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Roll your calendar back to 1975

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by James Burke, Jun 14, 2019.

  1. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

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    Ok....so let's pretend it's 1975. There are no plotters, no printers, no CNC routers, and no lasers. You actually had time to sit down to a reasonable breakfast, and you gleaned your morning news from an ink-laden sheet of pulp that landed on your front doorstep hours before sunup.

    Out in the shop, the smell of One Shot permeates the air, and the faint hum of a neon transformer steadily competes with the lone housefly that buzzes in the front window.

    I just gotta know....what were the burning questions back in the day?

    It seems the questions of today rarely ever deal with the true grit of signage...only issues with equipment and the occasional PITA customer.

    If we had a forum back then, what would the topics be? I can't imagine a general topic that dealt with Mahl sticks on a daily basis, but I could be wrong.

    JB
     
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  2. LilMissTrouble

    LilMissTrouble New Member

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    I'll Bite! But if you get me in trouble on my first day here .... lol
    I was 7 so I had to cheat, lol... Maybe we wouldn't be talking about signs! Maybe Nasa's Apollo-Soyuz Mission was on the black and white and you had to get up and turn the channels because I couldn't reach them! lol.. What were signs back then, formed metal? Painted? Neon? A chisel and a rock...teehee. I feel sooooo old! I had 8 track tape player in my 1st car but that was over ten years later! Skinny jeans or bell bottomed jeans....1st or 2nd grade? what's a Mahl stick? <<gasp>> AC/DC put out their first album that year!!!
     
  3. White Haus

    White Haus Formally known as RJPW..........

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    I wasn't born yet............but I would have loved to have seen the industry back then.

    I agree with you James, the daily challenges would have been quite different then. Now it's all about equipment (which I love, don't get me wrong), pricing pressure caused by low-ball online sellers, and print on demand expectations.

    I do love the industry and what our equipment can do, but I also do sometimes dream of a simpler time when automation meant your lights turned on when you flicked a switch!

    That's all for now, my printers are waking up on their own and looking for something to keep them busy!
     
  4. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

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    Well I remember being on ladderjacks in February of 1975 and painting a billboard in Hallandale Beach when the shop manager drove up and told me my wife was in the hospital in labor with our first child. I quickly packed up and drove the company's Ford Econoline van to the hospital. Back then was the first time they were letting husbands in the delivery room. Lamaze was popular. I had on my work clothes splattered with paint and looked like a Peter Max character. 18 hours later a baby boy was born. My wife and I were 27 years old.
    The shop I worked at did large formed faces made their own metal cabinets, channel letters and any size painted sign. I usually was doing glass gold but volunteered to do the billboard that day because the older sign painter was getting up in age and did not like climbing ladders anymore and was still drunk from the night before.
     
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  5. Old Timer

    Old Timer Member

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    Perfect Corners, with tape or without
     
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  6. Fred Weiss

    Fred Weiss Merchant Member

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    In 1971 I had a full time office coffee service business that did well but went slow every summer due to the many people who didn't drink hot beverages when the weather warmed up. I saw an ad for a vacuum forming machine setup for making magnetic signs. It came with perforated metal grids in different sizes and three styles of letters made of molded magnetic material that you laid out on the grids before heating a sheet of vinyl and vacuuming it down. After forming, the faces were trimmed out with a paper cutter, adhesive coated magnetic strips were placed on the backside and colors applied to the formed letters using screen printing inks and a rubber brayer.

    To my surprise, customers liked my work and in ten weeks that summer I did more sales of magnetic signs at higher profit margins than I did all year in coffee. Not being any good with a brush, I added an engraving machine and also molded plastic letters welded to acrylic backgrounds. I also took up screen printing and found I could do a good bit of business with die cut vinyl letters for work that was normally handled by a sign painter. Twelve years later, in 1983, I became the third company in my area to get a Gerber SignMaker III and never looked back.

    In 1975 we were just getting over the end of the Vietnam war and the Nixon resignation. People had become very polarized over it. There was also economic shakeups from OPEC imposing an oil boycott with fuel shortages and long lines to buy gas the result along with a new 55 MPH national speed limit to cut back on fuel consumption. The government of Brazil impacted my life when they bought the entire coffee crop produced in Africa that year and raised the price of coffee from $.89 cents a pound to $3.00 a pound.
     
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  7. kcollinsdesign

    kcollinsdesign Member

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    It was the same as it is today. Trucks, cranes, employees, plastic faces, neon plants, billboard locations, paint, brushes, substrates, screen printing. There were plenty of technical issues keeping the vehicles and equipment running. All were topics at the paint store, the coffee shop, or after work over a beer.
     
