While driving a taxi during my college years in the early 1970s, I would regularly take a temperature on new arrivals to our area.

Invariably, upon driving from the airport, passengers would ask me to identify the letters PSFS and PNB that adorned the skyline.

Upon being told that they were monikers for banking institutions, a tacit sign of approval was then met by: "Where's the best place to eat here?" and "How are those Phillies doing?"

There were no major markers identifying our great institutions of higher education, our wonderful teaching hospitals or most of our major industries. There was a dearth of windows to our soul, for our soul was diminishing.

Now our soul is once again stirring, showing a resurgence of vitality. It's a vitality that is born from great ideas, resulting from economic rebirth and a display of that life.

When Unisys Corp. announced its intent to move its world headquarters back to the city, it did more than signal that new employees would be coming to town. It also gave itself and its reclaimed city a chance to attract other commercially significant entities, and to help further grow the city and the region.

That move by Unisys would be significant because it would tell today's population that the most significant mechanism of our era - the computer - has its flag planted in the heart of the city of its incubation. And it would tell graduates of our vast numbers of colleges and universities not to contribute to the brain drain - the vast outpouring of twenty-somethings who find it "hip" and economically feasible to take their educations to other areas of the country.

The request by Unisys to display its name near the top of the building that will house its world headquarters - Two Liberty Place - was met by a strong opposition during hearings with the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment last week. A follow-up hearing is scheduled for September.

It is imperative that the board approve that request.

Residents who recently bought condos in the otherwise commercial use structure are contending that the 11-foot-high letters will detract from the aesthetics of the structure and thus reduce the value of their investments. To call this massive building a "residential community" is like calling a horse a cow, simply because it can supply milk.

In legal terms it is called caveat emptor - buyer beware. For the few to stymie the benefit of the many is absurd.

To their credit, Unisys had said the position of the sign would be placed on two floors that are not occupied. It was also stated that a black, metal border would abut the top and bottom of the red sign, ensuring that its glow would not affect adjoining floors.

Not only should this sign's construction be approved, but another major company - Comcast - should be encouraged to have a similar "window" atop its new tower.

In the movie Cinema Paradiso, a young man is caught between continuing a successful existence in a provincial town, or moving to new horizons with an opportunity to expand his world. In many ways, Philadelphia has been that provincial town, drawing in when it should be reaching out.

The display of a sign is as necessary as a display on a storefront. It says we are open for business and come and share in our growth. It encourages residents and students to stay, and it tells travelers much more about our soul.

Jeff Hurvitz (jrhurvitz@aol.com)
is a freelance writer who lives in Abington Township.