Hamm's Scene-o-Rama: Beer Sign Bliss

By Special Guest Blogger

March 10th, 2011

Today’s guest blogger is breweriana collector Barry Travis who runs the web site IBuyOldBeer.com: Preserving the Beers of Yesteryear. You can find him on Show & Tell, too.

The Hamm’s Scene-o-Rama was a sign ahead of its time. Made by Lakeside Plastics in Minneapolis in the late 1960s through early 1970s, it features an outdoor scene with a waterfall and river that appear to flow, as well as a smoking campfire. The motion effect comes an outer, semi-transparent scroll and an inner, vertically lined background that gives the water (and campfire smoke) the illusion of flowing.

“Many urban legends surround the Scene-o-Rama.”

There are two sizes, small (which is about 3-feet across) and large (5-feet across). The large came in two versions, one with a static, non-moving scene and one with the rotating scroll. The signs all have dimensional, dark brown roof shingles above the scene. I’ve seen people assume all larger signs have motion, so always double-check by unscrewing the casing and inspect the inner workings before you buy one. There are other variations, such as a “round logo” Scene-o-Rama, which has the words Hamm’s beer in a round, white logo panel. This version is harder to find than the typical square logo version.

Many urban legends surround the Scene-o-Rama, like a disgruntled artist hiding a profanity somewhere in the artwork of the Northwoods scroll because he got stiffed on payment. Or, these signs are worth thousands of dollars and are incredibly rare. It may be that I’m in Minnesota, and am constantly seeking old beer stuff, but these signs aren’t rare. Desirable, yes. Rare, no.

Buying: Unless these signs were boxed up or displayed in a non-bar environment their entire life, they probably sustained some sort of wear or age during their decades of service. Check the underside of the case: Too many people underestimate the weight of a Scene-o-Rama, and the case can crack easily when picked up. Check the roof panels for cracking or corner breakage. How can you tell if its been in a smoky bar? The white side panels will be yellowed as well as the Hamm’s logo panel. Some Armor All will whiten them up. The case removes easily—take the screws out and inspect the guts of your sign. You can clean the logo panel from the front using Q-tips to get between the black lattice. Inspect the scene carefully. Horizontal scratches are commonplace because Lakeside Plastic used screws to hold the clear acrylic cover over the scene—grrr! If possible, buy your sign in person. Internet auctions will generally disappoint, whether it’s through definition (“Mint!”) or delivery (“I thought I packed it well … sorry!”).

Selling: You may be tempted by the bucks these get online, but there’s a 50/50 chance that the delivery service will damage, if not destroy, your sign.The insurance claim process is as fun as a root canal. Many of these signs have survived 40 years intact, only to be trashed in transit. Don’t say you weren’t warned …

Replacement parts are available for these signs, and there’s no better feeling than rescuing and restoring an old Hamm’s sign back to its original glory. The motion is truly mesmerizing, and brings back memories of sitting with my dad at our local hamburger joint as a kid. From the land of sky blue waters, I’m Barry the beerguy.

67 comments so far

  1. Mrs. Neutron Says:

    I remember these signs from “The East Locust Street Tap” in Davenport Iowa (circa 1973).

  2. daniel watkins Says:

    hello barry–thank you for the information. i have to ask the obvious question: what is the value of the sign described if in “mint” condition?

    thank you–cheers!

  3. Barry Says:

    One like I have sold for 1200 via online auction,plus another 80 to ship it.Theres a 50/50 chance it arrives intact though.

  4. heath c. davidson Says:

    as of saturday 5-7-2011
    proud new owner of a scene-a-rama :)

  5. Barry Says:

    Thats GREAT Heath! Spray some Armor All on the case and shingles,it will really improve the look and shine.

  6. Kay Connell Says:

    The one from my bar in Chicago said Hamm’s beer on draught in the white rectangle. The distributor told me at the time that there were under 20 made that said “on draught”. Is this accurate? My sign now resides with a friend in Madison WI.

  7. Barry Says:

    They were placed in accounts that had Hamm’s on draft (or tap) They make replacement panels for them now,so theres not really a difference.There is a ROUND logo version however,that is pretty hard to find. (and a spanish version too!)

