Monday, December 10, 2007

Highway 80 - vintage & ghost signs

Recent scenes from Highway 80 (Business I-20) in west Texas...

Coca-Cola rooftop billboard - Abilene, TX

Sahara Motel - Abilene, TX

Palomino Motel - Sweetwater, TX

K asked me recently what had led to my newfound interest in ghost signs. Part of the credit goes to Frank Jump and his Fading Ad Blog. Frank contacted me a few months ago regarding a photo on my website; the photo documented a fading mural ad near downtown Dallas which advertised Texas & Pacific Railway service between Texas and St. Louis. I began browsing his site and others, checking out some of the incredibly diverse vestiges of commerce and business from previous generations, still visible on aging buildings and structures throughout our nation.

I had noticed the occasional fading Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper ads in the downtown areas of many small towns, along with fading storefront signs, but until I began a conscious effort to look for other ghost signs and fading ads, I never realized how much of this stuff was out there. Of course, it's not like they're on every exterior wall of every building; they're elusive enough (like trains) to make it a bit of a challenge to go out and document them. And when I go out looking for them, most of the time I end up with mediocre results (like when I'm watching trains). Then again, occasionally, I'll discover something really spectacular.

Not only do the fading ads and ghost signs tell us about the commercial and financial history of a town or city... you just never know how long they'll be visible. One of them might be days away from being covered with a fresh coat of paint, or a building whose wall contains one might be scheduled for demolition next week or next month. And even if they escape the paint brush or the wrecking ball, won't they eventually fade away to nothing?

It has long been part of my nature to try to somehow preserve certain things that I feel are in danger of being taken away from me, so why should fading ads be any different? I decided to begin expending at least a token effort at documenting the ones I notice during my travels, and you'll see the results of those efforts here on the blog from time to time. Enjoy...

Hogue Barrow Co. - Merkel, TX

Lawrence Bros IGA - Merkel, TX

Tonic ad on the side of the Merkel Mail - Merkel, TX

Tin Shop - Merkel, TX

Coming next: ghost signs from Sweetwater.
np: Johnny Cash - "Hardin Wouldn't Run"
nr: John Steinbeck - East of Eden

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Blogger ABC said...

Nice series of images, Wes. I've always been a fan of roadside Americana and the old-school highways. Plus signs have always hooked me.

6:58 PM  

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