Sunday, April 26, 2015

Old signs and abandoned buildings

Abandoned storefront in Rodez, France

A lot of my favorite finds never make it to my blog. 

As most "France" bloggers do, I tend to focus on the scenic: pastoral views, architectural wonders, and, of course, the mandatory doors and windows. (Sometimes I try to resist the latter, but who can, really?)

But what I actually love tracking down the most are old signs, abandoned buildings, and assorted weird places that wouldn't make the tourist guides.

Girdles ("gaines") must have been more important than lingerie at the time

This sign for Triumph Lingerie, a perfectly modern brand,  is displayed on a still-operating lingerie shop in a nearby town. I like that they have chosen not to take it down -- or just haven't gotten around to it.

There's always a story...

More recently abandoned buildings, especially businesses, always make me feel melancholy. I wonder what the story was: dwindling trade, no one to take over after retirement, even a death? I may like the photos, but it doesn't mean I like the situation.

An old sign of the scenic variety

One finds, in France, a number of old advertising signs placed directly on houses, or even painted on them. I've often been curious about this practice, and I also enjoy looking up the brand if I don't know of it.

But with so many of the letters hidden behind the leaves, I wasn't able to find out what the one above was for.

Does anybody out there know?


Although I hadn't heard from her for a while, I suspected that this would be the type of mystery that Susan from Days on the Claise would solve, or at least help me solve. She was able to decipher that the top word was "HUILE," or (motor) oil, and suggested the brand might be HART.

That sped up my research considerably. The brand was not HART, but HAFA, and it is still a going concern -- just shows you how much I'm up on my motor oils. 

This led me to finding a full photo of the same ad, on the blog Fragments de Roanne.

Photo courtesy of Dominique Thoral

I had been intrigued by the latest photo's on Dominique's blog, a series of "abri-bus," or covered bus stops, and was not that surprised to find out the blogger is a truly accomplished photographer who has done some exhibits.

Website: Choses Communes by Dominique Thoral

Lou Messugo


Susan said...

The top word is 'huile'. The brand might be something like HART? I've never heard of such a brand in connection with French motor oil, but you never know...

Betty Carlson said...


I just knew you would chime in on this! You were right that the word was "huile." The brand is HAFA and it still exists. I found this old advertisement:

I am now going to adjust my post!

DomLortha said...

Bonjour Betty,
Tu peux sans aucun problème utiliser l'image des huiles Hafa sur ton site... et toutes mes félicitations pour ce blog!
Dominique Thoral

DomLortha said...

Bonsoir Betty,
Je te remercie énormément pour le commentaire laissé sur mon site et pour le lien laissé sur le tien! Il semble en effet que nous ayons certains sujets en commun, et un lien à partir de mon site vers le tien me semblerait cohérent: je vais m'y atteler dès que j'aurai un peu plus de temps (rentrée des classes pour moi demain matin...)
Bravo pour ce blog: je trouve émouvant qu'une Américaine possède autant d'amour pour notre France!
Encore merci et bonne continuation pour ce blog très intéressant!
Bonne soirée
Dominique Thoral

Unknown said...

You posts always make me feel as though I am there. I love that you are blogging again.

Perpetua said...

I loved this post, as I'm another who is drawn to these small relics of a past way of life. The little towns and villages in our bit of very rural Normandy are full of them, as businesses can't compete with the supermarkets and local services are withdrawn.

Betty Carlson said...

Mary, thank you for your encouragement! I am taking it easy, just doing it when I feel like it. The other side of it is that I am starting to enjoy photography with a real camera again, after a few years of cell phone only.

Perpetua, a friend once told me "you're one of those people who always wants to stick her nose against windows of abandoned buildings." I guess that's the case. As for the closing down of small businesses, I support local trade, but some of it is so demographic that it just can't be helped. There are villages here that used to have several grocery stores that now only have a few hundred inhabitants -- obviously that can't work anymore.

Phoebe @ Lou Messugo said...

I love old signs too and have been collecting a whole bunch (photographs) for an upcoming post one day. I have so many ideas that I never seem to get around to it though! Thanks for linking up again and I'm glad your mystery sign was demystified. #AllAboutFrance

Betty Carlson said...

Thank you for your comment Phoebe. It was funny how this post developed in three stages, first the original, then the information about the sign, and then the link to the photographer and fellow blogger.

Swags said...

Awesome idea for a post! My little village was 5,000 people, and is now only 3,000 - so you can imagine the abandoned homes, businesses, and signs galore! Part of the antique charm, for sure!

B2B said...

Hi, found you through the linky and really like you're collection. I too have a penchant for painted ads direct on a wall - the more faded the better for me. Look forward to seeing more.

Lisa Absalom said...

You have made me think! I must become more observant and look out for all the interesting signs and markers from the past wherever I go. I am quite good at it in the old industrial areas of the UK and like to explore the "nitty gritty" but - maybe - I spend my time in France just marvelling at the obviously picturesque.

Betty Carlson said...

Thank you Lisa! I think there is no nicer comment for a blogger than "you made me think!" That said, I do think we notice things differently where we live compared to when we are travelling.

Chrissie said...

Hi Betty, what a wonderful and original post! I love the idea that these old signs hold wonderful histories and they really do make you wonder what happened? There are so many in France that I tend to just glaze over them now, but I think I'll stop and think next time, so merci! #allaboutfrance

Betty Carlson said...

Thank you for your comment, Chrissie. I love your blog and have enjoyed reading it through #AllAboutFrance. I am quite interested in wine, but clearly haven't acquired your level of expertise!

Trilingual Mama said...

What a fun post! I love seeing these quirky signs!