Early in my Quirky Berkeley walking I saw my first Berkeley hex sign.
I was so excited I forgot to transfer the address from my notes to the photograph. Don’t worry, I found it again.
Growing up in Philadelphia, we were never far from the Pennsylvania Dutch.
They came to the Farmer’s Market on Lancaster Pike in Wayne and they were the dominant vendor population at the breaks-my-heart-wonderful Reading Terminal Market on Market Street.
My best friend Cres lived on a farm in Chester Springs and there were hex signs on their barn. This is not their barn but it looked something like this:
Pretty cool. I was excited, as I said, when I found my first hex sign in Berkeley. I envisioned a great page of these folk-art talismans. The fact that the Pennsylvania Dutch aren’t Dutch and that hex signs probably have nothing to do with hexes makes them all the more quirky.
In high school I drove out to York or Lancaster and bought a hex sign that I hung in my room.
This photo is from my room on Old Gulph road in Bryn Mawr in my college years. You can see the Hawaiian Punch cans that I used to decorate my room in college. Plus a shadow box with a few santons. And paperbacks. And the hex sign.
But there weren’t that many. Or – but I didn’t find that many. Quality over quantity, then. Here are those that I have found thus far in this journey:
Wait: FALSE ALARM. A Berkeleyside reader identified this as an Italian compass design, not a hex sign. From Smith and Hawkens. What a humiliation? I leave it here for all to see, to understand that error is part of the human condition.
This one is a distelfink. It is a stylized goldfinch that is ubiquitous in Pennsylvania Dutch folk art.
My favorite hex signs in Berkeley are on chicken coop in a front yard on Yosemite. I don’t want to get into the whole “are-urban-chicken-coops-quirky?” debate right now, although I know that there is a fierce advocate of the negative position on that issue chomping at the bit for the debate. This particular chicken coop hits the quirky button for two reasons aside from its chicken coopness – the hex signs and the bubble-gum machine filled with chicken feed that you can buy for a quarter to feed the chickens. The hex signs:
My Berkeleyside post on hex signs drew a few comments, one of which was suggesting that I check out the hex signs at Perdition, a new barbecue joint on University Avenue. I did.
These are in the style of hex signs, not exactly hex signs, and the relationship between barbecue and hex signs isn’t intuitively obvious – but – still – they are a fun add to the collection and, as another Berkeleyside reader commented, we need all the radial symmetry we can get.
Love them! I was finished with this page, I thought, and it didn’t seem that there was an obvious song, or even arguably logical song. And then- of course there is! I might hate myself for this, but I did not use the Judy Collins version that I first knew. I used Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krause. “Simple Gifts.” How obvious was that?
My friend knew nothing about the Pennsylvania Dutch culture except for the doggerel “throw the cow over the fence some hay” that he picked up somewhere from someone and mutters to himself when life is confusing. I showed him photos of the countryside and the people. He “digs those people.” The next time Landis comes over I am sure that my friend is going to have a talk about this. As for the signs – well, you know: