In the world of sports, the Citgo signhas a special place.
Aside from serving as a navigational landmark to Boston’s population and tourists that visit, the sign makes its way into the Fenway Park panorama by its seemingly perfect placement over the Green Monster in left field.
But, starting tomorrow night, the famous 60-foot tall by 60-foot wide sign– that has 218,000 LED lights and is the largest sign in New England — will go dark for at least a month in order to upgrade its lighting system.
Five years after its last major renovation, new and more efficient lights that will be more resistant to bad weather and UV rays will be installed. The sign will light up in time for Citgo’s 100th anniversary on Sept. 2.
In order to learn more about the sign’s history, we talked to the “Keeper of the Sign.”
His name is Martin Foley of Foley Electric and his story is remarkable. Since 1965, when the Cities Services sign was replaced by the Citgo logo, Foley has serviced it, making sure it continued to light up at night.
Darren: How did you get this unique job?
Foley: In 1965, I was working for a company called C.I. Brink and they had the contract to do it. I remember the day when they first painted the Citgo sign. They brought up this big five gallon bucket of paint and the wind was blowing so hard, it flipped over. Unfortunately, the paint hit some poor guy in a suit who was walking to his job interview.
Darren: When is the point where people really started to love the sign?
Foley: They shut it down for about four years because of the energy crisis (1979-1983) and Citgo was going to take it down. That’s when people got upset and it became a landmark. I obviously wasn’t working on the sign anymore and had left to start my own business, but when they tried to get it to light up again, the men who were servicing it couldn’t do it. They wanted to build staging around the sign and that was too expensive. There’s a hook at the top of the sign and we’d tie my chair on the bottom and I’d swing around the sign and do it that way. So they called me to do the job and I’ve been servicing it ever since.
Darren: How do you get up there?