SHEFFIELD TWP. — The iconic “rocking chair man” sign on the old E.H. Roberts Co. building quietly disappeared last month.
Priscilla Bokhara, the daughter of the late E.H. Roberts, said the decision to remove the landmark, which was on the corner of state routes 57 and 254, was a difficult one, but one the family felt was necessary.
“My father sold the company more than 20 years ago, and he passed away a year and a half ago. We’re selling the property now because it wasn’t being used,” Bokhara said. “The sign is obviously iconic, but it was beginning to look like a derelict building. As a family, we made the decision to take it down so we can sell the property.”
The original sign was put up in 1955 to advertise Roberts’ heating company. In the 1980s, a newer version was placed on the building that included the company’s phone number.
“(My father) always said that in business, it’s important to reinvent yourself every seven years or so,” Bokhara said. “If you don’t, someone else will and they’ll get ahead in the market.”
Almost anyone who lived in Lorain County at some point while the sign was up remembers it. Over the years, Roberts’ children have run into people worldwide who have fond memories of the sign, according to Bokhara.
“While I was living in Paris at one point, I remember talking with some people who I learned were from Ohio,” she said. “They couldn’t believe it when I told them that my father was the one who put the sign up.”
Her siblings have similar stories.
“I don’t feel like the rocking chair man is owned by us,” Bokhara said. “It’s owned by the stories of the community.”
One of the most memorable things about the sign was that the chair the man was sitting in would rock back and forth. There were times, though, that it would stop working, and the man would just sit there.
That never went unnoticed.
“When it stopped rocking, it was amazing how everyone noticed it,” Bokhara said. “It was incredible that something so seemingly unimportant became an important backdrop of people’s lives.”
When the family called an electrician to take the sign down, he too had a story to tell about the sign.
“When the electrician heard what the job was, he said, ‘I was a kid and remember driving by it and the rocking chair man wasn’t rocking, and I thought he died,’” Bokhara said.
The family considered donating the sign to The American Sign Museum in Cincinnati — where another Elyria landmark, the Loomis Camera sign, is on display — but they determined the sign wasn’t in good enough shape.
“Parts of the sign have dry rot, so we’re probably just going to keep it in the family,” Bokhara said. “For me, personally, taking down the sign was the end of an era. What a blessing it’s extended to the community for so many years.”