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Tin Signs

How us Brits learn about all-things-America before coming here is of course from the movies.

The most memorable movie moments from films I saw before moving here are as follows:

In Castaway (A fairly good film), Tom Hanks is at a crossroads right at the end, in a middle-of-nowhere scene, sand and dust all around, and I’m told that this was probably filmed somewhere in New Mexico or Nevada. This really wants to make me head out into the desert myself and find myself at a dusty crossroads, trying to decide which way to go.

In Scent of a Woman (An outstandingly good film), Chris O’Donnell returns Al Pacino to his home after their weekend away, and it’s a classic white-picket fence suburban scene in a leafy autumnal (sorry, fall) setting. I’m reliably informed that this is most likely somewhere up in New Hampshire. This really makes me want to visit New Hampshire in the fall.

In Tin Cup (A pretty bad film), starring Kevin Costner (who, incidentally, was in Charleston quite recently filming The New Daughter) the opening scene is of someone in their car driving down a road, where they pass signs on the side of the road, business advertising golf, golf practice and more golf things.

Ok, so it’s not golf that’s advertised but since moving here to John’s Island last month I now get to drive down this stretch of road everyday – Maybank Highway – and every time I drive it, I think of Tin Cup because of all of the signs down the side of the road.

I don’t even know their proper name. They must have a name – the company that make them – they must be known as something or have a brand name, but until I find that out, I’m going to call them the ‘Tin Cup Sings’ just because of that opening sequence of the movie. And it would seem that there are a lot of them all over the south, and Americans are surprised when I tell them that we don’t have them at all in England.

So here, in a three minute drive that is part of my route to work everyday are this weeks signs.

Sign 1

I think this is a church. I’m so busy staring at the sign as I drive past that I always forget to look. The most amusing part is that I’ve seen them write ‘Monday’ as ‘Mndy’, so it’s not just ‘Sunday’ that they abbreviate.

Sign 2

I have no idea what a Belgard Paver is. Anyone?

Sign 3

Here it would seem that they ran out of letter completely, and just wrote the words into their sign – A little permanent perhaps, but they’ve done a good job at emulating the font. I wonder what the font name is for this – tincup.ttf perhaps?

Sign 4

Nice reversed ‘N’ pine shavers! That’ll attract the attention of the street-wise kids, innit? Desperate for their fix of, er … horse beddings, for sure. Hmm.

Sign 5

Your guess is as good as mine as to what the correct phone number to call here is. Who knows? Actually, that’s not really the point.

The point of this post is the lasting memory that I will take away with me when I leave one day.

As when I think of a similar road in England, I envisage country pubs, hedgerow, sheep in fields, the occasional ‘mini’ sized pillar box and a red phone booth, and a brown ‘tourist’ sign pointing the way to the nearest local attraction.

The equivalent here is of a rustic looking wooden building in need of repair – set far back from the road and always with its own parking lot, and a TinCup sign on the grass verge with a mix of black and red letters. And as easy as it is to say that ‘states has no character, I find it quite endearing …

9 responses to “Tin Signs”

  1. Kristy says:

    It still amazes me that things like these signs, that us Americans assume are a natural part of every day life, don’t exist in other places.

    The other day, I asked a friend of mine from Russia what he was getting his mom for Mother’s Day and he said they don’t celebrate it. And I had to stop for a minute and think about it before I realized that yes, I guess that makes perfect sense.

    It is amazing the things you notice when you’re not used to seeing them.

    P.S. Belgard Pavers are used for landscaping – to build patios and edge lawns and such. Basically, the little cement “bricks” that make up things like that. Belgard is just a brand name.

  2. Mum says:

    Very interesting Geoff, are the letter made from tins then? We just get paper flyers stuck to lamposts in England. Have you counted the number of different churches on Maybank Highway as well? Considering it’s quite a sparsely populated area, I think there must be one church for every 10 residents!

  3. Richard says:

    So do you get advertising billboards (the sort of things you typically see in the UK) in your part of the States? And if so, do you get the ones which rotate and loop through three different adverts every minute?

  4. Chucker says:

    Hey Geoff,

    Didn’t know that you had moved off the mainland to one of our islands.

    FYI: The paper actually announced about 4 years ago that it would stick with the accepted local spelling and dropped the apostrophe from Johns Island. It’s named after the Johns family.

    Nice post.

  5. You’re lucky, in Hawaii there is a church for every five residents, as it has a strong missionary history… Repent thy evil ways!

    Observation: The excessive amount of signs and posters in the Tube walkways and along escalators and on the trains might make up for the lack of signs elsewhere in England.

    To the Trains: I loved learning that some of the tiled signs (such as at Piccadilly Circus) are of original Victorian vintage.

    I also loved learning that all the various and sundry pub signs give a pictorial history of Britain–Few pubs were named by accident and have been inspired by royalty, religion, lust, war, ambition, heroes and the odd villain. Between them they tell quite a colorful story.

    Geoff I see you are saying “parking lot” instead of “car park.” Do you also now say shopping cart instead of trolley? 🙂

  6. Ross says:

    Nice thoughtful post (yet again)

    Here in NZ those signs are definitely not that common. There is a “Corner Dairy” (think Quik-e-mart for you US bods) in Taradale, Napier, and they change the sign almost daily to have a quote, joke, or just something interesting. Occasionally they even advertised a special in the shop (crazy!!) They must have had a huge pile of letters, as they could spell out numerous and varied sentences (and this was back before txt-spk came into being). Always used to make me think of America when I drove past there, as that was the only other place I has “seen” those signs (on movies like you)

  7. spygrl says:

    None of the island’s names around here have apostrophes in them…. Sullivans Island, James Island, Johns Island….. I can’t remember if it’s a postal service thing or a grammar thing.

  8. Brent says:

    Castaway’s final scene was filmed in Texas. My original guess was actually Oklahoma (“where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plain”). According to this bit I found, it was at “intersection FM 48 and FM 1268, north of Mobeetie, TX in Hemphill county.” and I guess this answer was brought to us by the Texas film commission. “Texas has a film commission which provides those answers”.

    Just didn’t want ya heading to New Mexico to look around and come to realize that “hey, this doesn’t look anything like the scene in Castaway” 🙂

  9. Brent says:

    Whoops, forgot to add a bit about Belgard pavers…pavers is what the landscaping world calls stones. Their website. If you watch any HGTV, you’ll see a half-dozen of their commercials in 30 minutes.

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