  8. Paul Nelson Says:

    I worked for Holiday stores in Minnesota in the ’60′s and asked the grocery manager if he could get me any beer signs for my basement rec. room. This is the one he came up with, new, I believe in 1967. Still love it and was displayed in our homes from ’67 to 2005. Still boxed from our last move but asked my sons to get it hung in our current town home.

  9. Barry Says:

    I have a buddy that collects Holiday stuff,Paul-too funny.Has their pop/oil cans,point of sale merchandise,etc. Wow-what a great story on your Hamms sign.Even today,they are mesmerizing and get all sorts of comments.

  10. Jim Voigt Says:

    I have the small three foot motion sign – during the cycle it makes some occasional noise – how do i quiet the sign? Jim

  11. Barry Says:

    Remove the outer casing,put some lubricant on the bearings of the inner rollers which continuously turn while the sign is on.(WD-40 with the red straw spray extension works GREAT,so does 4 in 1 household oil,silicone lubricant,etc)

  12. Mick Rice Says:

    Hi Barry, I was left a Hamms Scene-o-rama, smaller 3′ version. The motor was not running and the left light tube was not lit, just the scene light was lit. I took the case off and tapped the motor and it ran and the left light came on. I ran it for about 3 hours and it worked perfectly. I turned it off for the night and nnow the motor will not come back on even after tapping the motor case. The left light comes on slow after about 30 seconds after plugging in. Any advise would be appreciated. Could it be a ballast or the motor or?

  13. Steven Albarado Says:

    HELP! I have a Hamm’s Beer scene a- rama motion beer sign that is giving me fits! The motor works great, but the light bulb on the left side of the sign that lights up the Hamm’s Beer, only lights at about 50%. I purchased a new igniter and replaced the old but the bulb won’t even light at all with the new igniter. So, I put the old igniter back in and again when plugged in it only goes to about 50% of its lighting potential. New bulb does the same thing.
    NOW HERE’S THE KICKER! If I wiggle the bulb or adjust it in its cradle it will go to 100% and stay there until unplugged. It’s almost like there is a short in the cradle but……I’m at a loss! I’ve tried taping the bulb into place once it’s in its happy place, but again once unplugged and plugged back in it goes back to the 50%. Do I need an original igniter? If so, where do I find one? Any suggestions would be very appreciated! Thank you, Steve

  14. Ty urgess Says:

    Have you ever seen the hidden message on the sign-o-rama if you have where is it? also what do you think the value of it is? its been hanging in the basement for 30 years atleast in good shape and works.

  15. ibuyoldbeer.com Says:

    I have.After the two birch trees in the water.You can make out the F pretty well,but the rest of it requires some imagination.The value of any scenorama I haven’t SEEN in person can range from 150 to 1500.

  16. heath c. davidson Says:

    can the scene-a-rama motor be rebuilt?
    thanks

  17. Barry Says:

    Parts replaced? Yes.New scrolls,yep.Roof pieces..um hmmm.Outer chalet cases? Haven’t seen them done yet.A friend of mine thats a certified mechanic does as good of job as I’ve seen.Buy from him and they are “like new” and should run silent and smooth.

  18. John Currie Says:

    Hi Barry:I have the Hamms 1965 Rippler and need a motor. Jim at Brewskilights only has the Scenarama motor. Where can I get one? John

  19. bella Says:

    Hey, thanks Barry the Beer guy for the post on the Hamms scene-o-rama! I have one that hung in my Grampa’s chicago tavern back in the day. It was a promo gift from the salesman or rep Grampa dealt with. Mine is in mighty fine shape since it was always handled with TLC. The chains oxidized, though. I have the three foot motion model. I sat, mesmerized by this camp scene, when i was a little girl. It still enchants me though we dont fire it up all that often! Thanks for the cleaning advice.

  20. Barry Says:

    Bella

    Too cool.Don’t worry about the chains,most people just hand them on a wall anyway.I just rescued a closet scenorama this weekend,where it had sat for 22 years.It fired right up and mesmerized me.

  21. snowmobilerswife Says:

    We purchased the 5′ (actually it is a little larger) scene-o-rama from a gentlemen in Iowa. It hung in the Prairie Moon Ballroom from the early 60′s until I believe 1987 when it was sold. We fixed it up a little and works perfectly….. and yes, it does have the “hidden message in it”… we have seen 2 others that also have it hidden in it… one at the Whitetail Inn in St. Germain and the other at a bar in Hazelhurst WI.

  22. Barry Says:

    A great (and knowledgeable) source for parts is Steve. He can be reached at miner(at)bevcomm.net. He’s collected Hamm’s (and restored, admired and hunted obsessively) for nearly 35 years.

  23. Woody Says:

    You mentioned the myth about the unhappy artist who hid a profanity on the artwork…..is this true or false. ? If true, where might it be hidden?
    Thanks

  24. Jim Says:

    I was at a garage sale…This guy had a large 56″? or greater?? Scene-O-Rama under a blue tarp in his driveway with other beer signs sitting on top of it. I replace the bulbs…two do not work yet but am working on it, and the side with the two beer mugs is out. Will order my parts from Brewskilights in SD. Here is the kicker…I’ll put a couple hundred into fixing it back up…But the guy sold it to me for 50 bucks…I shoulda counter offfered but I was awestruck…LOL

  25. Jenn Says:

    Hi all,
    I stumbled upon this website and have been reading up, thank you.
    I recently purchased a HAMM’S ANIMATED RIPPLER MOTION LIGHTED BEER SIGN at an estate sale for 20 bucks. In good shape, was in a man’s garage /mancave for years.
    The right side of the sign does not light up very well, or at all- yet the middle panel (HAMMS name), and the left panel/scenery are very vibrant and bright, no problems.
    I am in uncharted territory here.
    Do I need to replace a bulb on the right side, etc?
    Please advise.

    thank you~

    Jenn From northern California

  26. Barry Says:

    Attagirl, Jenn!

    You have a 1965 Anniversary rippler sign, which was made for Hamm’s 100th anniversary-nice score. On to your problem.Two things it could be. Either the bulb or the starter. The back is easy to pop off from the plastic frame and both the bulb and florescent starter (that little silver canister thingie about 2 inches high that looks like a mini beer can) can be removed with a firm twist. TAKE (and buy) both bulb & starter to your Home Depot,Menards,Lowes etc. so you can get the proper replacements. Return whatever you DON’T need to get your sign back working and lighted. (having a beer while you attempt this repair always helps a bit too)

  27. Dennis Says:

    I have heard that there is a way to repair very thin scratches that develop in the scroll – do you have any suggestions on type and possible brand of markers/pens to use?
    Thanks!

  28. Barry Says:

    I’m an artist for my “day job” and I haven’t attempted this. The opacity of the scene will be pretty hard to match,and you’ll have to draw hundreds of vertical lines in different colors.I guess I’d go with the multi colored pack of ULTRA FINE Sharpie markers if I were to give it a try.Good luck!

  29. Ben Haslet Says:

    I recently acquired a scene-o-rama sign that has -ON TAP- in the spot where it normally says -Born in the land of sky blue water. I assume this sign was made to hang in a bar. Is it less common than the other version??

  30. Barry Says:

    Ben
    The two versions are about equal in value and rarity.

  31. LARRY DECHAMPS Says:

    Where can I get roof shingle replacements for the sceneorama???

  32. Barry Says:

    Call Jim

    Brewskilights@sio.midco.net or 605-335-3525

  33. john Says:

    I have a dusk to dawn motion sign and am trying to change the flourescents and can’t get the darned scroll off. Anyone have any suggestions? thanks, John

  34. KC Says:

    Hi Barry,
    Thanks for all this incredibly good information. I inherited a small (3-ft) sceneorama from my grandfather. He had taken out the Hamms logo, but the rest of the sign is intact, including ‘Born in the land of sky blue waters’. Is it important to replace the logo with a reproduction (such as one that Brewskilights in SD offers), or should I keep it in its current, ‘original parts minus the logo’ condition?

    Also, I will need to store the sign for about six months while I move. Is it best to store these in an upright position, or can they be stored flat on their backs?

