iconic neon sign on Fraser Street will remain dark until it
can be repaired, but the famous faucet is not coming down, says
the granddaughter of the original owner of Cambie Plumbing and
being refurbished, but it's not coming off the building," said
Judy Gibson. "Some parts have come off to be repaired and some
parts are being painted."
neon sign featuring a huge tap with running water has been in
place since 1946 when entrepreneur Jon D. Gibson opened Cambie
Plumbing at 3905 Fraser St. As
the name suggests, he planned to open his business on Cambie
Street, but when his landlord got a better deal for the property,
he was forced to look elsewhere. He bought the property on Fraser
Street where the business remains today.
Judy Gibson says the 61-year-old Fraser Street neon sign with
the ironic name will be turned back on as soon as repairs are
landlord was a friend of my grandfather's," said Gibson, the
third generation of her family to run the business. "He gave
my grandfather back his money, and I'm pretty sure he gave him
extra for his trouble."
her grandfather had already ordered both the now-famous neon
sign and business cards with "Cambie Plumbing and Heating" printed
on them, he decided to keep the name. The water faucet was the
first neon sign on Fraser Street.
sign never did go up on Cambie," said Gibson.
Plumbing is now owned by Gibson's father Ed, who is Jon Gibson's
son. The original building was destroyed by arson in 1991, and
the new Jon D. Building was rebuilt that same year.
mother Sally told the Courier that when the family wanted to
erect the sign on the new building, the city refused to give
permission. In the 1960s the city passed a bylaw limiting the
use of neon signs due to complaints from residents about their
proliferation. By the 1950s Vancouver had 18,000 neon signs,
but as a result of the bylaw most of the signs disappeared over
time, with the exception of the Cambie Plumbing faucet, the
pink pig at Save-On-Meats on West Hastings and the orange seahorse
at the Only Cafe on East Hastings. The city finally relented
and the sign went back in place in 1991.
Ed had to go down to city hall and plead," said Sally Gibson.
said that while the new store was being built, the family would
find notes pushed under the door of the burned out building.
little note said, 'You have to put the sign back up because
when my friend comes on the bus I tell her when she sees the
taps to pull the buzzer,'" she said. "And I've had grown men
tell me that when they were a little boy they used to look up
at the sign and they thought it was the most beautiful faucet.
We knew the sign had to go back up. It's the heart of Cambie
Plumbing and the heart of Fraser Street."
Street resident Charles Haynes agrees. "I grew up in the 'hood,
but the sign has real historical relevance to Vancouver. If
it's going to come down it has to be hung up somewhere else."
sees the sign both as a geographical landmark and a symbol of
Jon Gibson's tenacity and determination.
think it's a great story," he said. "He couldn't afford to stay
on Cambie Street, but he had spent a fortune on this fabulous
sign, so he moved to Fraser Street. I look at it as a sign of