Duluth’s ‘Turn Out the Lights’ billboard confirmed

It’s the tale of political legend in Duluth. The oft-repeated story of a billboard in town during the 1980s recession has lacked proof that it actually existed. It urged “the last one out leaving Duluth (to) please turn out the lights.”

Now, there’s proof, the Duluth News Tribune says.

A former mayor has found a picture of it. Now the only remaining mystery is who put it there.

There are no firm details on who might have been behind placing the billboard in Duluth or what day and year it went up. Almost everyone says it was placed next to the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 somewhere between downtown and the Can of Worms interchange.

(John) Fedo, who was mayor from 1980-92, said he thinks a manager at Skoglund Outdoor Advertising “thought it was humorous. I think he underestimated the reaction and quickly removed it.”

Before Fedo’s photograph surfaced, the closest I got to verification of the story was from Joe Jagunich at Lamar Advertising Co., which has since absorbed Skoglund Outdoor Advertising.

He went through the old files and found no artwork or photos.

He did speak to two employees who said they installed the sign.

“They said it was only up for two hours, and they had to go back and take it down,” Jagunich said.

  • Robert Moffitt

    There’s no turning off the lights in Duluth these days.

  • jon

    Didn’t Seattle do that back in the 70’s?

    • boB from WA

      Yes they did. Rumor has it that it was the Boeing machinists who put that one up.

  • Rich in Duluth

    This wasn’t the only billboard to have a similar saying on it in Duluth. Todd Signs, on Hwy 53, still has a small board at their shop in Hermantown. It faces the north bound lane of traffic headed for the Iron Range from Duluth. It’s often used for humorous sayings. I remember they had a similar message on their board, I’m guessing, back in the 1980s. We would see it as we headed north from Duluth to “the cabin” on a Friday night.

  • Charlene Ginalski-Lambert

    And on Cape Cod…asking to ‘close the gate’…