Once upon a time, neon lights replaced graffiti, eight-by-eleven leafy posters replaced towering billboards, and Corvettes replaced Mini Coopers (as they always should). In a new project and exhibit pioneered by Concordia Communication Studies professor Matt Soar, pieces of Montreal’s cultural and visual history have been revived, giving us young’uns a peek into the past. Famous Montreal business signs that previously hung above ‘sign’ificant (oh, HA) restaurants, grocery stores and theatres are now fully restored and on permanent display at Concordia’s Loyola campus. In particular, the cursive, purple Paramount Cinema lettering is exhibited, originally mounted in the 1980s on the popular St Catherine Street theatre and eventually replaced and renamed by Scotiabank (quelle grande surprise) in 2007.
Of course, throughout the city today, even the briefest highway jaunt will introduce Montreal visitors to landmark gems, such as the Farine Five Roses sign , the Pure Milk Bottle water tower, and (my personal favourite) a tall brick chimney under the Turcot interchange with the word ‘Ryans’ crookedly mounted along its side in white brick (the origins of which I have still not uncovered). With some signs easily surpassing 50 years old, the newly-revamped and de-oxidized emblems line the corridors of Concordia’s Communications and Journalism building (7141 Sherbrooke West). Here, they will continue to showcase a bygone, Mad Men-esque advertising era, perhaps inspiring passing students to buy Plymouths and petticoats. One can dream?
By Tyler Yank