[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond the worlds of work and career.]
History Uncovered and Recovered
People who love urban spaces are often fascinated by ghost ads, faded wall paintings advertising a company long gone or a product that no longer exists. In my neighborhood, we had something of a ghost ad wonder, a full wall that pitched a well-known brand, Coke. When a building was torn down a few months ago, the ad was revealed. Sadly, progress being progress, it will soon be covered as a new building goes up in the space.
Why is this ghost ad significant? First, its quality is so good that it’s almost a time machine that takes us back to the 1920s or 1930s. Second, it pitches the product as an energy drink of its time, something that “relieves fatigue.” Finally, it tells us that Coke only cost 5 cents when the ad was paint. Coke used that price for several years from 1886 through the boom of the 1920s through the Depression bust to the last nickel Coke, which was sold in 1959. Signs like this one forced retailers to adhere to the manufacturer’s pricing model.
All of these factors are very interesting; however, it’s still just a sign. We don’t mourn the passing of billboards or TV commercials. On this popular commercial strip of Chicago (Andersonville) rents are high for businesses and residences. No sane property owner will leave open space for nostalgia or coolness when there’s money to be made. A new building will go up and the Coke sign will disappear. It’s brief renewal made many of us think about a bygone era, simpler, but still a time when pitchmen pitched and kids enjoyed sugar-filled soft drinks. On second thought, maybe nothing has changed – except for larger bottles and higher prices. [images below]