Ryerson grants Councillor Josh Matlow access to Sam sign

The Sam the Record Man sign received a long-awaited visitor at its current warehouse home Tuesday afternoon.

More than a month after he made his request, Ryerson granted Coun. Josh Matlow’s wish to see the iconic music store sign, under the university’s care after it bought the store location in 2008.

“It was fascinating,” Matlow said in an interview after his visit. “I was relieved to see that Ryerson has done a good job of ensuring that it’s catalogued and that each piece is tagged and that they’re able to put it back together. It looked like an enormous jigsaw puzzle.”

Though the university refused to release the sign’s exact whereabouts, The Ryersonian has confirmed with Matlow and Gregory Signs and Engraving that the sign is currently stored in a Vaughan warehouse.

In a letter dated Sept. 17, Matlow told Ryerson he wants to see the sign in person to confirm to his constituents whether the university has kept the heritage symbol in good condition.

On Tuesday, Matlow said he strapped on steel-toed boots and a pair of safety goggles before a Gregory Signs representative and Ryerson spokesman Michael Forbes led him and a volunteer through the active sign-restoration workshop to a back trailer and dock area where the Sam sign resides in pieces.

“With the light shining on all these different kinds of pieces of the sign … it was very cinematic,” Matlow said. “It was so exciting for me to literally touch part of our history.”

Floodlights shone brightly on the dozens of Sam sign pieces, some tucked into large crates while others lay resting on the ground. The sign’s two eight-metre white panels rested against a wall and neon light tubing hung from framework, both Matlow and Forbes described.

Matlow said each piece was meticulously catalogued, with tags describing how the puzzle would come together when the sign does finally find a new home.

“I didn’t realize that it would be in so many pieces,” Matlow said. “I thought I’d see something that looked more like the sign.”

The tour lasted just over an hour, he said.

Forbes said the university did not have an issue allowing Matlow to see the Sam sign.

“We do visits like this occasionally,” he said. “We’ve had architects up and museum personnel and Coun. Matlow was the latest person to come visit the sign.”

Media, however, won’t get to see the dismantled spinning disks until an upcoming, but as yet unscheduled, public tour.

The controversy surrounding Ryerson’s plans for the Sam sign began when it decided there was no reasonable way to accommodate the sign in the university’s design for its new Student Learning Centre. A 2008 agreement with the City stated that if it cannot be incorporated into the SLC building design, the sign must be placed on the library building.

Instead, in a move that many Sam fans took to be a way to squirm out of its commitment, Ryerson requested the city amend the agreement to allow the university to work with city council to explore alternate locations for the sign that may be better than its library building.

“We’d always said we’d honour what the city decides,” Forbes said. “The sign was always going to go up, it was always going to get restored and reinstalled. It was just a matter of where.”

City council deferred the decision to allow Ryerson to amend its original agreement at its Oct. 9 meeting, sending the matter to the deputy city manager for further review.

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