  35. Barry Says:

    KC
    I’m a sentimental old sap. Depending on whats IN the Hamm’s logo space, (I’ve actually seen a picture of Gramps & Gram themselves!) I’d keep it original to remind you of where it came from Or,if they’ve simply spray painted over it or there is a blank white piece of plastic, order a repop logo plate and get it back in shape .http://www. ibuyoldbeer.com also has replacement parts and are an asset to all things Hamm’s. Good luck!

  36. KC Says:

    Thanks for the advice Barry! It’s just a blank white piece of plastic, so I’ll get a replacement logo.

    Any thoughts on the best way to store the sign?
    Thanks in advance — KC

  37. Barry Says:

    I’ve bought many that were stored either way,without any harmful effect.

  38. Jennifer Says:

    I have a TV Rippler sign that probably needs a new motor as the motion no longer works. It looks like I can order that online but getting it installed is another issue. Who do you call for that kind of thing? Small appliance repair guy? Thanks, Jennifer

  39. Barry Says:

    Ghostbusters! Couldn’t resist-sorry. I’d try a clock repair (my guy is great at small motors) or something similar. Craigslist is always an option for finding guys that like to tinker or a retired electronics person,etc.

  40. Doug Manbeck Says:

    I have the rippler lake scene with the tent and waterfall. Is it possible to clean the moving scroll without damaging it? Simple Green? Thanks

  41. Barry Says:

    Doug-Sometimes they are stained with nicotine from hanging in the bar. You’d be surprised at the junk you can actually get off them sometimes. I use just a mild warm water with a little Simple Green mixed in to clean it. Another tip to freshen up your roof shingles is to spray Armor All onto them,and let it drip down/through them. You can use a toothbrush and soft cloth to get into the crevices.

  42. Dr. Licata Says:

    Hey, great website! I was raised outside of Madison and have fond memories of Hamm’s beer signs from bars, bowling alley’s and my neighbor across the street whose entire basement was filled with beer cans and memorabilia. You mention avoiding internet sales. If I were to take a trip to MN or WI, do you have any suggestions on where/how to purchase a vintage Hamm’s sign? Thanks!

  43. Barry Says:

    Steve is a 35+ year collector that refurbishes them to “like new” condition.
    He can be reached at
    miner@bevcomm.net

  44. Kevin Baxter Says:

    Barry I have sign parts and also been working on them for over 15 years.

  45. Barry Says:

    Kevin

    That is fantastic.If you email me,I could use your services. Especially if you are near the Twin Cities.

  46. Todd Brosch Says:

    My Hamms scrolling motion sign from the 1960′s with the lake and campfire quit moving. It is the motor or can one purchase these anywhere.
    Thanks,
    Todd

  47. Gene Hasse Says:

    Todd,

    Your Hamms motor is available at retrobeeritems.com. Type in the search box – Hamms Scenarama Motor. I got one and it’s a exact fit. Works GREAT!

  48. Mike Says:

    I’m looking for someone to take the three signs I have and make them into one good one, do you know anyone?

  49. Barry Says:

    Sure…but you’d have to get them to Winnebago,MN. Using any service like USPS,UPS or Fed Ex will pretty much ensure they will be smashed to pieces. But if you are passing through MN. on I-90 contact Steve (Dr. Hamm’s) at miner@bevcomm.net

  50. Tim Says:

    Hey folks, a little help? My 60′s “Dawn till Dusk” sign, with clock, all parts and lights work, but motor hesitates after 180 degree turn, (it turns continuous when not under load of bottom roller, which I suspect is the problem, I can feel the ratchet gear inside the bottom tube slip until it catches again if I turn it by hand, and then it continue, but stops again after next rotation? Is it the bottom roller, can I fix it or get replacement part and from whom? Thanks so much.

