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Nostalgic Neon Signs Light Up The Greenway

BOSTON (CBS) - A Malden collector is about to light up the Boston night with historic neon signs he's been gathering for decades. They are a glimpse of history, and you can see them on the Rose Kennedy Greenway starting Wednesday night.

For Dave Waller, the vintage signs are a labor of love. "This is the neon room, the glass bending room," Dave says as he shows us into his workshop.  He's one of the premiere practitioners of a disappearing art, restoring old neon signs.  He started collecting when he was just a teenager.  "When I was a kid I wanted to collect things other kids didn't collect," he says. And boy, did it grow from there.

Waller's signs in the Greenway (WBZ-TV).

"I've never counted them all, but I think I probably have about 150 neon signs," he says. He keeps a lot of them at home. Dave and his family live in a refurbished fire house.  His home office is in a diner, inside his house, that he restored.

Now he's sharing a part of his sign collection on the Greenway. There's Fontaine's Chicken sign from West Roxbury, the Siesta Motel from Saugus and State Line Potato Chips from Wilbraham.

Fontaine's Chicken Sign (WBZ-TV).

"The nostalgia that comes with it, and the fact that even as we've been installing these signs we've had the public coming up saying, 'my aunt worked at the European, or I had my birthday at Fontaine's chicken or my bike was picked up at Cycle Center in Natick," says Lucas Cowan, the public art curator for the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Call him eccentric, but Dave loves the neon. "There's something about the quality of light with neon that's different from most other light.  There's also a lot of science going on in the tubes that's exciting. The way the atoms get struck and the electrons come off and light gives off. It's a phenomenon inside the tubes," Dave says.

The European's Sign (WBZ-TV)

He's working on his Flying Yankee Restaurant sign right now, which will join the 7 others on the Greenway. "I'm very proud of making something light up that was dark for decades. They are art, I think. The beautiful intersection between art and commerce," he says.

You can see the neon signs in all their glory on the Greenway between State and India Streets, at least through the early fall.  They should be a beautiful sight.

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