A thing of the past: 90-foot sign comes down

       The tallest freestanding sign in Old Colorado City has gotten a lot shorter. The [Surplus City] sign in about 1960, when it was still new. 
Courtesy of Janice Billingsley
       After suffering wind damage a year ago, the former Surplus City sign - which had been secured 90 feet above the ground for nearly half a century - was dismantled last week.
       Two 30-foot-high steel I-beams remain in place and could be used for on-site advertising, according to Janice Billingsley, co-owner of the private parking lot where the structure stands at 24th and Cucharras streets.
       She is one of three daughters of the late Clarion and Vera Chambon, who had started Surplus City in the mid-1940s. Her sisters, who help her administer the estate, are Beverly Mason and Carol Gloss.
       Until 1985, when Dave Lippincott bought Surplus City from the Chambons (and later moved it to the 2700 block of West Colorado Avenue), the business operated on the south side of Cucharras Street's 2400 block.
       According to Billingsley, her father installed the tall sign in 1959 as part of an expansion on the west side of the store. The sign consisted of the words “Surplus City” and an arrow pointing to the business' location across the street. Mrs. Chambon had the words painted out after the business moved, Billingsley said.
       After the dismantling, the Chambon sisters gave the large arrow to Tim Tafoya, owner of Old Colorado City Surplus. A long-time Surplus City employee, Tafoya started his business last year after Lippincott decided to close Surplus City.
       The remaining I-beams meet the current city height limit of 30 feet. The old sign had been “grandfathered” at the greater height as long as it did not need to be taken down for repairs. However, that became necessary after high winds about a year ago damaged the sign, Billingsley explained.
       The removal process, handled by Scott Pelc and Jeremiah Gentry from Gordon Signs, included a small side drama: saving a family of ravens. After years of pigeons typically roosting in the sign, two adult ravens with four babies had built a nest there this spring.
       “I felt we should do something not to totally ruin their world,” Billingsley said. She talked to Barbara Bates of Bates Insurance, who agreed to let the raven family be relocated to her building's roof. “They took the baby birds down one at a time,” Billingsley said. It wasn't that easy, she pointed out. Although they could not yet fly, the babies were close to two feet high and kept pecking at the sign workers during the move.
       But all ended well. “The parents located them with no problem, and they didn't seem too upset,” she said.
       An observer, who asked to remain anonymous, congratulated the workers on being so careful. “They went to a lot of trouble,” the observer said.
       In its day, the Surplus City sign was one of the tallest in the city. Chambon erected it simply for business reasons, Billingsley believes. The Midland Expressway was about to go in, and at that time, before a lot of trees matured, the sign was visible from that route.
       “He wasn't a flashy man,” Billingsley said. “He was a conservative, Christian man, but he believed if you're going to put a sign up, put it up.”

Westside Pioneer article