Sunday, July 18, 2010

Laguna's Gate

We were in Laguna Beach for the Festival of Arts this weekend and I noticed this gate-shaped sign, hanging high above the intersection of Park, Forest, and Coast Highway. It reads,
"This gate hangs well, and hinders none. Refresh and rest, then travel on."
This seemed like the sort of thing I should already know about, so I went home and researched it. It turns out that a combination drug store and ice cream/refrehsments shop once stood near that site. In her book, Images of America: Laguna Beach, Claire Marie Vogel writes,
"In 1915, Carl Hofer opened [his store] on Forest Avenue. As a prize to the person who could suggest an adequate name for the store, he offered a leather pillow. A little girl stopped in and proposed to name it "The Gate," because her father had seen a pub in England with a gate sign that had poetry written on it. The girl won the pillow, and the now-historic hanging gate was made."
It seems unlikely that a little girl would remember that kind of thing. Presumably, her father was there, coaching her and offering his memory of the English pub's sign.
Many pubs throughout England, and later in America, had similar signs. In the July 1800 edition of The Gentleman's Magazine, published in London, the following appeared:
"In traveling through an inland county this summer, I remember to have seen... a small public-house, adjoining to the road. A gate was suspended aloft to a post, for a sign; and underneath was written this... 'This gate hangs well, and hinders none, who chuse to drink, and so pass on.'"
The gate-shaped sign and its poem were pervasive. An 1819 edition of The Gentleman's Magazine (which certainly seemed to take great interest in pub-lore), featured an essay entitled, "Remarks on the Signs of Inns, etc.," which included the following:
"...A little gate itself is a common sign at small public houses by the road side, and on it is generally written, 'This gate hangs well, and hinders none, Refresh, and pay; And travel on.'"
Note the more mercenary tone of the second line. There were variations on the poem, but this "pay and travel on" version was the most popular.
In short, this kind of sign was very common. Unless someone has access to Laguna Beach newspapers from 1915, we may never know which English pub inspired Laguna's gate.
Some references I've seen date the current incarnation of the sign to 1935, although I expect that some, if not all of it has been replaced over the years.
In response to last week's post about Laguna's Pottery Shack and their statue of Eiler Larsen, alert reader Matterhorn1959 (of Stuff From The Park fame,) wrote, "I always enjoyed the greeter. Is the other statue still by the hotel?"
Well, the statue isn't exactly next to the hotel, but it's about a block away, in front of Greeter's Corner Restaurant. In fact, it's just across the street from the gate sign. Except for a missing thumb, it's in good condition.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris for this post on Laguna's famous hanging gate. Really well done! Cheers, Dan Bassett

Anonymous said...

maybe the Bones Gate , Chessington, surrey, uk