Sign missing from Fossati's since 1960s discovered
July 2, 2013 at 2:02 a.m.
Area historian Bob Shook must have thought his eyes were playing tricks on him.
As he sat in on the Victoria Advocate's morning planning meeting in the newspaper's cafeteria a few weeks ago, he saw something on the wall, mostly hidden behind a large refrigerator.
And not just any sign. A sign painted in 1908 and missing from Fossati's Delicatessen since the 1960s. Fossati's is the oldest deli in Texas.
"I looked up and thought to myself, 'That's got to be a copy.' But if you look at the frame, it's a good frame," said Shook, a retired history professor. "It's a wonder it just didn't get thrown away."
The sign was the subject of discussion in the book "Vignettes of Old Victoria" by Sidney R. Weisiger.
As told in the book, a traveling sign painter painted the sign in 1908, trading his services for two schooners of beer and a dutch lunch.
Some years later - in the 1960s, Shook believes - a man offered to paint an exact reproduction, breathing new life into the fading sign.
The man took the sign but never returned it or the new reproduction, said Shook.
How it got to the Advocate's cafeteria was a mystery to Shook.
"I'd like to know," said Shook. "I'll tell you what I think. When the man died, his son apparently sold it."
Shook said he looked at the sign at the Advocate closely, and on the glass, it looked like there may have been a price tag sticker.
"Who paid the price?" asked Shook. "That's a good question. It had to be an Advocate employee, didn't it?"
Scott McHaney, a member of the Advocate ownership family who at one time ran the company's dining hall, said he hung the sign there.
McHaney said he acquired the sign from the estate of the late Henry Hauschild, who was related to McHaney's father.
"We got to pick out a couple of things, and that sign was something I chose," said McHaney. "If it came from Fossati's, it should go back to Fossati's."
Shook would also like to see the sign returned to the deli.
"The important thing is, the mystery is solved. The sign has been found," he said.
"Where does it belong? It belongs at Fossati's. That's the right thing to do."
Therese Bomersbach, co-owner and manager of Fossati's, said she knew the legend of the sign.
"We'd heard of it but never actually saw it in the deli," she said. "We would be thrilled to get it back."