While visiting the Claddagh Pub, a fine, republican drinking and eating establishment, I decided to go out to the pool and bar area to smoke my pipe. Over in the corner, near a large shamrock sandwich board sign, there were 12 to 20 people and two to three businessmen listening to an old man wearing a pink hat. The story he was telling was very interesting and went something like this.
The old man said, “the sandwich board was first introduced to Cape Cod in 1620 via the pilgrims when they landed in Provincetown. The sandwich board first appeared in Sandwich, England, in the years 1221 A. D., at a small cafe at number 10 Board Street, named Pillsbury Follies. Every day, the owner, Fibber Pillsbury, would put out a very handsome sandwich board (which he invented), advertising luncheon specials (two only), liver and onions, tripe and popovers on one side and spacious pipe and cigar smoking room on the other side, luring in portions of the hundreds of people that passed by his very busy cafe every day in the beautiful, neat and historical sea coast town of heavenly Sandwich, England.
On March 17, 1242, everything changed when the local five-member board of elders outlawed all forms of smoking.
Fibber Pillsbury was outraged by the elders’ smoking ban; especially since the ruling, he mistakenly calculated that liver and tripe sales were way down.
Sandwich, England, was exploding with development; population increasing tenfold, new buildings going up everywhere, even slum houses were selling at record prices. Restaurants had more customers than they could handle. But Fibber was so mad at the five local elders, who loved his liver and onions and tripe and popovers, that he closed his Follies Cafe, took in his beautiful sandwich board that he knew everybody loved - especially the five local elders - and completely ignored the fantastic growth of Sandwich.
Fibber grew old and bitter buy knew he had to make a living somehow. In 1260, he started making sandwich boards exactly like the liver and tripe one. They were selling so fast Fibber could hardly keep up with all the orders. He hired a talented young man named Pawn Goodfellow. Pawn painted the signs for Fibber and also would go throughout the town of Sandwich, wearing a big pink Three Musketeer hat with five colorful feathers (one for each local board elder), to attract customers. Pawn was not only a good painter but also a shrewd salesman, so shrewd and clever that Fibber, fearing Pawn was selling sandwich board signs on the side, fired him on All Saints Day, 1262. Pawn being such a good salesman, was elected to the local board of elders in 1265 by the largest vote ever in Sandwich’s history. He won reelection 10 straignt times, and in 1290 was appointed Lord Mayor of Sandwich, the finest town in all of England, by the board of elders. Lord Mayor Pawn Goodfellow’s first action was to abolish the board of elders.
Fibber always claimed his sandwich board signs were “grandfathered” and out of reach of the local board of elders.
Fibber Pillsbury’s sandwich boards can be found in every country in the world. When you spot one on beautiful old Cape Cod, ask the shopkeeper if it’s a Fibber Pillsbury; if it is, it is a collector's item; rarer are the ones painted pink by Pawn Goodfellow.
Thus, the ending of the “true” historical story of the sandwich board sign, as told by the old man with the pink hat at the poolside bar at the Claddagh Pub.
P. S. Please, let’s stop all this nonsense, or neighbor will be turning in neighbor for the silliest of violations. A businessman that doesn’t like another businessman, or a competitor, can surely keep all the town offices taxed to the limit.
As business owners and associates, let’s stick together. Work hard for a new sign code to replace the very old one that may not be enforceable or completely legal. Right now the building department is waiting to be informed to the town legal department on several court cases on signs.
Let’s all do business with each other. Enjoy the business boom while it lasts. Harwich is a beautiful seaside town and a great place to have a business.
Let's not act like Fibber and Pawn!
Michael O’Neill Monahan
As published 10/10/00 in the Cape Cod Chronicle