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Today I begin my 51st year in this wonderful creative business we are all in......seems like just yesterday I got started by cementing those little blue and red Florida Plastic 1/2" letters onto a 2" x 24" strip of white acrylic for the McDonald's menu boards we were producing at Plasticraft (formerly Pensacola Neon Sign Co) Manufacturing Co. in Pensacola at 3 AM to have that Menu Board on the truck that was leaving at 6 AM to deliver the complete sign package to a new location somewhere in the Southeastern US. We made over 450 sign installations for McDonald's and many of them are still being used and still working. Moving into the sales end of the business came naturally to me and I went on to join Everbrite in 1971 as their regional sales guy in the Chicago area and throughout the Midwest handling major accounts like Sears Roebuck, Meister Brau Brewing Company (Later bought by Miller Brewing) and major agency accounts like Phillip Morris and R J Reynolds through a couple of major advertising agencies such as Leo Burnett (Marlboro) and BBD&O (Kentucky Fried Chicken) and others. In 1974 I joined American Sign and Indicator Corporation (Spokane, WA) as the District Manager for the Midwest Region. The new and exciting concept of displaying Time/Temperature and Message Center Signs fit right in with the electronics training I had received while serving in the US Navy during and after the Korean conflict. I was their numero uno Salesman for at least three years during my 7 years with them. I bought into a small company in 1981 in the Chicago area and became an "Owner" of a sign company with all of it's trials and tribulations. We grew quite rapidly (seems like some weeks had two Fridays though) as financial matters was not my long suit, but somehow we made it through those tough days and just when it seemed we were on our way to real success the Desert Storm war hit and business just stopped. I tried real hard to outlast that recession but just did not make it as Innovative Industries, Inc. My former partner passed away and the IRS went after his estate so I was left with only two choices, work for them or toss them the keys. I opted to shut it all down and opened another company with the help of some friends in the business as Sign Central, Inc. as a supplier for many local companies as I had one of the first and largest CNC (Cyber-mation) router tables in the area. My client list grew and grew and we had successfully transitioned in to our role as a subcontractor to many local and regional sign companies. In June of 1993 a major health problem surfaced. I had a six way heart bypass surgery and almost ended my problems here on this earth. A miracle happened and with God's gracious hand he healed me. It took me most of two years to sell my company and I retired to Florida to live out what life I had left. That turned out to be almost 12 years of living in the sunshine state and still keeping my hand in the business by selling signs for a local Fort Lauderdale firm. My wife passed in 2006 and it became quite lonely down there. After two years I decided to relocate to my Hometown of Aiken, South Carolina where I had many relatives. Trying to avoid boredom I decided to continue selling signs for one of the local sign companies in Augusta, Georgia (17 Miles from Aiken) and have been here since. Still doing what I love to do in the most remunerativly and creatively rewarding business there is. I hope I have not bored anyone with this bit of my personal history but I finally wrote it all down. I have had a wonderful life through God's Grace, I re-married six years ago and I enjoy every precious moment that I live and I am so grateful for the wonderful people I have met and/or worked with over those years. I hope that they might feel the same way about me. Just in case some of them might read this, my email is EddieL@finufsign.com. I would love to hear from any of you and share some other moments and memories. Eddie Larsen, Sales Manager - Finuf Sign Co., Inc. - Grovetown (Augusta), Georgia
The history of the neon sign industry in the US has not yet been written. What has been written is brief, and mostly focuses on Times Square and Las Vegas, overlooking the realities of the neon industry in other places. Because neon only began in the US in the 1920s, it's still possible to collect the stories of people whose families have been involved in the industry from the beginning, or near the beginning. Would you like to contribute your stories, your family's stories, and your business' stories to this history of the neon industry? How long has your sign shop been in the neon business? How long have there been tube benders in your family? How has your shop managed through the changes the industry has faced? I'm a historical geographer, working with the support of the American Sign Museum on a book that will detail the rich history of this industry in cities and towns all over the country. The book will trace the spread of neon across the US, along with tourism, automobile travel, and highways, to show how neon transformed the American landscape. It will follow the industry from its first bloom in the 1920s and the end of Prohibition, through the Great Depression and the WPA Storefront Modernization program. From the blackouts of WWII to the boom in consumer culture of the prosperous 1950s. From the urban renewal and "Scrap Old Signs" programs of the 1960s-'80s, to the rise of neon art and "retro" neon in the 1980s and '90s. The book will reveal the challenges and synergies the industry has faced with competing technologies -- fluorescents and LEDs, plastic signs and digital message centers -- all have been seen as threats to neon's success and survival, but have also worked together with neon. Neon in the US is nearing its 100th birthday. Will it survive to see that day? Let your voice be heard. If you or someone you know has a long tradition in the neon industry, I'm interested in interviewing you. Please contact me by email (preferred) at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 225-937-9371. Dr. Dydia DeLyser Associate Professor of Geography Department of Geography and Anthropology Louisiana State University