Monday, June 24, 2013

A rambling post featuring an old receipt, a new wall painting, a newly revealed sign, and a bunch of other old signs

This post will ramble a bit, because I'm playing catchup on a few things to mention from the last few days.

Firstly, the old receipt. The other morning I picked up my car from a panel repair shop in East Doncaster, out in the north-east of Melbourne. The repairer, which had been picked out by my insurance company, had old photos on the wall of their area when it was still bucolic and semi-rural. I wanted to ask more about their interest in local history but I was running late, and so had to pick up the keys and leave.

That same day I was going through invoices and receipts from the Lewis & Skinner signwriting company for my forthcoming exhibition (more on that later). I came upon this - a receipt from 1952:

The receipt is from Syme Body Works - the same place I had picked up my car from...61 years later.

The reason I was in a hurry that morning was that I was due to meet my project crew (Lisa and signwriter Tony, as well as Lisa's partner Carey) at a cafe in Yarraville, Lady Moustache, where we'll be hosting the exhibition of Lewis and Skinner material in late September, alongside Tony's live signwriting of the L&S logo on the cafe wall. We measured out the wall in anticipation of completing a council planning application, since the wall is part of a heritage-listed building:

When done, the wall will look something like this:

More on this project soon.

Now for some existing signs. Last night I was driving down High Street, Thornbury, and spied this brilliant uncovering:

Here's one from Dean of 50 Lonsdale Street in the city:

And one by Lisa's student Nick, taken in Mordialloc:

And lastly, a bunch from the industrial areas of my suburb of Reservoir (some are not technically ghost signs, being for still-existing business, but what the heck):

Friday, June 21, 2013

Brilliant ghost sign cluster in Altona/Seaholme

Signwriting artisan Tony Mead has just sent me some pics of of a great cluster of signs on a wall in Station Street, Altona/Seaholme. Here they are:

Medallion Foods sign...looks circa 1952, judging by this similar sign in the Lewis & Skinner archives:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ghost sign reference in a William Gibson novel

I've just been told that there's a reference to New York ghost signs in a 2007 William Gibson novel, Spook Country, which deals with mixed reality and signs/images that appear in ghostly form.

The quote below is from Chapter 2, page 11:

"The old man reminded Tito of those ghost-signs, fading high on the windowless sides of blackened buildings, spelling out the names of products made meaningless by time.

If Tito were to see one of those announcing the very latest, the most recent and terrible news, yet could know that it had always been there, fading through every kind of weather, unnoticed until today, that might feel something like meeting the old man in Washington Square, beside the concrete chess tables, and carefully passing him an iPod, beneath a folded newspaper."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Photographing the Chippendales

This week I've been at a conference at the University of Sydney. My hotel was in Chippendale - a formerly down-at-heel industrial suburb adjoining the CBD, but now rapidly transforming - so I managed to snap a few ghost signs on the way there and back. As I've written  previously (, Sydney seems to lack Melbourne's concentration of ghost signs, so it was good to uncover a few, mainly hidden away in the back streets:

Stumbled on the Sydney HQ of the MacRobertson chocolates empire, famously based in a cluster of white buildings (named White City) in Fitzroy:

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A day of roaming and snapping

This morning I dropped off my car to the repairer, following an incident the other week when a driver in a supermarket car park backed into my driver's side door. Cest la vie.

Anyway, I had the bike in the back, and the day wasn't wet, so off I went, from Preston into the city.

Along the way, as you'd expect, I snapped some signs:

Side of old milk bar in Northcote...there was once a sign up there

...and there's still a trace at the front.

A few from Carlton on the way in:

A golden glory off Rathdowne Street

...the other side

Can you see the cursive?

Victorian baker

Then later on, after taking the train to St Albans, I rode back to Footscray along Ballarat Road:


Lonesome Road: this front's been commonly snapped

...but the side has rarely been. Brilliant Robur Tea sign that I've never noticed before.

Further on Ballarat Road...from the side

and the front...ghost servo.

Front again.

Also Ballarat Road.

Ditto. Old corner store. There's a sign behind here somewhere, but it ain't gonna be revealed any time soon.