Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cuba's Communist Party, Camaguey

After much delay, the Partido Comunista de Cuba (Cuba's Communist Party) gathered on April 16 for its sixth conference (the fifth one had taken place in 1997). Although the news of Fidel Castro's retirement as first secretary and his replacement by his 'younger' brother Raúl, and the proposal to introduce a term limit of two five-year periods to rejuvenate the leadership of the Revolution grabbed the headlines, it is the far-reaching economic reforms formulated in the policy paper Guidelines to Social and Economic Policy that have been occupying the delegates' minds and are of particular concern to Cubans. Not all proposals included have been made public but the aim is to liberalise the economy and increase further the role of private initiative at the expense of the state after the first reforms in that sense adopted last year by the government. In other words, this will open a new chapter in the economic history of the island. If you want to know more about these reforms, you can always check the press or, even better, come from September to the courses on Latin America at the City Lit in London (yes, I know, that's some shameless promotion).
Anyway, this sixth conference gives me the opportunity to post a sign representing the logo of Cuba's Communist Party. Although many walls are decorated with the symbols of the Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (Youth Communist League) and of the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), the logo of the PCC is rarely represented in the streets of the island.

The logo was designed by Cuban painter Orlando Yanes and presented when the PCC was officially founded on October 3, 1965. It is based on a picture taken on April 16, 1961 at a ceremony organised in the Vedado area of Havana to honour and bury the seven victims killed the day before during an air attack by anti-revolutionary forces on two airfields near Havana (Santiago de Cuba's airport, in the east, was also targeted. These attacks prepared the ground for the Bay of Pigs invasion on April 17). In front of the crowd gathered at the corner of streets 12 and 23, Fidel declared:
What the imperialists will never forgive us for is that we are here, they will never forgive us because of the dignity, firmness, courage, ideological conviction, sacrifice and revolutionary spirit of the Cuban people. That is why they will not forgive us, he added, ...and that we have carried out a socialist Revolution in front of their eyes!
The picture captured the enthusiastic reaction of the crowd to these words: thousands of people raised their fists and brandished their weapons, showing their determination to repel their enemy at any cost. Yanes placed this powerful image into a red rectangle and added above the weapons a red banner, symbol of the working class and of the communist nature of the party, and the Cuban flag. Normally the acronym of the party is painted red with a white outline, rather than plain white as on the wall above.

Location: Avenidad de los Martires, Camaguey / Picture taken on: 30/03/2010

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Post 333: ten of my favourite ghost signs

To mark my 333rd post, here is a selection of some of my favourite ghost signs, taken from the ones already presented on this blog. I must admit, even if I am particularly fond of some, this isn't an easy exercise and the list keeps on changing regularly. Click on the pictures below to visit the relevant posts and read more about each sign.

- The building at the corner of San Ignacio and Obrapía in Havana for the design of its different adverts, especially the Enxebre one, and what these signs tell us about Cuban society before 1959. Always tops my list.
- Bryant & May, Croydon, for its colours and the fine drawing of the swan on the match box.
- Peterkin's Custard, Clapham Junction, for the unique drawing of the cheeky-looking kid (but certainly not for the product itself, according to testimonies given at the 1926 trial).
- The Swan Hotel, Bradford-on-Avon, for its elaborate lettering.
- 2 Little Crown, Soho, for the drawings and what it tells us about the history of that part of London.
- Hairdressing salon, Meissen, for the attractive early 20th century lettering on blue background and the unusual Puppenarbeiten.
- George Clark & Son's Breakfast Food, Mornington Crescent, for the challenge of identifying the product advertised there.
- Dubonnet, Chanier, a French classic, for the ability of the sign writer to paint an advert on a surface as uneven as rubble stones.
- The Temperance Permanent Building Society, Richmond and Lewisham, for the drawing of the house as well as the significance of suburbia and the importance of the co-operative movement in 20th century Britain.
- Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas, Havana, for the omnipresence and role of political propaganda in Cuba.

Enxebre, Havana

Let me know what you think of that selection. Which ones would you have included?

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Victoria Wine Company, Harlesden

Last January I posted the picture of a ghost sign from South Norwood advertising the Victoria Wine Company. With more than 170 branches, I was bound to come across another sign for this wine merchant at I some point. What I didn't necessarily expect was to find one with a slightly different design.
Unfortunately the lower part was almost completely erased when the council (or the building's owner) removed a tag. Still, with some work in Photoshop it is possible to reconstitute what was written.

Victoria Wine
Co Ltd
Wine Merchants
Since 1865
Over 170

Location: High Stret Harlesden / Picture taken on: 17/08/2009

Friday, 15 April 2011

Millett's, Croydon

For a chain that has such a strong presence in high streets around the country, there is very little on the web about Millett's history. It seems the company was founded by one J. M. Millet in 1893, with originally two shops: one in Bristol and another one in Southampton. The changes between the two spellings "Millet" and "Millett" are a bit of a mystery. In the 1930s the shop in Bristol traded under the name "J. M. Millet & Sons" (the advert is at the bottom of page 14 *). However after World War II it seems the family changed the spelling of its surname and the shops followed suit. Until 1970 Millett's remained a relatively small retailer with nineteen outlets. That year it was purchased by Blacks and a period of expansion began. Nowadays there are more than 200 Millets shops in the UK.

