A young man wandered into the Cloverdale Reporter office late one recent afternoon, looking a little lost. He’d tentatively approached our front door, then turned around, only to return a few moments later.
“Can we help you?” We asked. In halting English (was his accent French? Possibly Spanish?), he said he was looking for The Sign.
We knew the one.
The Smallville Sign.
The long-running TV show about the early days of Clark Kent, before he became Superman, was once synonymous with Cloverdale, a stand-in for the budding superhero’s home town when the series filmed on location.
The folksy phrase Home of Smallville was proudly emblazoned on “Destination Cloverdale” towers welcoming visitors to the historic town centre at 176 Street and Highway 10 and at 58A Avenue.
But they were taken down about two and a half years ago, when 176 Street was revitalized with heritage lamp posts and other beautification projects. The series – which wrapped up its final season earlier this year – hadn’t filmed here since 2006. They used a Burnaby back lot instead.
The young man’s leather backpack was covered in flags and emblems from all over the world – travel souvenirs, presumably. He also clutched a stack of printouts from various fan websites, complete with photos of The Sign.
“It’s gone,” we told him. “They took it down.”
His hopeful eyes clouded with disappointment.
So we tried directing him towards another Smallville landmark that’s still around – the Clova Cinema, which stood in for the TV show’s Talon theatre.
The Clova? Oh, he’d already seen it, he smiled, nodding. He thanked us and we sent him on his way.
Last month, we had another young Smallville fan drop by the office wondering – hoping – to take a photo of the sign.
She and her dad had come all the way from Ontario and were mighty disappointed to learn it’s no longer on view.
It’s clear Smallville, once Cloverdale’s top tourist draw, continues to win over new fans – folks who are willing to travel across the country, or the world, on a pilgrimage to the real town that played such an important role in their beloved show.
A while back there was talk of commemorating the show with a plaque or sidewalk marker in Cloverdale.