In 1989 the Maine Department of Transportation decided that moving roadside signs were a distraction to drivers, effectively shutting down one of the state’s most iconic and beloved landmarks, the Hawkes Plaza TV repairman on Route 302 in Westbrook.
Generations of Mainers fondly remember the giant repairman swinging his arms and smiling as they made their way through Westbrook on the way up to the Sebago Lakes region.
It’s an image I remember quite well, even though I was just six years old when the sign stopped moving.
My siblings and I would be packed into the car on a hot summer day, on our way “upta camp” with our parents, sticking to the old 1980’s style vinyl seats of our station wagon, and there he’d be with that enormous smile.
We still loved seeing him even after he stopped moving, but it was never quite the same.
Thanks to a new restaurant, Lenny’s at Hawkes Plaza, the repairman lives yet again.
Lenny’s opened in February, but the repairman didn’t spring back to life until just recently.
Here’s a video of the sign back in action, posted to the Portland Maine Encyclopedia of the 1960’s, 70’s & 80’s Facebook page by Lenny Smith of Portland:
The sign was first built back in 1962 when Maine musician and then owner Al Hawkes decided to give the TV repair shop and recording studio on the site some flair.
New owner Bill Umbel has described the menu at Lenny’s as upscale pub food, and said he named the restaurant after Lenny Breau, a late Maine musician who recorded at Hawkes’ studio in the 1950’s and later rose to fame with a TV show in Canada and a record deal with RCA before being mysteriously strangled to death and left in a Los Angeles swimming pool.
While the story of Breau is tragic, and the stoppage of the sign in ’89 was disappointing, old-school Mainers are thrilled to see those big arms swinging once again.