Sunday, April 28, 2013

A couple of ghost sign 'time capsules'

This post isn't about my pics, but those taken by other Melburnians and published online.

On the weekend I happened upon a Melbourne ghost sign site with a difference. John Hunter has been photographing local ghost signs since 1979, and, as well as more recently photographed examples, his site features some truly spectacular signs that have long since succumbed to demolition, repainting or wear and tear:

Also of note here is the My Fading Past site, created by Anthony Molloy in the mid-to-late 2000s. This site allowed people to contribute signs and plot their location on a Google map. Most activity on the site ended in 2009 although there are plans to revive it. No doubt some of the signs listed here have also disappeared in the intervening years:

Websites like this add another interesting dimension to the use of digital media to record ghost signs - when does the capturing of an example (and the online system that publishes it) become noteworthy in itself, as the only record of a particular era of sign writing craft. It's only really now (given that the popular internet has been around for nearly two decades) that these questions are starting to emerge. Already on this blog I've referred to at least four sets of online images from previous years for signs that have since been erased, altered or painted over.

Signs of heavy industry

Today I had some time up my sleeve before picking up my daughter from a party in the west, so I headed to Newport, Altona and Brooklyn with my bike in the back. Loved it out there in these desolate  back lots, ex-quarries and factories, the kinds of places I used to explore for years before I'd ever heard of ghost signs:

Yarraville, on the way

Newport, on the way


Newport 60s shopping strip (or, yes, circle, as it surrounds a roundabout). Now full of awesome Middle Eastern shops.
Same shopping centre - Lebanese grocery.
Not ghost signs but the best shop display I've ever seen (next two as well) 


Altona - only the "O" remains

Those are also from the backblocks of industrial North Altona:

Now, the industrial backblocks of Melbourne's very own Brooklyn. it's not exactly Williamsburg or Crown Heights, but has its own special charm:

This site is misleading. Despite the abandoned look, it's now home to a hip construction company making modular eco-housing. Gentrification is coming Brooklyn's way - a few lots for sale on the way have been rezoned for residential development.

Nice traditional ghost sign to finish off with. In the bit of Yarraville next to Brooklyn.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Vale Bushell's sign in Thornbury

At the end of a Thornbury street where I lived some years ago, a Bushell's Tea sign survived on a milk bar's side wall for some 60-odd years. I snapped the gradually fading sign in July last year and posted to this blog:

Here's the same sign in Google Street View:

Here's a photo of the sign taken back in 2005, when it was less faded and you can still see the teacup in the middle: And here's one from 2009, the gradual weathering taking its toll:

But today I drove past and the whole thing had been painted over, along with a newly rebuilt fence, in a particularly dull and unimaginative dark grey. Another sign succumbs, still there but hidden, probably for good.

Here is the wall now (added a little later):

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An uncovering in the city and a few from Fitzroy

My colleague Andy has just let me know about an uncovering of a doctor's sign at a building site on the corner of Russell and Lonsdale Streets in the centre of Melbourne. Here's the pics she sent (thanks Andy!). I've also edited this post since to add another pic provided by Tony Mead, thanks to relatives staying in the hotel opposite:

And here's another Dr King pic I've added later, courtesy of Janet Harris:

And here are some pics snapped in Fitzroy yesterday in between meetings:

The old Bartak doctors' rooms on the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Streets -
and my former neighbour

Two generations of signs on Brunswick Street

Hard to see: beer sign above the Labour in Vain Hotel. 

..and across the road.
I've always found it funny that the Perseverance and the Labour in Vain
face each other: talk about mixed messages.

The Rainbow. Carlton was the beer for Fitzroy it seems.

Ghost sign-inspired cover on the new Kurt Vile album

Look now - the ghost sign aesthetic has been embraced by musicians. Hipster favourite Kurt Vile's new album 'Wakin on a Pretty Daze' has a cover that looks very much like a hand-painted sign of the 'old school' kind, as well as sundry other artworks on a smaller wall in front. In the five-minute documentary on Youtube (see second video below), both Kurt Vile and the artist ESPO, aka Steve Powers, specifically refer to being inspired by the ghost signs in the industrial areas of Philadelphia -  their home town and where the sign was painted.

There's a Youtube video that shows the wall being painted:

And here's the documentary about the painting referred to above:

Monday, April 22, 2013

you've aged well, Astor

The other day I reposted a pic of the Astor sign in Abbotsford Street, North Melbourne. And tonight I found a pic of it from 1964, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria's website. You haven't aged a bit...well, maybe a little.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Superb 'day in the life of Melbourne' video from 1966...with signs attached

Here's something special. An 18-minute, 1966 promotional video from the Commonwealth Film Unit, designed to entice overseas migrants to move Down Under. Shot beautifully throughout Melbourne - as it turns out by my partner's mother's filmmaker cousin! - at a host of locations throughout the city, it's without any narration, presumably given its market.

There are signs galore throughout, from the inner city ghost sign captured on the milkman's round at 1.26 (is it Carlton?) to the wonderful panoramas of colourful neon signs at 15.03 and the end. Watch out for the large sign of the Mazda Lamps cat on Elizabeth Street at 2.23, and again later (the cat's face is still there today).

Lots of nice shots of early-model Holdens too, as well as the Holden factory where one of the characters works:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A bunch more ghost signs from Melbourne

Lately I've stumbled on some very nice signs whilst out and about around Melbourne. Again this city throws up something new when least expected.

First, two shots of the same Footscray sign on the side of an old bluestone building being renovated, taken on different days with the same bad camera phone. Just goes to show you that timing and light is everything:

Next, a bunch of brilliant signs from North Melbourne. First up, the remnants of a tea sign in an lane. I think it used to be a Bushells Tea sign because it says "Blue Label" at the top:

And around the corner: spied the faint remnants of a sign on a building side.

But then I looked at the other side - and lo and behold:

(Update on this sign a few weeks later: have just found another ghost sign fan's site - and it looks like this character in the suit is actually a monkey: back to the post)

Still excited about that one, I snapped another remnant nearly next door:

 Then turned the corner into a side street - and lo and behold again:

Then, saw the same sign I'd posted ages ago after seeing it while driving down Abbotsford Street. This street must have been quite the thoroughfare in former times given the number of colourful and elaborate signs on its walls:

Then, a few more remnants in the neighbourhood:

You can see the sign below...look through the tree...

And next, a few others from around Melbourne. Here are three Fitzroy ones taken on the way home from North Melbourne:

(As for the pic above, look what I found on the State Library of Victoria website - this 1967 pic from KJ Halla):

The light was nearly all gone...surprised this came out at all


From a few days ago - Richmond.
Strangely advertising a pinball company in Adelaide, some 800 km away.

Abbotsford back streets


Footscray - across the road from my old workplace and where I found the Lewis & Skinner records.  Soon to be demolished too, I assume.


Kensington - faintest of traces.