Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Redmond's "Space Needle" Entrance Sign

By Jerry Torell

Jerry Torell in front of our current sign
The Redmond Bike Derby Road Races including the "Bike Derby Parade" from the first year, have always been a major part of the city's civic events with riders coming from around the country and Canada to compete in the annual race.  In the mid 1970’s while I served on the Redmond Chamber of Commerce Board as Vice President, I was also Publicity Chairman for the chamber. Over the years several of my dry cleaning customers commented that the city needed an entrance sign on the west end of Redmond.

I started thinking about it and with the history of the bicycle in Redmond I knew the bike had to be a key part of the sign, so I proposed the idea to my Chamber committee along with a plan to build it. Getting the chamber's approval of the plan, I contacted our City Mayor “Bud” Young to get his thoughts…He LOVED the bicycle sign idea!!   He offered the city staff to lay out some sketches. 

From an earlier Jaycee project I had met Chuck Johns who was the metal’s instructor at Redmond High School.  I called Chuck and explained our city entrance sign plan, asking him if his class could help build an old fashioned bicycle with the “big front wheel and the small back wheel” not knowing then, it was known as the “Penny Farthing.” 

(l-r)  Bud Young, Fred Habenicht, Kim Murrey, Jerry Torell
Credit/ Sammamish Valley News
A key committee member, Fred Habenicht, owner of Frederick’s Appliances, volunteered to contact John Gunderson of Gundy’s Signs to carve and provide a wooden face for the sign.  I then re-contacted the Mayor to confirm the city's help installing and keeping it in good order plus maintaining the grounds around the sign.  The Mayor agreed! and “Gundy” worked out the slogan, “Redmond Bicycle Capital of the Northwest.” The sign was completed and dedicated in July of 1976. 

AS THEY SAY…THE REST IS NOW HISTORY !!

The Bicycle Entrance Sign has become the “Space Needle of Redmond," has Redmond’s symbol, and is copied by most everyone as a logo on literature and replicas mounted on sides of buildings around town. I was originally concerned that the sign would be damaged by vandals but to my knowledge this has never happened and the sign has become a key symbol of Redmond pride. 

The sign is now reconstructed of cement end posts and a redesigned wooden face and lit up with white lights at night and encircled with shrubs and flowers the year around bidding..."WELCOME TO ALL!"

.....so I designed and created the sign.

In 2013, I learned from 90-year old Ray Adams, that kids used to race around Redmond and local citizens would bet on who was the fastest. Ray in 1939 was then 16 and he and his buddy Charlie Lentz were in that first race of about 14 to 16 racers.  

Actually only about 6 of the racers made it all the way around the lake to cross the finish line including Ray and Charlie.   The lake road then was only partly paved on the west side and the rest was mainly dirt and gravel. Ray and Charlie suggested the race be around the lake. Anyway, the idea was accepted and Redmond Bike Derby Race was off and rolling…to become today, the nation’s oldest bicycle race, due to a small town’s public spirit, no matter the hardships.

  --Jerry Torell

Minor edits and photograph by Yoder

2 comments:

Bob Yoder said...

Wow!!!

Constance said...

My little brother, Bill Cornehl, was in that Redmond High School metal class.
He's still doing metal sculptures.