Christmas came early in Lompoc where the historic Hi! Let’s Eat sign now stands at its new home.
A ceremony hosted by the Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce on Friday attracted about 100 people to celebrate the lighting of the sign after its rescue and restoration.
The sign for the former Hi Restaurant was set to be dumped to make way for a new Starbucks Coffee at the corner of East Ocean Avenue and South E Street, spurring Karen Paaske, past president of the Lompoc Valley Historical Society, to spearhead the rescue effort.
“The Lompoc Valley Historical Society is very pleased to present this to our city,” Paaske said. “It is the best Christmas present ever.”
The sign now stands in front of the American Host Restaurant at 113 North I St. after owner Dennis Block agreed to provide a home for the sign. It’s a fitting location since the restaurant serves as the gathering spot much like Hi Restaurant did decades ago.
“I’d like to say hi to the Hi! sign,” Block said. “Welcome to your new home.”
Paaske began efforts to save the faded sign in late 2016, unaware of the long project ahead.
Key financial support came from Altadena resident Gary Macdonald, who recalled that he and longtime friend Mark DeWald fondly remembered the sign during their frequent trips to the Lompoc area years ago.
In a trip back to Lompoc, DeWald learned about efforts to save the sign.
“The sign represented a wonderful time in our lives. A simpler, innocent time. A fun, carefree life creating long-term memories and, of course, the warm, family atmosphere and wonderful food that Hi Restaurant had,” Macdonald said, adding that they were impressed with the community efforts to restore the sign.
Six decades after it first rose in Lompoc, the sign boasts shiny red paint and dozens of new light bulbs that hide its true age.
“I’m so excited to see this light up … and to share it with the next generation,” Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.
The Lompoc Valley Historical Society raised funds, and local individuals and businesses stepped up to do the chores needed to repaint the sign, repair electrical systems and prep the new site.
“The sign restoration has been a community effort thanks to the businesses and Lompoc residents, past and present, who gave so much of their time and money,” Paaske said.