. It was just by chance that they met Totten through mutual connections a year-and-a-half ago and found the sign.
The Post hired Totten to restore the sign, which finally made its way back to the VFW last week.
"For me personally, this is why I got involved in the organization to begin with. We were driving by in 2002. My wife had asked me, when she saw the sign, do you think this is the first VFW? I hadn't known. I went inside and it turns out it was. I've been involved ever since. We're really happy that it's home," Mitchel said.
Some of the newer VFW members don't remember the sign, but Mitchel said the older veterans revere it like a piece of Colorado history. And let's be honest. This sign is a piece of art. The glass surrounding the neon lights was even hand blown by Totten during restoration. The VFW will work with Denver on city codes to make sure the sign can go up once again. They think it'll fit in well in the Art District on Santa Fe.