Bull Pen Café
If this photograph were in color, the neon letters of the Bull Pen Café would beckon to us from across an empty parking lot in a beguiling shade of pink. The warm glow of this neon sign illuminated the eastern end of the business loop for more than 50 years, promising delicious diner fare as well as the occasional livestock auction. I took this photograph during the fall of 1999, when I was beginning to photographically explore the outskirts of Columbia and some of our rural communities. I did, in fact, take a few color slides of the sign, as well as black and white negatives.
In this image, the glow of the sign is reflected on the hood of my car at the time, a 1974 Dodge Dart handed down to me by my grandmother. This car, despite its lackluster mileage, took me all across northern, central, and eastern Missouri on weekend photo outings and night photography excursions. During those night outings, made with friends or on my own, I was particularly interested in finding vintage examples of neon signs to photograph before they disappeared. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, these signs were still lit, still advertising the wares and services of their particular establishments and were scattered across the Midwest. Today, these signs are much harder to find. I was very happy I took photos of the Bull Pen sign when I did, along with a few other neon signs that once graced Columbia’s commercial landscape.