Sign painters in small town Maine.
Allison Britton was one who painted some of his signs in his shop next to Chadwick’s Florist on Spring Street in my small Maine town.
Many of the hand painted sign missions though created from scratch on premise.
My parents along with spud and grain farming their own crops, brokered what other area farmers raised. Mom and Dad bought ten trucks one by one to transport them overnight to produce markets to the south. These trucks lettered outdoors when temperatures were high enough. Inside the barn truck bay during winter with heat on but never above 55 degrees which meant Allison painted with his coat on. Just warm enough for the paint surface to allow the paint to barely cure properly.
Those 18 wheelers needed lettering, consistent branding.
The half circle arch of shaded “Prem Pak” on both doors. The matching font of government ICC GVW 73,280 and vehicle number, Maine town location applied in fresh wet paint by Allison’s steady hand. He smoked a pipe and I can see him sitting on a wooden stool, one hand resting against the trailer truck door. The other one making the strokes to apply the lettering paint. An outline, shading added to the lettering for the finishing touch.
The painting watched by an eight year old version of me.
In the original Maine farm barn converted to a truck terminal where the lettering happened in winter. Or admired outside sitting on the same wooden stool or up on the step ladder. Both splattered with a million hues of paint color Allison Britton took turns using to create lettering by free hand.
The local sign painter was busy with both hands.
Drawing a wax crayon reference line to guide the process. To make sure what was in his head for a design and spacing ended up the carbon copy same on the building, vehicle, sign surface.The faint line sketch easily rubbed out was the small Maine town sign painter’s dress rehearsal before fresh paint brushed in long fast deliberate strokes. The trucks got pin striping too. And funny lettering added to the front bumpers. “Home Wrecker”, “Here’s Come Kelley”. “Ole Elmer” for the gas job that donkeyed trailer boxes around the yard or on short hauls. Elmer Snell was Prem Pak’s mechanic.
Dopey was another trailer truck that Allison create a cartoon for that did not have a sleeper.
That over the road truck drivers received an extra thirty five dollars in their weekly salary envelope to spring for a no tell motel if they wanted. Most drives took a cat nap slumped over the wheel. Or laying down on the shot gun seat for a form of rest for the second wind to get back up the pike to the truck terminal.
Like the giant 8 foot tall, 4 foot wide ear of yellow corn.
This one his wife told me years later when I listed their red cape home and detached shop next door where her husband created one of a kind signage. Mrs. Britton told me the sign painting was usually ho hum same old same old.
But her husband loved the chance for something unique and that really provided the chance to create more than sign letters. That involved a picture to tag team with the lettering.
The two words “Farm Fresh” across the top, the ear of corn still wearing it’s green husk with just a hint of the big juicy yellow kernels tucked inside showing.
Teasing, peeking out to tempt the road traffic about a mile and a half outside of town to slow down. Keep it simple. Make it real. Brown and gold tassel silk applied just so on the top of the ear for realism. Peel back ever so seductively by the sign painter’s imagination to briefly show and tell what was hidden underneath.
Come on in, you know you want some.
It’s in season and farm fresh farm to table time. The spot lighted ear of corn suggesting to motorists what could be steamed and boiled for tonight’s supper. New cobbler potatoes, yes, you can buy those by the pound too. But you have to stop. Put on your blinker. Turn here to enter the U shaped driveway to come and get your farm fresh corn.
Sold in a baker’s dozen.
Always 13 ears for good measure. Corn on the cob direct from the local Maine farmer you know and trust. Get it here and don’t forget to check out the just as fresh, home grown tomatoes, cukes, carrots, squash, peas, even strawberries in season.
The ear of perfect size, shape, color and shaded corn on the cob was the trumpet solo. But the hint of more veggies waiting to tempt and be bought to bag up and help load into the shopper’s car.
We even grew yellow eye, Jacob’s cattle, soldier dry beans that could be bought in two pound bags all cleaned and filtered.
Or in large quantities straight out of the field. One of my Dad’s many expressions was “you can’t sell meat from an empty wagon” which mean variety. Have something for everyone in all prices so no one goes away empty handed. The truck farming cash in the economic dead of summer was crucial to keep day to day expenses current.
A Maine potato farmers plants a lot of 100 dollar bills all over the field acreage that the family hopes to recoup.
During the wait, some cold hard currency for the cash and carry comes in handy to tame the farm expenses. A break even year is considered a good year in small Maine farming operations. It means you get to plant again, to tend the next year’s crop to get it harvested and sold out of the field. Or carefully stored for slowly loading one truck at a time to head to the produce markets further south on Interstate 95.
Back to the small Maine town sign painter that my parents hired a lot for many reasons.
His daughter dated a boy up the street on Commonwealth Avenue. And when he walked her home from school, he would stop into the painter’s shop her Dad ran next door to where he said good bye. To watch with awe and to learn how the painting process starts and ends. To eventually not marry his daughter, but to catch the spark and become a sign painter for his profession. And witness less and less actual hand painted signage performed and more computer generated graphics that standardized the sign making process.
Before computer assistance and back when you needed talent to do hand painted signs, everything was created piece meal.
You could have a printer create multiple copies but the original was from scratch. All the signs at the grocery stores, car dealers, down at the Grange or along Main Street was done by small local Maine sign painters. Allison Britton create a wall mural of Christ’s last supper that I think when we listed and sold his widow’s home, that masterpiece went to the local Catholic church. It was amazing and I bet something more interesting to create than just a trailer truck door lettering job caused for a creative stir.
I have talked with house painters who love to apply the colors.
To do the scraping, the scaffolding to prepare to get down to the nitty gritty of putting on the paint. They love to paint and stand back to admire their work. Square it up. To make sure no spots were missed, that the paint goes on evenly. Protect and make the house admired from out on the curb. To do it’s part for neighborhood appeal from out on the street.
Do you like to paint on any level?
Stain or paint your own porch or deck or interior walls and trim? New color schemes, old traditional paint styles and excitement pulling out the tall skinny samples. Nothing transforms like a fresh coat of paint and a mowed lawn when you’re talking listing, selling a Maine home. Allison Britton, the story of one small Maine town sign painter who left his mark.