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 from 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.