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This is an article about Canada’s only neon museum in downtown Edmonton

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EDMONTON—Dusk is the best time to visit a unique museum in this city’s core.

It’s open 24 hours a day, but the dwindling light at dusk enhances the allure of Canada’s only neon sign museum. This museum was merely a long, boring brick wall on 104th St. at 104th Ave. until David Holdsworth envisioned it as a gallery to salute Edmonton’s corporate history. Today the wall is a riot of colours from the 20 historical neon signs it holds.

Canadian National Railways telegraph sign.
Canadian National Railways telegraph sign.  (Pat Brennan / Special to the Star)

The signs are all retired and many them saved from the scrap heap after decades of marking the locations of some of Edmonton’s best-known and oldest businesses.

Holdsworth is an urban designer in Edmonton’s heritage department. He tries to persuade local building owners and developers to preserve and restore their edifices rather than tearing them down — or at least try to incorporate some of the old into the new structure.

Marv Haydon opened a large furniture store on 80th Ave. in 1964. By 1966 the store’s neon sign was the talk of the town. It depicted grandma sitting in a moving rocking chair. Occasionally she was replaced by a rabbit at Easter or Santa Claus at Christmas.

The store is now long gone, but grandma is sticking rocking on 104th St.

She was Holdsworth’s first target when he decided Edmonton’s neon history should be preserved. The family donated grandma — fully restored to her original splendour — to this unique museum.

Col. Mustard’s Canteen was a charming little eatery opened on 124th St. in 1955 by Brad and Carla Pipella. It operated for 18 years until a broken water main closed the street and eventually lead to the destruction of the little shop. It’s famous sign across the entire front of the little restaurant still glows brightly on 104th St.

John Stanton couldn’t find a proper pair of running shoes in Edmonton in 1984, so he looked further afield. He brought a much wider selection into town and started selling them from a converted living room in an old house.

His Running Room store grew into North America’s largest chain of specialty running stores with more than 100 outlets in Canada and the United States. The neon sign welcoming runners to that original one-room store now hangs on 104th St.

John “Mike” Michaels started selling newspapers on the corner of Jasper Ave. and 1st St. in 1912. Eventually he opened a shop on that corner and by 1934 it featured one of the city’s most memorable neon signs — Mike’s News & Smokes.

The sign has a guy reading the Toronto Star Weekly with his hat showing above the newspaper and his crossed legs below the paper with one foot contently dangling.

Mike could get any newspaper for a customer and carried many of North America’s principal newspapers. His newsstand became a renowned hang out and the story of Mike’s shop is told on a plaque on the 104th St. wall.

The previously blank wall is the back wall of a TELUS telephone-switching centre. TELUS approved the neon museum as long as it didn’t interfere with its electronic operations inside, said Holdsworth.

He now has 20 signs up on the TELUS wall and three smaller ones another nearby building.

All the signs were voluntarily refurbished and restored by members of the Alberta Sign Association and its members erected the signs on the TELUS wall free of charge.

Prince Charles hasn’t visited the neon museum, but he is aware of it. He met with Holdsworth and former mayor Stephen Mandel in 2009 to present the city with the Prince of Wales Award for its efforts to preserve its historic places.

The neon museum is about two blocks from the massive Ice District project — a new 25-acre residential, business, sports, entertainment and shopping district in the heart of Edmonton.

The Ice District centres on the $480-million Rogers Place, the new home of the Edmonton Oilers that opened last season.

The Ice District has also preserved a famous Edmonton image.

The iconic Wayne Gretzky bronze statue that stood outside the old Edmonton Coliseum for 26 years now stands outside Rogers Place.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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