Sign & Digital Graphics

November '12

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In the Trenches BY RI CK WI L L I AMS The Bell Tolls for Me Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commer- cial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting LeTourneau University campus, on the southeast side of Longview, Texas, and in frustration pulled into the campus police office. It was unattended that evening, but a telephone mounted on the recep- tion area wall had a caption next to it reading, "For assistance, dial 911", and I dialed the number. In a few minutes, a young police offi- cer had helped me locate the two signs I was supposed to change the heading of before an important ceremony Monday morning. I had those large decals with me that would cover the top line on each sign and announce the name of the major donor that would make the building of their new, multi-million dollar student center possible. W But this information was to be kept secret until the ceremony, and I had brought thin white aluminum panels to cover up the cover-up until 11 a.m. the next day. The only problem was that the signs were locked inside a seven-foot tall chain link fence that went around the construction area. The gate was well padlocked and the campus police had no key. Neither did the signman. Because of the secrecy of my task, I had intentionally not done this project sooner, but now had to leave without accomplishing my mission. As soon as I returned home, I sent an email to the president of the construction company who had hired me to do this job, and I told him about the dead end I had just 8 • November 2012 • SIGN & DIGITAL GRAPHICS the sign business since 1986. Contact him at ell after dark last Sunday night, I found myself driving around the experienced. But I promised him I would be there at 8:30 the next morning, well ahead of the ceremony, to finish my task as discretely as possible. By 7:30 a.m. I had an email back from him stating that he would have these signs outside the fence, placed in front of where the ceremony would take place, and people would be there expecting me. At 8:30 I arrived at the site, and was greeted by the campus police, two rep- resentatives from the college and two from the construction company, includ- ing the vice president of the university I teased with my audience that I was sure glad I had not overslept or gotten sick and couldn't have made it, and dur- ing my conversation that big bell tolled again. And judging from their somber faces and comments, I knew that the bell had tolled for me. It tolled for me and all the other sign makers who's little contri- bution to whatever project, had better have been done on time, and at least an inch ahead of deadline, come hell or high water, no matter what. Only my fellow signmakers would believe we have deadlines that are really that important. But over the years, I've had lots of them. Why, I've had a few that seemed so important I felt that if I had missed them there'd be a contract put out on me, and redneck mafia would be looking for me the next day! Well, that might be a slight exag- and the construction project manager. A large bell, located in the clock tower in the middle of the campus, tolled once at 8:45 a.m. as I was getting started, then nine times on the hour; but before it tolled again I was finishing up the job and packing away my step ladder and the trash I had made, still observed by my welcoming committee. It is not every day a university gets a large donation like this one, and has a ground breaking ceremony on a new building, and due recognition of this wonderful event and those that made it possible was a really big deal. My little sign project that morning, not really much at all, was actually very, very important. geration, but not much of one when we talk about that multi-million dollar drilling rig that can't start working until all the labeling and safety signs are in their rightful places, or the large, annual charity event that cannot be held without their sponsor signs and banners, or even that quarter-million dollar 18 wheeler that can't make a dime or drive a mile without its signs and permit numbers. The list, of course, is endless. And at our shop, these are weekly if not daily events. As signmakers, all of this goes with the territory I guess, and should make us feel important. I didn't have the million dollar donation that morning, but I did have $100 worth of decals they could just not live without. The bell tolled for me, and I smiled and left, avoiding my date with disaster one more time. Well, I hope your sign business is run- ning well and staying a little bit ahead of each crisis and deadline, and that you're having a great month. We're sure going to try to. Have a great month, Rick

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