"I'm high on the hill
Looking over the bridge
To the MCG
And way up on high
The clock on the silo
Says eleven degrees"
- Leaps and Bounds, Paul Kelly
It’s not just a sign.
The Nylex Plastics neon sign that sits proudly atop old silos on the corner of Punt Rd and the South Eastern/Monash Freeway, has become an icon for Melbournians. A key feature of this sign is a giant clock on top of the words – useful if you don’t have a watch. But wait! There’s more! The sign also monitors the temperature. Night and day, it constantly switches between time and temperature.
Whether commuters are on their way to work, or driving down Punt Rd, people can always turn to the Nylex sign for an indication of the weather outside. Which, on a typical Melbourne day, is likely to change every 5 minutes.
For some reason, the ‘degrees’ sign is not a full circle, so it looks like a ‘c.’ Hence, for the best part of my childhood I always mistook this as the apparent fluctuating price of plastic! “Oh look Mum, plastic is 5 cents today! That’s cheap!” You could hear me crow from the back seat of our car.
However, the future of the Nylex sign is uncertain unless it is given heritage listing. It was built around the 1955, and the silos were also built in the 50s but are not considered historic. Two years ago the premises was up for sale.
Other historic neon signs of note are: the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign, Slade Knitwear, and Pelaco, all located in and around Melbourne’s old centre for industry, Richmond.
The Slade Knitwear sign has been part of Richmond’s skyline for 30 years, and is regarded by both the council and residents as a significant relic that reflects the area’s textile heritage. The City of Yarra moved to protect the sign in April, after a private contractor requested it be demolished.
In its independent assessment of the 31-metre-long sign, Heritage Victoria recommended it receive heritage protection under the local planning scheme. The only other sign on the state's heritage register is the Pelaco sign.
But in my mind, nothing surpasses the historic and practical value (even if this was not personally realised until recently) of the good old Nylex sign!
Gritchka tells me there is also a Coppertone girl sign in the Richmond area.
Also, thanks to Achromatic for the idea of including the Paul Kelly lyrics