Monday, June 30, 2008

Sidewalk Signatures

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 8:36 PM

7a64/1243820291-sidewalknames1.jpg Years ago, I think people took more pride in their work, even when their jobs involved routine labor. It’s also possible that they saw marketing opportunities that we just overlook today. Of course, nowadays when you want to find the name of a builder, or a contractor, or any sort of manufacturer, you search the Internet or flip through the phone book. But years ago, you could actually admire a fellow’s work, and often find their names right on it.

What I’m getting at, in my roundabout way, are the names impressed in the sidewalks of our city, imprinted there by the men — and yes, it was always men — who poured them. On Thursday afternoons, the only day when I was permitted to leave the Lauderdale estate, I would run across our lawn, slip out through the gates, and scamper along the sidewalk — until the chain pulled me back. But in those rare moments of freedom, I was always fascinated with the ancient (or so it seemed to me) name embossed in one particular square of concrete just outside our house: CAMPODONICO was all it said, I recall. I used to imagine this burly fellow, turning off his gritty cement mixer after pouring the long slab of concrete, smoothing the surface with wonderfully named tools like “darby” and “float” and then, when he was satisfied that it was JUST RIGHT, he would pull out a special mold, press it into the still-soft cement, and leave his mark for others to see and admire.

When I wander the highways and byways of this city, I often find myself stumbling along the sidewalks (usually after a bottle too many of Kentucky Nip), and I’ve noticed the names in the sidewalks. Some have been so worn down by weather, feet, bicycles, wheelchairs, and crutches over the years that they are barely visible, while others remain as crisp as the day they were put down.

Fence companies, I’ve noticed, also put their names on their work — sometimes — but I can’t think of many other examples of such utilitarian endeavors that carry their maker’s mark for so many years afterwards. Here are a few other examples I’ve found around town. I especially like the one where W.A. Dickson (I think that’s what it says) also included his phone number (back when phone numbers were just five digits) — just in case somebody needed a sidewalk RIGHT NOW.

The names I’ve noticed appeared as early as the 1930s and showed up in sidewalks poured in the 1960s, but I can’t recall seeing any more recent than that. Does anybody still do this today, I wonder? Probably not.

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