But now more than 75,000 online petitioners want the sign taken down, claiming many of the jokes posted on it are racist — or otherwise insensitive to some community members.
One sample message: “No Mexican Olympic teams? All the runners and swimmers are here!”
It’s not the first time the sign along Interstate 5 in Napavine, near Chehalis in Lewis County, has been targeted, Q13 FOX of Seattle reported.
In 1971, someone used spray paint to cover the sign – and in 1979 a lawsuit against owner Alfred Hamilton, now deceased, went all the way to the state Supreme Court, the report said.
But some local residents say the sign is fine with them and the petitioners should leave it be.
“It’s a matter of free speech,” nearby resident Lou Desmond told the station. “People don’t like it, get your own billboard.”
“It’s part of this community, it’s been there forever,” resident John Moran said.
“If it’s not that sign, somebody would put up another sign somewhere else,” resident Don Theus told Q13 FOX. “As long as I can remember, that sign has been there. So, I don’t pay no attention to it because I don’t have to read it.”
But Nicholas Baum of Centralia, who started the petition, claims lots of people find the sign offensive.
“Whether they’re from Lewis County or they’re just from Washington and they’re driving through, they are made uncomfortable by this sign,” Baum told The Daily Chronicle of Lewis County. “I just don’t believe, in 2020, this is something we should be supporting.”
These days Hamilton’s survivors own the land and change the messages on the sign from time to time. They declined to talk to Q13 FOX.
Last Saturday, someone set fire to the grass below the sign in what appeared to be an attempt to burn it down. But the sign was only slightly damaged.
Because the billboard is private property on private land, local officials have no plans to take any action against the owners, the report said.