Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Family Business

I was on a road trip in Arizona a couple weeks back.  Driving through Kingman, I was scanning the horizon - as I always do - for signs in general and SIGNS signs in particular. Imagine my delight when I spied just such a sign in the distance.  I, of course, turned around, found a way across the railroad tracks, wandered in, and introduced myself.
I was pleased to discover they knew of the American Sign Museum. But more than that, I had stumbled upon a family who has been in the sign business since World War II. 
Deloris Mack was there behind the counter, with her son, Dave. Her husband, Victor, now runs things from his bed, but he had had the foresight to capture their legacy in more than several scrap books.
Victor was a B-17 pilot in World War II. He began his sign career after the war in Spokane, Washington. When he needed a crane truck, he thought of his military connections and got himself a gun turret, which he retro-engineered into a crane boom and attached to a flatbed truck. He also developed a changeable letter, which he patented and later sold.
Deloris and Victor had 11 kids, 5 of whom are in 'the business' from LA to Memphis, along with some of the grandkids. Their story reflects two common threads that run through the history of signmaking:  family and innovation. I'm talking about these folks because I only just discovered them, at a time when I least expected it.  But there are so many other stories like theirs.  I only hope the American Sign Museum can honor these families and innovators in ways that they deserve.
If you know of a family like the Mack's, or your own story is one of generations of sign makers, please share your stories and/or photos by sending them to tod.swormstedt@gmail.com. Depending on what we receive, hopefully we'll be able to assemble a tribute to the 'family business' for the museum. It's an important part of our legacy.

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