  8. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    Topics? What to mix into your One Shot so it didn't dry so fast/dried faster/flowed better, How to darken the shop so you could use your overhead projector in the daytime, the relative merits of squirrel hair brushes, whether to fill the edges of MDO, how deep you had to dig with a posthole digger for the 4x4's to hold up a 4x8 sign.
    Should you clear over your sign or did that cause sun damage to occur faster? How do you create a color fade with brushes? A metal-look letter? Dimensional shaded letters?
     
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  9. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Well, we could discuss all the things back then from brush techniques to how to form or build a letter and the consistency of paint and whatnot, but the hot topics of the day were more about girls, what ya had to drink last night, what band are ya gonna go see this weekend or are ya going camping this weekend or to a race ?? It certainly was an easier time back then, heck we didn't even have fax machines or answering machines, yet. Gas was only about 50¢ a gal and you could cruise in those big ol 8 cylinder aircraft carriers all night for a coupla bucks.

    We didn't talk much about our business, we knew it and were learning all the time from each other. Remember, the common shop had at least a dozen or more people just in the card and commercial room alone, besides the welders, electricians and installers. We had a lotta people to talk with, but other things were far more important, like Johnny said, having babies and starting families.
     
  10. KY_Graphics_Gal

    KY_Graphics_Gal New Member

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    I was too young to remember exactly what it was, but my mom bought this huge roller machine. There were maybe 4 different colored rolls of thin plastic and cases full of (I'm assuming metal) letters in different sizes. She would lay the letters out and somehow roll them through the big heated machine (keep in mind, really young, looked like magic to me) and made molded plastic signs. After they cooled she would use a small paint roller to color the tops of the letters. People in our town were in awe of this new option in sign making. Ahhh....the good ol days.
     
  11. WildWestDesigns

    WildWestDesigns Major Contributor

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    While '75 is a little far back as far as my life is concerned, I do tend to indulge in nostalgia on occasion (actually indulging in it a few minutes ago).

    One thing to be aware of though, while it may be nice to have some regressions in some things, there are also regressions in other things that may not be as desired.

    Depending on how one looks at it, the good ole days may not have been quite as good as we tend to remember them.

    The "trap" that is the past.
     
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  12. signman315

    signman315 Signmaker

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    Genuine question...was it actually an "industry" at that time? I was born in 1984 and have been in the modern sign industry for almost 12 years, so genuinely asking. I started out by apprenticing under a couple of guys that started in the 60s painting showcards in their garage. By the stories they tell it wasn't much of an industry at all and more like each town had their local sign painter who didn't necessarily need to seek work outside a very localized area. From the stories I hear there were some "letterheads" traveling the country painting signs from their van but for the most part the industry hadn't formed yet. It was just a bunch of brush slingers making a living in their own towns, and as Gino affirmed the talk was more about romance, food/drink, and what the entertainment would be this weekend. To be honest it's still that way for us at our shop today, a lot of jocularity, a lot of hands on and hard work, plus the added fun of modern technology and customer problems that others have mentioned. I wasn't alive back then but I think it's more about the people than the times that define a specific environment. As Gino mentioned times were simpler back then (taking his word and my mentors' words on that one) but it's people that make their own complications. Today, we live simple and fun lives here in the sticks of upstate NY, and we get the luxury of doing it with some of the most fantastic and capable technology available. I'll get beat up for saying that this is actually a very special and great time right now! We all want to glorify our past lives, but I want to respect what we are doing here today as well. As far as I'm concerned the sign industry is just coming into it's own, just hitting puberty haha, and modern craftsmen are lucky to be at the leading edge of the possibilities coming our way in the future. We have the beauty of great equipment and technology but still hang onto the traditions that built us up to where we are today. Trust me, when the younger of us here are chatting 30 years from now we will be saying, "back in 2019 it was a simpler, easier time" "this world is going to hell in a hand bag"....but probably not all that much will have changed. I think that kind of mentality comes with age and isn't really based on the direction our industry or society is moving (always with some exceptions of course). It's an ebb and flow of popular opinion if you ask me....
     
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  13. Big Rice Field

    Big Rice Field Electrical/Architectural Sign Designer

    How much fun your post is. In 1975 I graduated from high school. I did not enter the sign industry until 1994. But before then I know sign designers used drawing boards to render drawings. They uesd LetterArt or other brands of dry transfer lettering on their drawings. To make production patterns, an overhead projector was used to magnify the lettering to full size. The image was projected on a wall with butcher paper. The pstterns were then traced with a pencil to maje letter backs and install patterns.
     
  14. Gene@mpls

    Gene@mpls Very Active Member

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    I was 29 and restoring [mostly] 63-67 Corvettes. I had been out of 'Tech' school 9 years and had calibrated the hand controls [all analog] for the Lunar Expeditionary Module that landed on the moon 50 years ago. Signs had never passed thru my mind.
     
