Monday, January 27, 2014

Looking forward to an entertaining meeting with former Lewis and Skinner painters

Finally, finally, I've heard from someone with direct knowledge of the Lewis & Skinner company.

A huge thanks to Bill Luke, former signwriter and now artist (, for calling me the other day. Here's Bill painting a sign:

Speaking on the phone today, Bill had some great and colourful stories about Lewis and Skinner's manager Wally Parker and his reputation as "the biggest bastard in the business". Other folks at L&S include the following, complete with awesome nicknames:

Len Houghton - Foreman
Ted Lyon - Manager
Charlie (the hat) Beal
Bill (the pipe) Pieman

It turns out I actually have the letter authorising Wally's promotion to L&S manager in 1951:

An even bigger thanks goes to Bill for organising next week's meeting with his former boss Barry Richardson, who was a Lewis & Skinner signwriting apprentice under these tough blokes. I'll report back here on the chat :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tim's discovery in Underbool...a former garage with its history pinned to the door

The other day Tim sent me some pics of a former motor garage in the small town of Underbool in the Victorian Mallee district.

On the wall is a note outlining the history of the garage over the years. What a brilliant bit of amateur history:

The note says the garage was called Gloster's between 1925-30. On the site, Tim also found this:

Fresh from Preston: Apax Gaskets and Holsom Crumpets

The other day while driving on Bell Street in Preston, I glanced down an alley and saw what looked like a ghost sign.

So yesterday, I went to investigate. Here's what I saw:

The one in front is for Apax gaskets, tucked away in a back alley behind High Street. Some of the signs on the factory look recent. They're still listed in online directories, but their website is down. Are these ghost signs? Maybe, maybe not. But they're great:

But the best sign was the other one, for Holsom Crumpets. Love the old-school misspelling of 'wholesome' and the fact that the sign is quite hidden away:

Here's an ad from 1977 for Holsom Crumpets, which is just as delightfully daggy as the name:

But this looks like it was post- the company takeover, when they were making Holson in Gippsland rather than (I presume) Preston. The brand appears to have changed hands in 1969. See:,4072598

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Latest large backlog of ghost signs from around Melbourne

 Here are some more pics of signs from around Melbourne, collected over the last month or so:

Preston and Reservoir:

Trugo is the only truly Australian game besides AFL. It was started by railway workers in Melbourne's inner west in the 1920s. Unfortunately it's fading fast - this club is now closed:

See the little kid's head? Wonder what this ad was  .

See the few letters down the bottom?

near the train station: jovial 60s sign for Tuxan shoe polish

Great rundown deco building on Bell Street (and below) - then two more across the road at the former supermarket.

Former garage I've snapped before - but this time paint has fallen off to hint at the sign underneath

Pascoe Vale:


The famous Aussie/Greek window sign on upper Lygon Street that has featured many times in books such as Stephen Banham's 'Characters'. It's starting to lose some of its colour.

A few traces

The great Robur teapot on Lygon Street, this time with a better iPhone camera than last time I snapped it. The Lewis and Skinner records document quite a few of these being painted around Melbourne. This time the doorway below the sign was open, so I also managed to snap it from below.

..and speaking of Robur Tea, I think there may have been a Robur sign here in this palimpsest, judging by what looks like the cursive 'tea' similar to the 'better tea better presents' line in a bunch of other Robur signs (bottom right hand area, below)

These three warehouses are right next to each other - signs of Brunswick's former rag trade, and its current status as hipster arts central (judging by the current residents)




Another former pub across the road from the one can just make out the hotel name but it's faint

Four from some converted garages in the back streets - some signs look original, others added later

A few follow from this wall. There are traces of signs all over it.

Didn't see the end of the old Robur sign until I viewed the photo.

Another Robur sign?

Plus: a couple from others in the country:

Ouyen,  Victoria (thanks Tim):

and on the road: VW Kombi with Golden Fleece sign - and mags (thanks James):