My dad owned a barbershop and painted signs on the side. This was in the small town of Mazeppa, Minnesota, where I grew up. I still live and work here today. When I was a kid he painted one sign that I’ll never forget. It taught me what a sign can accomplish. Our road was three blocks from Main Street. It was a gravel road and never maintained properly. My dad put up a sign that read, this street maintained? by city of mazeppa. The mayor came into the barbershop one day and said, “George, you’ve got to take that sign down.” My dad just ignored him, so the mayor repeated, “George. I mean it. Take the sign down.” My dad looked at him and told him, “Fix the damn road and I’ll take the sign down.” So the guys came from the city and filled the potholes, and he took the sign down.
S I G N PA I N T E R S
—— Concentrate and paint the sign the best that you can. There’s enough work for everybody. —— There was another defining moment for me when I was in eighth grade. My dad and I were putting lettering down on the Mazeppa Town Hall. I was painting the part that read, town hall, and the W looked like a V and should have been wider. I remember him saying, “That’s wrong. Don’t do it that way.” I walked away thinking, “Well, I’m not going to do this ever again. This sucks.” Then I went home and I realized why he said that. I thought, I’m going to go back and fix it. I’ve never forgotten that.
There was a time, as recently as the 1980s, when storefronts, murals, banners, barn signs, billboards, and even street signs were all hand-l...