Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A new photo sharing community for signs and things

For more than a year, a developer friend and I have been working on a photo sharing site where users can post photos of "roadside relics," or those cool old things you see along the highway - gas stations, drive-inns, diners, railroads, brick streets, traffic signs and signals, factories, water towers, bridges... the list goes on. The older, rustier and vintage, the better.

Appropriately titled "Roadside Relic" (www.roadsiderelic.com), the site launched March 1 with about 500 photos in the collection. Although I uploaded all of these images under my account (user name "mycrazyhobby"), I am hoping that anyone who has an interest in vintage roadside Americana will shoot photos of their favorite relics and share them on the site.

The site allows users to upload and organize photos, tag them with keywords and a description, and rate and comment on other users' photos. I'm hoping that the site will not only appeal to the individual enthusiast, but maybe also to small towns with no budget that have an interesting story to tell through their landscape. Upload photos to the site -- old and new -- and share your town with all of us.

Roadside Relic will help to preserve these rustic pieces of the American highway before they're gone... forever. Unlike my sign collection, which is an inventory that I can manage with relative ease, it is much harder to fit an old gas station, for example, in the garage.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Stop sign from Ohio

A co-worker and her husband moved into a house here in Fort Wayne (Indiana), and the previous owners left behind a stop sign in the attic. She knew about my sign collection, so she graciously offered to give the sign to me.

Turns out the Stop sign is an odd one. It looks pretty similar to stop signs of today, but this one uses a different typeface for the word STOP -- the letters are stretched longer from top to bottom than today's standards (compare to today's stop sign).

I remember a sign similar to this while traveling through East Chicago, Indiana, as a kid to visit my grandmother. Not all stop signs in East Chicago looked like this; this one in particular was on Walsh Avenue where it Ts into 148th Street. But I always noticed how the letters were different than all the other stop signs. I consider this my first lesson in typography, at 5 years old.

The photo above is a page from the 1956 Ohio Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which shows the same kind of stop sign that my co-worker gave to me. There are no other specifications outlined for the typeface except that the letters should be "at least one-third the height of the sign." The typeface, though, is clearly different than all of the other signs in the manual.

Since it's pictured in the Manual, I believe stop signs with this typeface have been used regularly, but are rare now; at least, I have never seen any posted except for the one in East Chicago years ago. I'm glad to have added one to the collection, and by pure luck no less.