South Bend, Ind. The iconic Studebaker sign composed of more than eight thousand pine trees celebrated its 75th birthday Sunday in Bendix Woods County Park. The sign, which pays homage to the legendary automaker, was planted in 1938 and visitors celebrated with a period themed party.
There were guided tours of the sign, hayrides, displays of Studebaker cars, and old fashioned games like hopscotch, marbles and paper dolls. Staff dressed in period costumes and visitors observed the occasion with ice cream and cake.
Laura Vasquez attended with her children, nieces and nephews who were eager participants in the themed activities.
”Studebaker has a long history of just doing things for the family,” Vasquez said. “So we thought it would be a good thing for our kids to see some of that history and join in some of the old fashioned games.”
The original project was envisioned by two engineers for the Studebaker Corporation and planted on the former proving ground as a tribute to the aviation industry because the letters can be seen from the air. Red and white pine trees were carefully planted in a pattern to create the sign that stretches for half of a mile.
“This is sort of a combination of natural history and cultural history,” said Amal Farrough, an interpretive naturalist for St. Joseph County Parks. “We took a hike through the letters from S to R and talked about the natural history of the trees and what else is coming up.”
Members of the Michiana Studebaker Drivers Club also rolled into the celebration with their classic automobiles. Chris Dresbach, the secretary of the club, came to soak in a bit of history from 1938.
“The idea at the time was to make the world's biggest living sign,” Dresbach said. “Today it's still recognized in the Guinness book of world records as the world's largest living advertisement in the world.”
Restoration efforts for the trees are scheduled to begin this fall thanks to more than $40,000 in grants and private donations to the project.