Monday, March 31, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

More on the latest Armadale uncovering: a sign painting company, a sports depot, Donald Bradman and a heritage soap sign

Thank to the excellent online sleuthing of a few good folk, a few more details have emerged of the Armadale uncoverings  I posted about yesterday.

Firstly, the butter menthol sign underneath the Persil sign has the signature of Edgar Hook signs:

It's an old sign, certainly pre-1950s, given that it was already covered by a building in this Stonnington Council photo I posted yesterday:

Today, signwriter extraordinaire Tony Mead did some looking up of Edgar Hook Signs. Funnily enough, the company turns up on my Lewis & Skinner site as a job...maybe a sub-contract?

Both companies were in South Melbourne in 1955 (the date of the job above), so they are likely to have had some interaction. And both had been around for a while as established companies.

Tony also found a PDF from Heritage Victoria describing the heritage protection given to a large and well-kept Velvet Soap sign in Kyneton, regional Victoria, painted by... Edgar Hook:

This find is also notable to me because it's the first time I've heard of a local ghost sign being given any kind of heritage protection. It might even offer possibilities for the protection of other signs, thereby possibly avoiding the kind of fate of so many great signs, including my favourite Bushell's Tea sign recently.

The next lot of interesting detail has emerged in regard to the Pennants signs below the Allens and Persil signs, which features a painting of a cricketer (click to expand):

Thanks to a Facebook callout yesterday, Kristy (who's an expert online sleuth) has been on the hunt for more details. Turns out Pennants made bats, balls, gloves and other cricket stuff.

The 'Palmer's' refers to Palmer's Sports Depot in Malvern (also called Central Sports Depot), further west on High Street in Malvern (it's likely that this wall was an ad for that business). Palmer seemed to have knack for marketing - he's mentioned a lot in the newspapers, from 1921 onwards, in articles, sponsorships and ads: 

Interestingly, the legendary cricketer Donald Bradman had a sponsorship deal with Palmer's Sports Depot in 1932:

So - and given that the Pennant/Palmer's signs are definitely pre-1940s since the photo above is from the 1940s, and those bits of the wall were definitely covered - it's quite possible that the faded painting of the cricketer on the Armadale wall is of the Don himself.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fitzroy or Armadale?

I've just seen this pic on the Stonnington Council site. It says the photo is from 1984 and the sign is in Armadale (,45?FMT=IMG):

But it looked strangely familiar to me. So I looked on my blog, and found this 2012 pic from North Fitzroy, just off Brunswick Street:

Sign is the same, windows are the same...hmm...

Today's visit to the Armadale uncovering

This afternoon I managed to get to Armadale to take a look at the latest uncovering of signs on two walls, following a demolition. Funnily enough it's only a block from the recent uncovering of a large Cadbury sign on the same side of the road (that sign is now entirely covered by a concrete wall, more's the pity).

I'd neglected to check how charged my camera phone was though - so I turned up with 17% charge left and, after climbing through the fence into the building site (as is my wont), I snapped like crazy until the phone karked it a few minutes later.

The signs were from before the 1950s it seems - this is backed up by the 1950s two-tone brick style of building that had been demolished:

The revealed signs are fabulous, with more exposed with the progression of the demolition works. One wall appeared to be a wall advertising a range of products to passing traffic, and the other side was an automotive centre specialising in tyres. The signs are layered. One side has a sign for butter menthol drops beneath a Persil washing powder ad (for Persil's history, see: The drops sign has the signwriter's signature: Edgar Hook Signs.

Here's what the Persil sign once looked like, thanks to the Stonnington Council website ( What's interesting here is that a) the signs below the Persil one are older than the photo (which looks like the 1940s), since they predated the construction of the bakery building, b) The Persil sign was painted quite sloppily on top of the butter menthol sign, which looks like it was for the Allens brand (look above the 'Persil'):

Underneath the Persil sign (see below) are older signs for Pennants next to the remains of a painting of a cricket player. Palmer's Pennants was something sports-y (bats? balls? muscle rub?) but as yet my Google searching has turned up nothing...any help much appreciated.

On the wall opposite are lots of layered sign for Dunlop and other tyres, as well as what looks like older signs for a Ford dealership. I'm including all the photos below. Who knows how much longer these signs will be around? John Hunter's website also has some more photos of the site:

Anyway, here are the pics:


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Another incredible uncovering in Armadale - plus a belated one in Rosebud

Last night I received an email from Linda, who alerted me to a fantastic uncovering of ghost signs in Armadale, just near where the large Cadbury sign was revealed recently. (thanks Linda!)

They're on two walls, in between Kooyong and Glenferrie Roads, if anyone else wants to check them out. Below are Linda's photos - I plan to get there myself in the next few days:

I've also been alerted (thanks Mark!) to another uncovering in 2010 in Rosebud, when the skate centre was demolished. Apparently the signs (a Swallows biscuits sign and a Medallion foods one) are still there next to a new Shell service station,and are a source of admiration for the locals. I can't show the photo here - I don't have rights - but the link is here: I plan to get there soon too. Given that Swallow and Ariell, as well as Groves McWhitty (maker of Medallion foods) were Lewis & Skinner clients in the early 1950s when these signs were probably painted, it's highly likely this was a L&S sign.

Great article on Sam Roberts and his worldwide ghost sign exploits in Huck Magazine

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A hint of a Robur Tea sign in Clifton Hill

Sometimes it's just a matter of the right light, or perhaps being a passenger in the car instead of the driver. The other day I noticed something on the side of a former shop in Queens Parade, Clifton Hill, that I've often driven past. It seemed to be a Robur Tea sign (I've become highly sensitised of late to spotting traces of Robur signs).

So I went back yesterday, and yes indeed:

Once it would have been a sign not entirely unlike this one:

Monday, March 17, 2014

A couple of local media items about projects by yours truly

Here's a little article in this week's Footscray Star  about the Lewis & Skinner document exhibition currently on at the Victoria University library:

And here's a press release about a talk I'm giving on ghost signs for the Surrey Hills Ephemera Day on June 5:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Latest backlog of ghost signs from around Melbourne

Here are the latest photographic fruits of my travels around Melbourne.

Firstly to Victoria Street, Collingwood, where a fab Indian Root Pills sign was once rendered in the same  large and loud fashion seen in some recent Indian Root Pills uncoverings. You can still see remnants of the cobalt blue background:

And around the corner, a reminder of the old industrial Collingwood:

And from a drive to Greensborough, incorporating a bike ride along the Plenty River:

In the back blocks behind the Plenty River - some ghost signs on ghost vehicles:

West Melbourne railway bridge. Bowens Hardware in North Melbourne used to be client of mine in my first job - writing and producing telephone 'on hold' messages:

...and around the corner, a glimpse of an uncovering:

Now to North Melbourne and Flemington: Briquettes ads:

Plume Motor Spirit (Vacuum Oil Company). Have passed this many times before, but this time the light was just right to see it:

Penfolds ad:

Tuxan shoe polish. Not technically a ghost sign though, since the shop is still going.

This one's also still going, but the sign is nice:

Greys is better!

Have snapped this milk bar sign before, but unfortunately the other side has now been smashed:

A few from the former McCabe factory in....McCabe Street:

And now to North Carlton and Brunswick:

Stood in next door's front yard for this one (there was no fence). The resident saw me but was very gracious :)

Now a cafe, but the exquisite sign's been kept

Was an engineering workshop, is now apartments

One from Fitzroy:

From Mark H, one from the city:

...and another in the CBD - the famous 60s modernist statement, with old tram signs: