It's been a long time, so it was great to be on the road again visiting old friends and making new ones. Oh, and picking up treasures for the American Sign Museum along the way! Our first stop was Stow, Ohio, and the home of George Bowers. George had emailed me about a 24" by 24" solid bronze Kelly Springfield Tire Company plaque/sign. In 1983 he witnessed a demolition company tearing down the front wall of the Cleveland Ohio Kelly Springfield Tire Company Distribution Center. Not wanting the sign to be lost, George purchased the sign and has kept it safe for the past 27 years. Over the years, collectors have offered him a pretty penny for it, but he wasn't ready to let it go to just anyone. Then he came across the American Sign Museum, and we're glad he did!
According to George, Kelly Springfield Tire is the oldest continuously operating tire company in the US and the first to develop rubber vulcanization (1844) and bonding rubber to carriage wheels. During the Great Depression, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. purchased Kelly Springfield, and Kelly Springfield is currently a wholely owned subsidiary of Goodyear. Thanks to George and his wife for their hospitality and for sharing their treasure with the Sign Museum.
Next, we headed to Buffalo, NY, where we visited Paddy Rowell Sr. and Jr. at their AMAZING Flexlume facility. The Rowells have the makings of their own sign museum, as they have kept signs, equipment, and supplies since Paddy's dad owned White Sign Company way back when. Flexlume is celebrating their 100 year anniversary this year. We then went to dinner with Paddy Sr. and his lovely wife. We learned about 'roast beef on weck' and REAL buffalo wings.
We ended Day 1 in Niagara Falls, enjoying some Perry's Ice Cream at Twist O'The Mist.
The next day, we visited Cooper Sign Company, in business for more than 85 years. I had met the senior Cooper who told me to visit the shop sometime: 'I'm sure we've got SOMETHING for the museum.' Well, not only did they have some great pictures and signs to show us, they also donated an 'Ad In Motion' sample of a sign designed for car tops. It's designed to swing in the breeze for added fun. When we saw a picture of their custom rotating pink elephant, we had to track it down. A little worse for wear, but still a great landmark for the current business and the town. Thanks, John and Jennifer, for showing us your shop and contributing to the museum's collection.
From Niagara Falls, we drove to Dover New Hampshire, where a bit of a challenge waited for us. Thanks to some great sleuthing on the part of roadside afficionado, Debra Jane Setzler, we were able to acquire a Norge ball from Sanford, Maine. Debra Jane came upon this opportunity and notified us immediately. Good friend and museum supporter, Mike Leary at Sundance Sign and Design in Dover retrieved the ball for us and brought it to his shop for safekeeping. We spotted it immediately, housed in the crate Mike built for transporting the ball. After some initial catching up on all things signs with Mike partner-in-crime Jill Butterfield, we got to work on how to get the ball onto my trailer. Once we raised it up and tilted the trailer, we were able to slide it on without too much trouble. We got some great looks and comments driving down the road! My favorite was when I was asked if we were with a carnival.
Go to Debra Jane's website for an incredible pictorial encyclopedia on everything roadside and to her Norge Ball page in particular for details on Norge Balls and a picture of our own Norge Ball while it was still displayed in it's all it's glory.
After a quick visit with daughter, Abby, in Boston, we headed back with our new treasures and said goodbye to the road for now. But we're already making plans for the next road trip!
The Midwest Sign Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Congratulations! Here's to the next 50 years!
The recent International Sign Association / Midwest Sign Association event here in Cincinnati offered a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Those who came to the reception at the American Sign Museum's future site were treated to a look at our progress to date and our vision for the future... hopefully the near future!!
We received some very encouraging comments about what we're doing. I was a little disappointed, however, and a little frustrated when I asked for a show a hands of how many were members of the museum.
I read an article recently about how we not-for-profits should see people not as 'donors' or 'supporters', but as investors. This makes a lot of sense. The goal of the American Sign Museum is to not only share with the world the history of the sign industry, but also to help shape our future. We tell a compelling story of how of signs reflect and influence design, technology, American culture, and -- most importantly -- their unique and vital importance to commerce. And if that's not enough, they're just plain fun!
Help us tell the world about signs and the role they play in business, community planning, engineering, marketing, communications, and -- yes -- art. If you are not a member, or have not renewed your membership, please 'sign' up now. You can do it online on our website. Or we're happy to accept your check by US Mail! You can also find other ways to 'Get Involved' on the website.
Now is the time to invest in the American Sign Museum!