  51. April Says:

    Hi there! I have a scene o Rama with the flowing river n camp scene. Everything has been running excellent for years and just recently I’m hearing a small single click noise coming from the sign. I took the back apart to check the reels and to see if the motor was making the noise.Sounds like its coming from the bulb. It happens every 20 seconds. I wasn’t sure if I should try and replace the bulbs or is this a sign the motor or reels need replacement. I adore this sign! My grandpa left it to me and it breaks my heart to hear it suffer. Any advice? All is appreciated! Thank you

  52. Jon Says:

    I bought a motor from this web site: http://www.hammsolympiabeersignmotor.com/
    The motor was shipped to me quickly and is a perfect fit. Runs nice and quiet, + it is less expensive than other places.

  53. Gene Tighe Says:

    I bought 11 beer signs at a yard sale for $40 of which one of them the “Aged and aged from moon to moon” sign with paper chimney etc. that is almost in perfect condition. I understand that only 100 were made. Is this correct?
    Gene Tighe

  54. Barry Says:

    Incorrect.

  55. Burns Says:

    I have a Hamms scene-o-rama and the lights and motor work but there is no outer casing. Is there any way a person could find the parts to restore the sign?

  56. Barry Says:

    Keep scanning Craigslist for a parts sign or find one locally. Your best bet is to buy a NON motion sign and spray paint the side sections white. I’m not aware of anyone foolish enough to risk shipping the casing-its very fragile!

  57. Chris Says:

    Hi. I have a Scene o rama and I need to get new roof panels. Can anybody help me out?

  58. Keith Says:

    Can anyone tell me what the correct wattage bulb should be used for the Scene-O-Rama sign? The side light is a 14 watt and the one that is for the motion scene currently is a 5 watt 18″ lamp. The starters are the same for both lamps and read 14w -15w – 20w. Want to know if i can use a 15 watt lamp in place of the 5 watt lamp which I can’t find.

  59. Peggy Harmon Says:

    I have a lighted Hamm’s Beer sign that looks like a motion one but it doesn’t have any motion. It has a picture of a man and women holding a beer can leaning on a fence or something. It is the same shape and size of the Scene-O Rama with the straight across plastic roof line and it lights up. I can’t find any information on it. Can you help?

  60. Barry Says:

    They were made in the same chalet frame as the moving signs were,and are worth about fourth of the value. They made over a dozen static (non-moving) inserts and used a few different logo inserts (also a clock on the left panel in some) There have been a half dozen sold on ebay recently if you want pricing…

    http://ibuyoldbeer.com/movingwaters.htm

  61. Peggy Harmon Says:

    Thank you so much….You have been very helpful.

  62. Scott Brown Says:

    I purchased a Hamm’s four sided rotating sign a few months back and love it. One side has a skier with a young women on his shoulders. Another side has clock and the other two show Hamms logo. It’s a lakeside plastics sign. Liked it so much I bought a twin to pair it with but the second sign is in need of some decent rehab. Problem is I can’t figure out how to get inside the sign and don’t want to break anything in the process. Help!!

  63. Don Says:

    Hi. I have an Old Style waterfall sign with the 5 deer, a rippler also,
    that has a god awful noisy motor. I know these signs are known for being noisy, but I also heard there are newer motors somewhere for sale for these signs.
    Would you happen to know of any. If not, would you have a recommendation for a fix for a sign motor?
    I can try and crack the motor case and use a better grease or least see what the problem is.
    Thanks for any help.
    Don

  64. Bob Walsh Says:

    I have the Hamm’s scene-o-rama sign and considered selling, but my father replaced the logo plates with holiday cards. I couldn’t locate the originals but I found a website where I can get all the replacement parts at reasonable prices. Try brewskilights.com. Now I have to decide if I should buy the parts or sell the piece “as is” and tell the buyer where to get the parts. :-)

  65. Paul Baker Says:

    I have a scene-o-Rama as well, I have the vertical scratch on the scroll. Anyone know where I can get that part? How hard is it to replace?

  66. Pat Chaffey Says:

    The corner on the slate roof is broken off and missing, on my 3′ scene o Rama Hamms beer sign. Otherwise it is perfect. How does this effect value?

  67. Melissa Says:

    I have the 1956 Rippler.. unfortunately it was left in a hot car for a day and now the moisture has made the picture look cloudy and tented around the edges. Is there any way to fix this? The motor still works fine. It’s just when it’s off, it doesn’t look good!


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