Save the dorky 76 ball

With gas prices so high, nobody is a fan of the gasoline companies these days. But Kim and Nathan over at 1947 Project have an affinity for a symbol of one of them – the 76 ball – which is being retired in favor of a fairly icky, and non-orange, new sign.

About our cause: ConocoPhillips is removing the iconic 76 Balls and replacing them with boring rectangular signs that aren’t even orange! Our petition and boycott asks that they STOP THIS and leave the remaining 76 Balls on their poles, where they belong. Wanna help?:

When I was growing up, my grandpa had several of those old 76 antenna balls, which he used for various purposes. One was an actual antenna ball. One was hung from the ceiling in the garage to help my grandma park the minivan in the right spot each time (it’d hit the windshield when the car was in the right position – any further and the front end would overlap the little walkway into the house). When ha received others, he stuck them on other random locations in his house – I even think he had one hanging off one of his golf clubs. So I have a fairly sentimental attachment to the freakin’ orange ball.

I think my local station still has the old-style ball, but I’m out of town right now and can’t check. (Oh, woe is me!) If ConocoPhilips won’t relent on the decision to change the signage, I think they should auction the old 76 balls off, with proceeds going to charity. People who have some kind of weird-ass sentimental attachment to those giant orange balls can bid on them, while everyone else goes about their business refilling their tanks, oblivious to our work. 76 Orange Ball nerds unite!

12 thoughts on “Save the dorky 76 ball”

  1. Umm, sorry to be cranky, but is this what our society has come to? We’re fighting to preserve the logos of gas stations. I mean, do people really have a sentimental attachment to the way *gas stations* used to look?

  2. There are definitely more important missions in the world, and clearly saving the sentimental value of a gas station icon brings a bitter taste considering the cost of oil, but as far as a hobby goes and a lighthearted distraction there’s nothing wrong with this.
    I think the new 76 signs lack character, and I always appreciate when they turn the balls into pumpkins in October, but I’m still bitter since they removed the old fiberglass Mayor McCheese, Hamburglar, Grimace, and other characters from McDonalds long ago.

  3. I still have nightmares from seeing Jack get blown up on TV. Poor clown, what’d he ever do to anyone?

    But, back on topic. I LOVE the 76 ball, it just reads RACING.

  4. If I’m gonna have money-grubbing, Earth-defiling, multi-national corporate behemoths foisting their advertising and promotional material in my face, I want it to be pleasing.

    The new 76 identity is boring and predictable. It lacks the small bit of whimsy and personality that the 76 ball has. It reeks of focus groups and MBAs.

    Not surprisingly, there’s a Flickr group dedicated to 76 signage.

  5. Oren, you should try stopping by Boston at some point and ask how people feel about Citgo. It’ll blow your mind.

    Honestly, it’s not much different from the HOLLYWOOD sign. Commercial icons become icons through familiarity regardless of their origins.

  6. Point taken about the Citgo sign. I lived in the West Fens for 4 years and could see it out my window. But that’s a symbol of a certain place (Kenmore Sq./Fenway Park), separate from its brand, which is why it’s so powerful. It’d probably stay up even if Citgo went out of business. 76 is just a cute logo that we see a lot. Beyond that, I don’t see what value it has in our collective memory. Nobody’s hit a home run toward it. Movies don’t show 76 signs in their shots to establish an L.A. setting.

    I guess it’s just hard for me to get worked up about the aesthetics of gas stations. What’s next, the Society For the Preservation of Bank Logos?

  7. Oren – you aren’t from LA . . . .

    76 was, at one point, a homegrown company. In fact, as childhood memories go, the refinery in San Pedro each year did – still does, I think – paint on a huge, orange, oblong shaped tank a jack o’lantern face and invite people to drive up, see the great pumpkin, and then chuck bags of caramel corn into the car. it was a Union, then Unocal, then whatever 76 refinery.

    Yes, it’d be easy to wax on about the evils of letting kids think Big Oil is fun – may as well visit Santa Philip-Morris-Claus, right? But I looked forward to it every year.

    76 may no longer be attached to LA in a corporate structure way, but it IS part of the landscape.

    And the Citgo sign in Boston is only part of the Bostonian thang because it’s been put in movies by people who live there. Last time I was in Boston, someone said, oh, look the Citgo sign. I had no idea why it was important and wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise.

    As for whether a crusade to save this is worthier than any other – who cares. Honestly, aren’t you on cause-overload yet? I know I am. I’m sure end-hunger people think tree-people are callous shallow bastards.

    Life’s too short to shit on someone else’s nostalgia when it amounts to an inoffensive website.

  8. CD,

    Fair enough. Just doesn’t seem like something someone would be proud of – “So, what have you been up to lately?” “Well, I made a website to save the 76 ball.” But I guess I’ll just slink back into my corner of grumpiness now.

  9. Here’s the thing – logos imprint images in your mind. Advertising wonks know this, so they try and design logos that people will remember and react to. (You design/advertising/marketing folks reading this are very aware of this fact.)

    This is one of them. Maybe having a “movement” to save it is a bit too much, but hey, some people dig old logos. The 76 ball has been around for a long time, and they did used to decorate them for Halloween at local stations as well as at the refinery. It might be something you fondly remember from childhood, which makes a strong imprint, and makes it something that you enjoy seeing every day. Fond memories and all that.

    I get that Big Oil == Big Evil right now (well, ok, always), but goddammit if that’s gonna stop me from enjoying the memory of my grandpa’s antenna ball every time I see a big 76 ball at a gas station.

    Oh, and one other thing – just because people made a website for something frivolous doesn’t mean it took them that long or that it wasn’t a distraction from the multitude of sucky realities that they have to deal with every day.

    In other words, omg let them have their fun plzkthx.

  10. I’m living in fear of the day that the US Dept of Ag decides to change our fab, kitsch retro National Forest signs – you know what I’m talking about, the brown and gold jobbers with the 50’s swoop shape and old-school lettering?

    I’m sure someone will get around to upgrading in the name of progress to some kind of serif-ed, Park 2.0 ness (rather like the signage in Golden Gate Park), but I’ll be sad if they do.

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