Roy Keenan was thrilled to own an antique neon sign that originated from Bakersfield's own Vincent’s Cyclery & Sporting Goods, a store that operated for decades in the city's downtown.
As a collector of vintage cars, old-time gas pumps and other artifacts of mid-century America, Keenan knew the neon sign came with some "braggin' rights."
"You can go out and get another 1950 Ford," Keenan said, referring to the vintage pickup tucked away in his garage.
But the Vincent's sign, he said, "is one of a kind. No one else has one."
Still, times change, and so do a person's priorities — and for the 52-year-old Bakersfield resident, 2020 turned out to be the right time to unload a few of his treasures.
As tough as it was, Keenan decided to sell the neon.
"It's not that I no longer want the sign. I love it," he said. "But I've re-evaluated what's most important to me."
When he tested the waters on social media, Kern County Museum Executive Director Mike McCoy was all over it.
"Mike wasted no time," Keenan said.
McCoy has spent a lot of time building an impressive collection of local vintage neons for display in the museum's outdoor neon courtyard and inside its new Watson Transportation Exhibit.
"I think Mike McCoy has done a great job," Keenan said. "He deserves a lot of credit."
When McCoy realized the Vincent's sign was for sale he knew it deserved a home at the museum.
"I got my first bicycle from Vince Clerou," he remembered of the owner of the store at 1723 18th St., within one block of the Padre Hotel.
Indeed, locally owned Vincent's, like Floyd's and Andre's, Noriega's and Amestoy's, Dewar's and Green Frog, and many others, are business names that seem to echo through local history.
"Roy did a wonderful thing," McCoy said. "He wanted it at the museum."
McCoy acknowledged that this acquisition was not a donation as many of the museum's neons have been. But he said Keenan sold it for a fair price.
"Roy is not some gazillionaire," McCoy said. "He gave me a good deal."
Like most of the museum's neon signs, it will need some repairs on the neon tubing. But integrity of the sign's metal structure is good.
The opening of Vincent's Cyclery & Sporting Goods by owner Vincent Clerou was announced in a short article published in The Californian on March 20, 1934.
"Vincent Clerou of this city announced today that he has opened a sporting goods store and cyclery at 1723 Eighteenth Street," the story said.
According to a chronicle of Vincent Clerou written by local historian Gilbert Gia, Clerou worked at his store until the day before he died, Sept. 15, 1996.