The design of the sign below would suggest it was painted in the 1950s.

Boots & Clothing.
Motorists' Equipment.
Leather Coats, Gloves, Etc.
See Our Windows
Round the Corner

*: on a completely different note, it is quite amazing how all the information about the different scenes and actors of "1066 and All That. A Musical Comedy of English History" in this souvenir programme is completely buried under adverts. A great guide to shopping in Bristol in the mid-1930s though!

Location: Surrey Street / Picture taken on: 17/06/2008

Thursday, 14 April 2011

For a glass of good wine, Stoke Newington and Holloway

Ever since I first saw it, I've been wondering about this glass of wine. What is it doing just next to a school? And why was the glass left intact when the rest of the wall was rather clumsily painted black? Could this have been the work of a street artist?

Location: Stoke Newington Church Street / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008

Then three years later and a couple of kilometres further west I spotted the same glass of wine (it used to be hidden behind a modern billboard) and this time there was something written underneath. However a search on the internet with the slogan "For a glass of good wine" didn't lead to any identification. I guess this ghost sign was promoting a local wine merchant and the logo would have been enough for people to recognize it. Maybe someone could cast some light on this little mystery.

For a Glass of Good Wine

Location: Holloway Road / Picture taken on: 06/04/2011

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Ecole libre de musique, La Rochelle

One can easily imagine the sounds of pianos, flutes and other instruments coming out of this former music school, when on hot days the windows were left wide open.

Ecole libre de musique

Location: Quai Maubec, La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime / Picture taken on: 01/02/2011

Monday, 11 April 2011

Tarrant, Putney

After taking a picture of the ghost sign below I headed to the library in Putney to see if they had any information about the business advertised on this wall at the back of the High Street. All I found was a picture taken c 1905 of a dairy of the same name on Lower Richmond Road but nothing about Tarrant, the juvenile outfitter.
This sign has badly faded and it looks as if there could have been more written on that wall than what I've been able to decipher.


Location: Chelverton Road / Picture taken on: 25/03/2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

Nuttman Bros, Sutton

If what is painted on this wall is to be believed, Nuttman Bros Ltd was founded in 1881. Seventy-three years later the company was still in business and was listed in the 1954 issue of the Timber Trade Directory. Unfortunately that's the only piece of information I found about it.

The phone number 324 seems to indicate the original part of this sign was painted not too long after the company was founded. It is surprising it wasn't repainted when the director telephone system was introduced in the late 1920s and 1930s, with phone numbers consisting of seven digits: three for the code (which corresponded to the first three letters of the local telephone exchange) and four for the number itself (could some three digit numbers have survived though?). As the Sutton area was served by three different telephone exchanges (FAIrlands for Sutton and Cheam, and both MELville and VIGilant for Sutton and Belmont - with Nuttman certainly served by one of the last two) it might have been useful to know which code to dial, unless of course all of Nuttman's customers were locals and fully aware of the local code (*). Another possibility is that by then the company had moved to other premises but I don't think that was the case. With a large yard at the back of the house, the location was rather convenient.

Est. 1881
Nuttman Bros Ltd
Phone 324
Timber & Fencing
Joinery Works

Since the last line hasn't faded as much as the rest of the sign and the lettering is different, I guess it is more recent. I wonder whether "Nuttman Bros Ltd" wasn't painted at a later stage as well, to reflect maybe a change in the social name of the company?

*: A local shop for local people? Sutton is no Royston Vasey though!

Location: Langley Park Road / Pictures taken on: 27/08/2009

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Flameout, Crouch Hill

Yesterday my steps took me through Crouch Hill where I noticed two fifths of the Flameout sign are now hidden behind a modern sign.
This North London family-run central heating and plumbing firm was founded in the early 1980s and is still operating today, albeit from other premises.

Heating Emergencies
Plumbing Breakdowns
24 Hour Service
Service Contracts Available
01-272 2595 / 6

Location: Mount Pleasant Crescent / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008

Monday, 4 April 2011

William Plummer, Eton

With its uninterrupted succession of neat letters, the name on this mosaic seems to come straight out of a schoolchild's exercise book. Sadly that's the only trace left by William Plummer so I don't know what was on offer in this shop. Stationary for the kids at the school up the road maybe?

Location: High Street, Eton, Berkshire / Picture taken on: 20/03/2011

Friday, 1 April 2011

Spencer Maynard, Eastbourne

At least four different signs were painted on this wall at the end of a Victorian terrace in the seaside town of Eastbourne but nowadays only two can be easily identified.
The most obvious one is for furniture dealer Spencer Maynard. Unfortunately I haven't found any information about him. It seems his son Charles Sidney (his other son Sidney Spencer died of influenza in a military hospital in northern France in 1918) took over the family business but experienced some financial difficulties in the late 1920s. In April 1930 the Courts granted him a bankruptcy discharge.
The other sign that can still be seen here is actually a very familiar one. With its off-white letters on a blue background, it promoted:
... Blades

Of the other two signs only a couple of letters can still be spotted here and there.

Spencer Maynard
Modern & Antique
Works of Art. Pianos &
Goods Bought To Any Extent For

Location: Seaside Road, Eastbourne, East Sussex / Picture taken on: 26/03/2011