A Couple of Favorite Stories About My Late Wife, Elaine Edrington

Women Don't Paint Signs - Do They?

 Elaine B Edrington It was 1959 and I was an unemployed signpainter with a new wife and two young step-kids. We decided to settle in the small town where Elaine's sister was living, and thought we might find some freelance sign work if we passed cards around to the local businesses.

My approach was to look for a business with an old, faded sign - or to see if I could spot someone opening a new business. Elaine's approach was to go door to door and hand a card to anyone willing to take one.

But when she said she was going to stop by Longs Drug Store (the town's largest) I said, "Why bother? They've got posters and banners all over the place. It's obvious they already have somebody doing their work."

Well, guess what they told her...

Elaine walked right into Longs and asked to see the Manager. He came out of his office with a smile and asked what he could do for her.

"My husband is a signpainter," she said, "and would like to give you a price on making the signs you need."

"Well," replied the manager, "I'm glad you came by. The fellow that's been doing our work lives in another town, and has been getting more and more unreliable about getting the work to us in time for our weekly promotions. Have your husband stop by and we'll see what we can do."

So that's basically how our business got started. I was a fair-to-middlin' sign painter, but a lousy salesman. Elaine didn't know anything about signs - but had the tenacity to keep calling on businesses and bringing in the orders. And now, more than four decades later, Banner Sign Co. is still in business.

In December of 2001 we sold the business to an Ohio corporation who wanted to expand into California.
How Did She Do That?

Remember the mid-80s, when cellular phones were new, and expensive, and about the size of a military walkie-talkie?

Well, we had bought one of the even earlier "mobile phones" that required an antenna on your car roof.

Anyway, Elaine and I had just seen a grandson off at the airport in San Diego, but I hadn't been able to find a parking space near the terminal. So I told her to wait in front while I went to get the car. Lindbergh Field was being renovated at the time, and the routes circling the parking areas and terminals were long and confusing.

As I came to the spot where I thought I'd left her, I couldn't spot her - and pausing any longer than it took to let passengers in or out was prohibited. So I took off and began the long, bewildering route again. Still no sign of her. After the third time around I was beginning to get worried. But as I approached for the fourth time, the phone rang. It was Elaine.

"Look to your left," she said, "and watch for a small, green, metal building at the end of a chain link fence."

"Okay," I said, in utter bewilderment. Sure enough, there she was, with a pained look on her face.

Getting in, she said - with an air of exasperation - "I told you this is where I'd be!"

"Okay," I said, "sorry - but how did you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Call me."

"Oh, that" she said. "There was a man standing there with one of those new portable phones in his hand. I just asked if I could borrow it."

Good thing she did. Otherwise, I might still be circling Lindbergh Field.

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I should point out that the business changed over the years, going
from a small sign shop to a good-sized silk screen printing business.
In fact, we gave up doing hand-lettering altogether for a number of years,
but went back to making individual signs - for just one reason -
they are now done with the help of computers.

Right - computerized lettering machines cut out most of the pressure-sensitive
plastic letters you see on walls, windows, vehicles, and all kinds of places.

I just wish I'd been the one who invented the machine.

Oh, yes - and about half of Banner's employees are women.
The General Manager for the past 20+ years has been my wonderful daughter-in-law
Alana Fugnetti (seen in the maternity dress in the above photo).

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