‘Little Audrey’ the Skipping Girl Vinegar sign is a Melbourne icon. Back in 1936 it was Australia’s first-ever animated neon sign, which made it a popular landmark that earned heritage status in 2007.
The Nycander Company, which produced a malt vinegar called ‘Skipping Girl Vinegar,’ commissioned the neon sign, based on their logo, to promote the product from the roof of their factory. The name ‘little Audrey’ isn’t the name of the girl in the logo, but rather a name given to her by locals after a character common in folklore at the time.
Over the years the sign has been through various ownership disputes and periods of darkness. When Nycander moved their factory to Altona in 1960 they were forced to leave the sign behind after the local council in Altona informed the company that the sign could not be moved to the new location because it was considered a distracting traffic hazard. The sign was dark for some years before it was sold to a local car dealer in 1968 by the company contracted to demolish the old factory.
Around that time concern began to mount over the loss of Melbourne’s cultural history and the demolitions of historic buildings and landmarks. The ‘Skipping Girl Vinegar’ sign became something of an icon of the fight to save the cities heritage and a campaign was started to ‘Save Audrey.’
Sadly the original sign could not be located so a new sign was commissioned. Paid for through fundraising, the new sign was smaller than the original but was modernized to have a shorter dress as well as longer, more free-flowing hair. In November 1970 ‘little Audrey’ was skipping once more, just 200 meters from where she had once stood.
Since then she’s had a few periods of darkness, and found herself under threat of removal a few times. But in 2007 the sign was heritage listed, and two years later after a full restoration, a solar panel was installed to give ‘little Audrey’ the power she needed to skip once more.
Nerd out about neon signs by listening to an episode of the podcast 99% Invisible all about them.
Look up at the sign using Google Street View.