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99 and Counting

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We’ve been using the tagline 99 and counting” all year in anticipation of our centennial. I guess we got tired of waiting, so we’re going to kick off the year-long festivities at the United States Sign Council’s (USSC) Sign World show in Atlantic City, NJ, this month.

We will be sponsoring USSC’s annual membership breakfast on Saturday morning, December 3, and, for those whose sweet tooth can’t be satisfied by bacon, eggs and taters, we’ll have birthday cake all three days in our booth. (Get there early. Each day, when it’s gone, it’s gone.)

And I can’t wait to see our booth. In our October issue, we asked you to be a part of history. Consequently, we’ve enlarged dozens of fantastic old sign photos (shops, trucks, etc.) to cover our USSC booth, as if the circus was coming to town a half century ago. I just can’t help grinning when I look at them.

However, I doubt that very many of those photos ever appeared in ST. So, if we’re celebrating our centennial, is that somehow unauthentic?

Not at all. Because what we’re really celebrating, as will be stated in our tradeshow booth, is “A Century of Signs” and, even more specifically, the people and the sign companies, many of which (like ST Media Group) are multi-generational. Yes, I’m very proud of ST, especially the legacy I’ve been blessed to follow, but our magazine has been great largely because we’ve always had good material. We’ve simply needed to be good journalists to chronicle it. What if we were Concrete World magazine?

Our celebration will, of course, extend to the biggest sign show in the world, the International Sign Assn.’s (ISA) Sign Expo 2006 that will be held in Orlando, FL, April 6-8. We’re still making plans for that.

After that, we will again host the International Letterheads meet at the Cincinnati Zoo, June 16-18. We last did this in 1994, and people still tell me how much they enjoyed it. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “It’s all happening at the zoo.”

A week later, the Midwest Sign Assn. (which encompasses Ohio) will hold its summer meeting a few miles north of Cincinnati, and part of the program will be a centennial party at the nearby American Sign Museum. (Yes, my brother Tod, the museum president, is heavily involved in all these plans.)

Now, historically, May has been our anniversary month, as evidenced by our May 1956 and May 1981 issues. Next year, however, in conjunction with our regular June issue, subscribers will get our Commemorative Edition, a special publication that honors the past 100 years of signmaking with, among other things, a 48-page timeline. Special, hardbound editions will be available as well. It will be one of those books that you’ll want to keep forever.

We’ll essentially preserve much of the commentary from previous anniversary issues. The perspectives, and especially the predictions, often evolved as accurate blueprints of future past.

These links to the past explain why I like kicking off our centennial at the USSC show. The Bullpen always proves that time-honored hand renderings of signage haven’t completely disappeared. If you attend the show, and have any appreciation for brushes, enamels and/or goldleaf, you must reserve some of your time for the Bullpen. Similarly, I love the idea that we’ll be hosting the Intl. Letterhead meet. Again, it will provide that link to, and deep appreciation for, the sign industry’s artisan past.

At the risk of sounding abjectly sentimental, I feel deeply honored to have my own legacy, having followed people like Dave Souder (1949-1982) and E. Thomas Kelly (1924-1943) as editor. Kind of like being Jeff Garcia after Joe Montana and Steve Young. Souder and Kelly were actually part of the industry.

Me? I’m just blessed with having had the opportunity to know and write about people who’ve made the sign industry great. I feel gratified that, through the power of publishing, the marks these people have made have been recorded and preserved forever, much like when we published our “Legends of the Sign Industry” in our March 1994 issue.

Plus, as a fourth-generation member of this particular fourth estate (a colloquialism for journalism), I was preceded by a grandfather who helped found both the National Electric Sign Assn. (now the ISA) and the Screen Process Printing Assn. (now the Specialty Graphics Imaging Assn.), and a father who guided the magazine from hot type to computerization. Heady stuff.

Many of you can absolutely relate, having come from multi-generational sign companies (or suppliers), now computerized, whose ancestors all wielded brushes and pounced patterns, by hand, on walls. This is your celebration as well.

So 2006 will be a great year for ST. And for me. I’m getting married!

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