The Sunbeam billboard at Main and Harding streets has been restored, along with the swinging “Sunbeam girl.” The girl, known as “Little Miss Sunbeam,” has been a fixture in Pine Bluff for many decades.
The sign is owned by Flowers Baking Company, which held a small ceremony Thursday morning to unveil the restored sign. A company spokesman said that the restoration was done in an effort to “preserve history” for future generations.
The image of Miss Sunbeam was created by a well-known children’s book illustrator named Ellen Segner during the early 1940’s, according to the Quality Bakers of America website. Miss Sunbeam was drawn from life by Segner in Washington Square Park in New York City and was based upon her observation over several days of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl playing in the park.
From these drawings, she developed the original oil painting of Miss Sunbeam, which hangs today in the offices of Quality Bakers of America. Ellen Segner produced more than 30 original oil paintings of Miss Sunbeam that were used for print and outdoor advertising in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s across the USA.
Sunbeam White Bread was first marketed in the Philadelphia area in 1942, where it was an immediate success. After the Second World War ended, many bakers across the United States began to bake the Miss Sunbeam Brand as members of the Quality Bakers of America Cooperative.
Today, approximately 40 bakeries covering the US from coast to coast bake and distribute Miss Sunbeam breads and rolls.
In Pine Bluff, the “swinging girl,” as she is often referred to, harkens back to childhood for many.
Regina King said her father used to drive her by the sign when was a little girl. Today, she did the same for her young son.
“It’s so heartwarming to see her back in her rightful spot,” King said. “It’s a community landmark.”
When the girl was taken down from the sign late last year, many on social media scampered to find out why.
“Did someone steal her?” was a common comment on The Commercial’s Facebook page.
“This is a great day for Pine Bluff,” Colby Black said of the return of Little Miss Sunbeam on Thursday. “This girl is a Pine Bluff native.”