Hamm's Scene-o-Rama: Beer Sign Bliss

March 10th, 2011

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.

(Breweriana collector Barry Travis runs IBuyOldBeer.com: Preserving the Beers of Yesteryear. You can find him on Show & Tell, too.)

109 comments so far

  1. Eric Limbaugh Says:

    I finally got my Grandfather’s 5′ Hamm’s scene-o-rama…The scrolls weren’t turning inside… ..So I got inside of this Jewell and the roller bearings were seized up so I took them off the roller pins and oiled em and worked em until they both were free spinning…Put it all back together and this sign is mint condition.

  2. Tom Courneya Says:

    Hello Barry,
    I have asked Stevan Miner about script on my ’65 Rippler. I have located some sort of writing on the RH panel towards the top of the water line about 1/4″ below the forest. I haven’t taken it apart to inspect it; however, there IS something clearly written on the print itself. It’s not on the scroll as it doesn’t move. The lettering is about 3″ to 4″ long. I can make out the letters “..and……”! There IS something there.
    Have you seen this before?

    Thanks, Tom

  3. Tom Says:

    Were there units with all brown wood look side panels ?

  4. Mike Russow Says:

    I shipped a hamms sign o Rama and as I read to late it got damaged in family for 50 years was brand new roof broken and plastic under scroll are there parts or should I part it out heart broken sign lover

  5. Heather Says:

    I am the owner of a Hamms scene-o-rama that belonged to my mother. It is still in working condition however the Hamm’s name is not there anymore. Is this replaceable? If not, is it still valuable?

  6. John Hester Says:

    Hi Barry,

    Is the replacement SCROLL a ONE SIZE only and does this “FIT” either of the Scene O Ramas(Large & small)? I have the small 36″(I believe) wondered if the SAME scroll can be used in either models of the Scene O Ramas? I ask this because I’ve noticed the viewing window(or frame around where the scroll operates)of the large Scene O Rama appears wider showing more “scenery” OR more of the scene is visible (than the small ) at any one time? So is the Scroll made in TWO different lengths then?If that makes sense? I can’t figure out how they can be the same length unless the small Scene O Rama’s frame “crops” the sides more than the large one does? Or the rollers on the Large are skinnier/ smaller diameter than the Small? You thoughts on this would be sincerely appreciated here.Thank you for your time


  7. Dr. Hamm's Says:

    Hi John,
    There are two different sizes of Scene-O-Rama’s and they take different scrolls. The larger version has got about 9 inches more of birch tress. What Lakeside di was just splice this piece in resulting in two seams on the large scroll as opposed to just one on the small one. When I made my reproduction screens I eliminated the one seam in the large version.
    Dr. Hamm’s

  8. Rick Scruggs Says:

    I have a new in box Starry Skies sign; smaller size. My question is, the name of the lake where the picture was taken..? I read it some years ago, but haven’t been able to find it again.

    Thank you in advance!


  9. Barry Says:

    The background metal plate is a stylized illustration done by an artist,not a photo. So it probably exists only in the artists mind. The scene on the Scenorama (above) is also an illustration, not a photo of a real lake.

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