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  15. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

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    i was in kindergarten making crayon drawings for the fridge (first wrap job)
    [​IMG]
     
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  16. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Oh, it was most certainly an industry back then and all the way back to the 1800s. However, it was all done with eye/hand coordination. Back in the day, before my time, an air brush was used by spreading pigment on your canvas (medium) with a bellows type of hand held device.... or you could blow it to where you wanted it, then clear it. You had sign painters guilds and unions. The shops signman speaks of were probably just one or two man shops and didn't belong to a union. Some of them were really good mechanics, just didn't see the value in belonging to the union.

    The sign industry, I believe, came into it's own back in the 30s throughout the 50s. However, it was ALL done with talent. Sheer talent. Not so much anymore as we really depend on many crutches. Tools, like in any industry are needed, but the sign world has now allowed anyone to enter, if you have the money to buy the toys..... expensive toys, but toys nonetheless. Sure, it takes an eye to know good from bad, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have hand coordination to replicate it, which is the talent portion. Good eye and trade knowledge will still go a long way, today.

    However, I don't fantasize or make the good ol' days about something great.... it was a great part of my life and I learned well from it, but in today's world, everything is at our fingertips and we basically don't hafta do a thing. Cars that drive themselves or steer ya away from an accident. Planes to take you anywhere in a few minutes or hours. Heck, they're even making machines to replace US, so what's the big deal about a printer that can print whatever ya put in it ?? Heck, I even know when somebody f@rts in Chine about 4 seconds after it takes place. Yep, the world is a small place..... and it was wi-i-i-ide open just 50 years ago.
     
  17. petepaz

    petepaz Major Contributor

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    earliest i can remember would be before computers (1990 started with the company i presently work for) and doing paste ups, color separations with ruby lith, taking photos and contact prints to make step and repeat films (darkroom and developing your own film) for screens for silk screening...aahh.. the good old days. thanks to technology i don't do anything i went to school for anymore but if the computers go down i still know how to work...hahaha
     
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  18. Johnny Best

    Johnny Best Very Active Member

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    Never used transfer lettering on a layout. Drew letters out to scale and then made paper patterns of letters for the metal guy to make channel letters or plastic guy to make wood letters for molds to make forned plastic faces. Or patterns to cut out stencils for spray painting flat acrylic faces. Ad agencies used the Letraset transfer lettering because those things were expensive. And never used a overhead projector to make patterns. I started working at my grandfather's shop when I was 15 in 1963 and I think I saw a naked girl before I ever saw a overhead projector, and no I did not have any older sisters.
     
  19. signman315

    signman315 Signmaker

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    I have to say that I personally think that hand/eye coordination are just as important as ever and that talent is talent regardless of your tool/medium of choice. I consider printers/computers just another tool (operated with our hands and minds by the way) no different than a brush or tape measure. If you are talented and have the skill then you will wield your tool with prowess, no matter what tool you choose or how fancy or technologically advanced your brush/printer is. The computer is just a modern day brush, and anyone that diminishes it and says it's easier than hand produced work is clearly mistaken. I grew up on brushes and pencils in a fine arts background, in which I also received my degree, and then evolved into the digital realm where I've been for about 12 years, so I have a reasonable perspective on both. I often prefer a brush/pencil over the computer because it's actually easier! The same claims were made when film/cameras became available to lower/middle class craftsmen...people claimed it was cheating and "not talented" which is funny because now it's considered a "traditional" medium. Spend a day getting your F stops, shutter speeds, ISO, and lighting just right for a single, one-off image and tell me no talent is required. It's all relative perspective, but definitely a pet peeve of mine to diminish any skills or technology...I have 1000s upon 1000s of hours, sleepness nights, grinding and learning to use computers, Adobe software, Maya 3D, UV printers, solvent and latex printers, plotters, CNC, stage lighting, pencil drawing, illustration (both digital and manual) and so on....and so for someone to say that technology is a crutch or automates creativity, or somehow makes it easier, is simply false. I hear people say "oh your job is easy bc you get to sit at a computer", try it for 15 hours and see how you feel. I grew up on a dairy farm and can personally assure you I feel better after a grueling 15 hour day on the farm then I do a 15 hour day on the computer. **** there's an artist in residency in my town who paints with candy, it's not the medium it's the brilliance/craftsmanship put into it that matters. Talented people will produce talented work, whether it's assisted by a computer, paint brush or chisel. Check out Andy Goldsworthy, his work speaks to this effect. It's generally folks older than myself diminishing my hard earned talent and skills to uplift their own, when personally I feel they are equals and both have strengths/weaknesses. We are not a threat to each other, but a complementing skill set. I think in 1975 the conversations were less focused on who's medium is the best and more about accepting and exploring any new medium that might be useful to a creative mind. No chip on the shoulders, just a thought for consideration...
     
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  20. Jay Grooms

    Jay Grooms Printing, Printing, Printing......

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    I was a bun in the oven in 75. Wasn't born till 76
     
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