You know you’re a photographer when you’ll drive 57 miles to take a picture of one sign! That’s exactly what I did. I will admit the trip served a dual purpose. First, I hunt “ghost signs” those vintage advertising signs that are painted on the sides of buildings. Recently a fellow Arkansas blogger posted a picture of a ghost sign in Altheimer, Arkansas. The building looked pretty unstable and the sign was fading, so I knew a trip was in order before something happened to the building. The second purpose was my dad. Many of you know he has Alzheimer’s. Every Alzheimer patient is different, each has their own set of peculiarities. One of my dad’s peculiarities is his need to GO, GO, GO. Go anywhere! Go anytime! I thought since photographing the sign wouldn't take very long, he would enjoy going for a ride. So, he, my sister, and I headed down the back roads to Altheimer.
Altheimer is a small town of less than 1,000 people. The town was named after brothers, Joseph and Louis Altheimer, two Pine Bluff merchants. We found the building very easily. We couldn't have missed it. The old Leake building which was built in 1917 is pretty much all that’s left of the old downtown area. I searched far and wide and could find nothing about the history of this building.
The building is crumbling; windows all broken out, the roof seems to be collapsing, and thick vines are cascading down the sides. It looks like the last business that occupied the building was Rusty’s Package Store. For those of you who don’t know southern dialect, package store is a term used for a liquor store.
Coming up to the front door you can still see the name Leake in the entryway tiles. There was a lot of debris so I couldn’t see the whole word.
It’s always exciting for me to see a ghost sign. My heart speeds up a little. They are such a wonderful part of history and advertising. This one is slowly fading away, but it did not disappoint. It advertised Grapette.
Grapette was a grape flavored soda introduced in 1939 by Benjamin Tyndle Fooks and bottled right here in Arkansas in Camden. Grapette invited people to drink their soda whether you were “Thirsty or Not." It was sold in much of the United States in six-ounce clear glass bottles showing off the beverage’s purple color. As a child I didn’t get soda very often, but when I did it was a Grapette or Orangette. The company was sold a couple of times, and then in 1977 the last purchaser closed down the business and the flavor was retired in the U.S. In 1986 Grapette was once again produced and sold under the Sam's Choice brand. In early 2000, Grapette International was able to purchase the U.S. rights to the Grapette trademark and the flavor and name were reunited.
photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Now, I’m thirsty and I really want to go to Walmart for a Grapette soda!