Nearly one year after we launched our campaign asking ConocoPhillips to reconsider their "destroy all balls" policy towards the historic blue and orange Union 76 Ball gas station signs, the Texas energy giant announced to the Wall Street Journal that they have changed their course. Focus groups held last fall told them what nearly 3000 signers of the Save the 76 Ball petition have already told us: people love the 76 Balls, and don't want them to disappear.
The 76 Balls that come off their poles are no longer being smashed or cut into pieces, but being preserved for donation to museums like the American Sign Museum, Petersen Automotive Museum, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Museum of Neon Art and perhaps even the Smithsonian! And a new type of 76 Ball, colored red rather than orange, will soon be installed at up to 100 gas stations in the west.
But there are still good reasons for signing our petition. We believe that a select few historically and architecturally significant orange 76 Balls should remain where they have always glowed and spun, like at William Pereira's modernist 76 station in Beverly Hills, one of the spheres along Highway One in Malibu, and the station in Marysville, WA where 76 Ball designer Ray Pedersen buys his gas. Also, ConocoPhillips has declared that no private individuals will be able to get a 76 Ball, which will be a disappointment to our campaign's supporter Michael Madsen. We respectfully ask that ConocoPhillips reconsider this policy, and present one 76 Ball to the individual who conceived, designed and hand-painted the first 76 Ball for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair: Ray Pedersen.
And most importantly, we ask that ConocoPhillips commit to pay all costs associated with crating and shipping donated 76 Balls to the selected museums, thus enjoying greater tax benefits and sparing these institutions from having to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars out of their limited budgets in order to receive the gift of the 76 Ball.
Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported this campaign through 2006 and into 2007. This is inspiring proof that citizens have the power to reach large corporations and inspire positive change.
Several years after ConocoPhillips shipped a vintage 76 Ball to the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park, it was finally unboxed and installed in a mid-century car culture design icons display that includes a psychedelic VW microbus, a Woodie and an original Jack In The Box clown head.
Check out the museum director's playful blog entry about her 76 Ball installation adventure.
And if you're ever in San Diego, drop by the museum to pay a visit to the classic big orange ball, the object of our passion:
What's that looming out of the gray San Fernando Valley gloom? Why, it's a shiny new 76 Ball, in ConocoPhillips' signature liver red! Yes, our own J. Eric Freedner has spotted one of the first of the new red 76 Balls manufactured to appease some of the upset caused by the destruction of the classic orange spheres, and reports in with photographic proof.
While we far prefer Ray Pedersen's original color scheme of warm sunshine orange and rich cornflower blue, we're happy to herald the birth of a new 76 Ball, especially when so many of the classic balls continue to be killed. Check out this disturbing OCRegister Travels with Gary blog post, suggested by commenter ocwarner, but only if you have a sturdy stomach. The image of the worker using an acetylene torch on the 76 Ball's pole is especially poignant. These are the clearest photos we've seen yet of the murder of a 76 Ball.
But it's simply too horrible to show on these pages. Here are a couple more shots of the new red ball at 6003 Woodman Ave. (at Oxnard) in Van Nuys instead.
Long live the mighty 76 Ball! If you see a red ball in your town, please comment below.
Earlier today, Nathan and I were interviewed for a new automotive-themed television series called Black Top, with the 76 Ball on Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village as the backdrop. The number 76 was not quite in the shot, and Nathan suggested he might go ask the station manager to set the ball spinning. Much to our shock and delight, the manager agreed, and by throwing just one switch gave the sign a much needed jolt of kinetic energy. We reckon that one of the other switches in the panel would have illuminated the ball, though this would not have been visible in bright sunlight.
And it was this inspiring experience that inspired us to ask you, oh lovers of the 76 Ball, to take a moment whenever you pass a 76 station which still flies its proud orange and blue colors and ask the manager to please make the ball spin. If it's dark out, ask that they light it, too. Heck, you can even offer to buy some gas in exchange! There aren't many 76 Balls left on their poles, and we fervently believe that every one of them should enjoy however many days, weeks, months or years it has left by spinning and glowing, just like Ray Pedersen designed it to do.
Together we can turn those 76 Balls on. Save the 76 Ball -- it's not too late!