The western Iowa community of Menlo is on the map — that is, the new Iowa Department of Transportation state map . Liz Gilman, with the White Pole Road Development Corporation, says the restored "Friendly Gas Station Man" sign which waves and greets visitors to Menlo, is featured on the cover of the new map which showcases scenes around Iowa.
The motorized sign was commissioned in 1934 by the gas station’s owner, Harry Kalbach Senior, and "it was a hit," she says, though over the years, the neon-accented sign fell into disrepair. Now fully restored, the sign again stands along White Pole Road, just north of Interstate 80 in western Iowa, between Adair and Dexter.
The road got its name by way of the 700-plus poles that are painted white. Gilman says she’s thrilled the historic waving sign was brought back to life. She says they worked on the sign in the winter of 2007 and the sign was remounted in June 2008 and "it’s been drawing attention ever since."
Gilman says she’d heard a rumor the sign was going to be featured on the latest DOT travel map, but she had to keep quiet until it became official last week. The map is available wherever tourist literature is found, including rest areas. The gas station itself is no longer in operation in Menlo, but Gilman says they hope to convince the original owner’s son to allow the group the chance to restore it, as well.
She says the hope is to make the station into a Welcome Center for the White Pole Road. Gilman says they’ve also applied to have the White Pole Road designated as an official scenic byway, so signs similar to those posted along Interstate 80 for the "Silos and Smokestacks" region of central Iowa can be erected and help to draw even more travelers to the road and communities it serves.