NOTICE: An English Language Ghostsign in Paris 4


Painted sign in English on a Paris wall saying 'Do not loiter in garage, or bother mechanics. Please use facilities of waiting room'

Paris, photo by Adam Roberts

I heard about this ghostsign in Paris via an email from Ralph Adam. It caught my attention for the use of English language on an historic sign in France and reminded me of the British Legion sign in Ypres, Belgium. It was then photographed by Adam Roberts of Invisible Paris and some email correspondence between the three of us has led to some speculation about its origins.

Ralph’s directions to the sign are as follows: “On a wall (coming from Paris) just past a modern black-and white school called Collège Jacqueline Auriol at 64 Avenue Edouard Vaillant 92100 Boulogne-Billancourt (shortly before the Marcel Sembat tube station on line 9). It’s on the left-hand side – on a building at the start of a narrow road”.

Painted sign in English on a Paris wall saying 'Do not loiter in garage, or bother mechanics. Please use facilities of waiting room'

Paris, photo by Adam Roberts

I believe we have successfully transcribed the text, despite some missing from the left portion of the sign, as:

‘Do not loiter in garage, or bother mechanics. Please use facilities of waiting room’

Adam has observed that while the sign is now visible on an exterior wall, it was once situated inside a building which has subsequently been lost. Ralph confirmed that before demolition about ten years ago, in order to make a small road, the building was a garage. Adam then tracked the origins of this building, “as one that was requisitioned by the ‘US or UK’ forces between 1944 and 1946”. This all seems a good fit and helps to explain the use of English on a sign in France. The use of the word ‘loiter’ would definitely fit with British English, but I am unaware of its prevalence in American English (in the 1940s). However, we haven’t yet found anything more about what happened to the building afterwards, and whether this sign remained in use.

We would love to hear from anyone that knows anything further about the sign, and the nature of the garage that operated there until relatively recently. Adam is going to contact the city archives and any local historical societies that may be able to help but, as with the Spitalfields Paper & Bags sign, I thought that an appeal for information here on the blog, and via the Ghostsigns Facebook and Twitter might also yield information. I’ll provide an update with any forthcoming information…

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  • Rick Lee

    “No Loitering” used to be common on signage in the US.

    • Thanks Rick, that means the question of British vs American English remains unsettled…

  • Jean-christophe Sandré

    At this address, there used to be the plant of the Société industrielle de Billancourt ,that had been assigned to the Allied armies during their stay in Paris between 1944 and 1946. Not sure for which use (probably a repair workshop…)…. but it’s a start!

    • I wonder if there is a German sign beneath!