Arts & Culture Business Photos & Videos

Boston Artist Ed Sokoloff Creates Montage of Iconic Signs

Local artist, Ed Sokoloff, shares his new historic sign montage featuring companies that are no longer in business. Local readers will appreciate the signs for the European (Boston’s North End est.1920), Anthony’s Pier Four (est.1929), Brigham’s Ice Cream (est.1914), Hilltop Steakhouse (est.1961), Howard Johnson’s (est. 1925 in Quincy), Jack and Marion’s (est. prior to 1948, per one reference), Jimmy’s Harborside (est. 1929) and Locke Ober (est.1875).

For the past five years, Sokoloff has been involved full time with mostly taking photographs of the names of restaurants and other eating establishments and making different montages of them.  Beginning in 2016, non-food montages were added.

During the course of the past two years, Sokoloff has been working on making the just completed montage entitled “History on Canvas”. The more than 300 pictures contained in the montage include companies which are no longer in business or whose names have been changed, places that no longer exist, and products which are historically significant or are classics. The montage measures 58×54″. Shown is a not-to-scale sample of representative images of pictures contained in the full montage.

Sokoloff  is 75 years old. This gives him a personal perspective of most of the memorabilia contained in the montage, including  the Acoustic Research loudspeaker, 45 and 78 speed records, the Brownie Hawkeye Camera, Coca Cola Classic, the compact cassette, the eight track cartridge, the IBM typewriter ball, the incandescent light bulb, the Mimeograph machine, Muzak, New Coke, the Polaroid  One-Step Land Camera, the record turntable, the reel to reel tape player, Sony Betamax videotape, Sony Walkman, Tab soda, TV clicker, TV rabbit ears, TV test pattern, VHS recorder and videotape, Western Union telegram, white wall tire and Zenith transistor radio.

The montage pays homage to the Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Kirstein Business library branch near the old Boston City Hall, and the just closed Elwood Adams Hardware store in Worcester which had been in business for 235 years.

The beloved outdoor Prouty Garden, including its distinctive towering dawn redwood tree, was taken down this past year to allow construction of a new building at Boston Children’s Hospital. The garden was a refuge of hope, reflection, serenity and peace for sick children, their families, and their health care providers. One open letter in opposition to the removal of the garden, sent from a doctor who has been a physician at the hospital for 25 years, said the Prouty Garden was the “soul of Boston Children’s Hospital”. Sokoloff said that he took pictures of the Prouty Garden for inclusion in the montage to preserve its memory for all those who have benefited from it in the past and for all those who may ask or be told about it in the future.

In 1959, Sokoloff graduated from Boston Latin School. He remembers that while he was a student there, he went on occasion to the Kirstein Business Branch of the Boston Public Library to get business or financial information needed for school assignments. The Kirstein Business Branch opened in 1930. It was funded by Louis Kirstein, a Vice President of Filene’s Department Store, however it was officially named after his father, Edward Kirstein. It was reportedly the first public business library in the United States built from a gift of a businessman.

Gone, but not forgotten, are Boston Garden which was the longtime home to the Celtics and Bruins sports teams, Norumbega Park in Newton, the Old man of the Mountain in Franconia Notch NH, Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach, and Scollay Square in Boston.

Who remembers the Boston Braves (now Atlanta Braves), Boston Chicken (now Boston Market), Bread & Circus (now part of Whole Foods), the Brooklyn Dodgers (now Los Angeles Dodgers), Cape Kennedy (now and previously Cape Canaveral), Coffee Connection (now part of Starbucks), Datsun (now Nissan), the Encyclopaedia Britannica book set (now electronic version only), gasoline containing lead (now no-lead), New York’s Idlewild Airport (now Kennedy Airport) and Master Charge (now Mastercard)?

What do First National Bank of Boston, Baybank, Shawmut Bank and Fleet Bank have in common? Through a series of mergers and acquisitions they were rolled into Fleet Bank, which subsequently became part of Bank of America.

Who never knew the following full names of the companies: Drexel Burnham Lambert (Drexel Burnham ), Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith (Merrill Lynch), Sears Roebuck & Co (Sears), and S.S. Kresgie (Kmart)?

Are there any Bostonians more than 50 years old who do not recognize at least one of the following: Life magazine, Look magazine, the Herald Traveler, theRecord American and the Saturday Evening Post?

This past summer, while taking pictures inside Cape Cod’s Brewster Store, a general store for more than 150 years, Sokoloff came upon a gasoline price chart showing the gas price of 16 cents and taxes of 4+1 cents and containing a list showing the price per the number of gallons to be purchased: for example 1 gallon costs $0.21 and 10 gallons cost $2.10. This chart existed from the time before any price meters were part of gas pumps.

Fast Lane was the original branding for the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system used on highway toll roads in Massachusetts, however, beginning this past year the system was converted to open-road tolling, so now all toll booths have been eliminated. Toll collectors are no longer used. Now you need a transponder, or you get a bill in the mail—no cash.

Minolta camera was well known in its day and is credited with making the first integrated autofocus 35mm SLR camera system. What is not well known is that the company name reportedly was an acronym for “Mechanism, Instruments, Optics and Lenses by Tashima.”

Do you know the term “soda jerk”? It comes from the hand jerking motion of the attendant used in pulling the handle forward and back to start and stop the flow of the soda water from the dispenser.

Of the tens of thousands of  restaurants that have closed, some of the included restaurants are: in the Boston area, Anthony’s Pier Four (est.1929), Brigham’s Ice Cream (est.1914), the European (Boston’s North End est.1920), Hilltop Steakhouse (est.1961), Howard Johnson’s (est. 1925 in Quincy), Jack and Marion’s (est. prior  to 1948, per one reference), Jimmy’s Harborside (est. 1929) and Locke Ober (est.1875); and, in New York City, Carnegie Deli (est. 1937), Mamma Leone’s (est. 1906) and Stage Deli (est. 1937). Locke Ober did not allow women inside until 1970, and had a dress code until 2011.

Look carefully at the Peace Sign in the montage. Notice the two signalmen at the upper portion. The symbol was originally designed in England in 1958 for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Under an early naval flag signaling code (used between boats at sea), flag-holding positions were used to spell out the letters of the alphabet. As shown in the montage, one position stood for the letter “N” (as in the word Nuclear), and the other position stood for the letter “D” (as in the word Disarmament). Now, overlay the “N” shape over the “D” shape, place it in a circle, and the result is today’s peace symbol. The peace symbol was included in the montage to show it has been changed from its original meaning—a piece of history which most people do not know.

The montage contains numerous well known accounting firms, airlines, automobile makers, banks, book stores, brokerages, department stores, computer companies, law firms, and on and on.

Sokoloff says that the montage is pure nostalgia.