Thursday, March 6, 2014

An old friend has left the building...

....actually it's the entire building that's left the building, including the wall that was home to one of my favourite ghost signs in Melbourne.

I've been passing this Bushell's Tea sign for years. It's opposite my kids' primary school in Reynard Street, Coburg.

As it looked in 2012

Reynard Street used to have one of the best collections of local grocery ghost signs in Melbourne, and this was the best of those. I've written about the Tea Wars of Reynard Street on this blog before, but now the Bushell's sign and the Robur sign have both gone.

A couple of days ago: going...

And today: gone.

The Bushell's sign was a local feature and highlight, large and at eye level when walking (as would have been intended by the painters): a venerable senior citizen. The sign told you in its own quiet and charming way that Reynard Street had a young life as a bustling local shopping hub, its parade of 1920s-1940s single-storey shopfronts full of activity. In fact the sign has had a series of lives - the Bushell's sign is not one, but at least three signs, painted on top of one another over years. It was Sam Roberts from who first appreciated these layers when I took him to see it on a scorching hot February day in 2013. Obviously this was a prime spot because Bushell's chose to keep paying for the space and the signwriting.

Now, most of the old shops are dwellings - that is, until they're knocked down and replaced with fugly 'brick down the bottom, plasterboard above' units. You can't blame the owners - the shops were small and dark and the now-desirable locale of central Coburg have put a premium value on space. But still I do wish that the humbler remnants of a community's everyday history could be given a better chance of survival, even if this means enacting regulations or incentives to encourage the reassembling of walls or working them into new building designs. Somewhere, this stuff does matter. The market is not always the arbiter of what is wisest in the long run.

So I'll say goodbye to a reliable friend, a presence that was always able to brighten my morning  drop-offs. I'll miss you. I do have a piece of you though - actually 14. Because this afternoon I backed my car into the driveway next to the demolition site, climbed up on the pile of bricks and picked out a bunch with your yellow, silver, cobalt blue and green paint on the surface. Now a small reminder of you is stacked up at home:

Postscript: I wrote this post last night. This morning, when dropping the kids at school, I drove past the Reynard Street milk bar near the school with the Tarax window sign. A For Sale sign had been erected on the awning.

1 comment:

  1. Collecting the bricks of a deceased ghostsign, that's a new one to me! RIP, Bushell's Tea, Melbourne, Australia.