Whenever I’m on the road working in some new area, I enjoy looking for fading physical traces of the past. This curiosity about the dynamics of place makes my road trips much longer as I pause to explore a community, seeking to get some view of a bygone time. That was the case this week as I was out in Oakland doing a programs for the 8th graders in Garrett County Schools at an event sponsored by the Garrett Lakes Arts Festival, Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area and the Maryland Humanities Council.
It was a long, enjoyable day as I paused in Grantsville, Frostburg, and Cumberland, MD, as well as Greencastle, PA. At these stops I slowly strolled down streets looking for things many people might not notice. These traces of close at hand history that got my attention on this Friday in mid-May were fading and peeling advertising signs on exteriors walls of buildings. Sometimes I eyed signs that were here before neon and were painted on old brick walls. In Cumberland, which had a substantial downtown business district in the middle of the 20th century, there were a number of aging neon signs touting products or services that have disappeared.
These old advertising pieces brought to mind an earlier era in our commercial past as surviving visual relics of changing business districts. They were also a reminder of the time when the advertising medium was far different. Anyway it was an enjoyable day traveling through Western Maryland and I was able to snap a few interesting photos, which will eventually find some use in the classroom or public lecture.
Here are three of the pictures.