It's always difficult to really describe a Letterhead Meet to someone who has never experienced one in person. How do you describe a feeling? Veteran Letterheads know exactly what I am talking about. Every new Letterhead Meet is like a family reunion. There is something comforting about discovering others who share our love of lettering and live lives very much like our own. On the last weekend in September, 1997, 55 Letterheads made the trek to Jordan Sign Company in Hyannis, Cape Cod, Massachusetts to once again share 3 days of the joy we call the Letterhead Experience.
By Thursday night, everything was ready and the early birds began to arrive. First on the scene was Dave Morris from Nags head, N. Carolina. This was Dave's first meet and we were pleased to learn he played guitar to boot. In fact, we were so pleased, we appointed him our musical entertainment for the duration of the weekend.
A quick trip to the local K-Mart was required and while running up an aisle, I slammed into fellow Canadians Dave Grundy and Shirley Smith, our own "Applicator" from IRC Chat. Seems Dave & Shirley could not resist all the low American priced "blue light specials and after a quick hello we directed them to a local watering hole called the Windjammer, a spot we returned to again and again over the weekend. Great corn chowder!
On our return to the shop, we were in for another treat. A familiar voice roared out, one I had only heard on the telephone a few times. I have to confess that at first I did not recognize the face. The hair was much grayer than his IRC Chat Pal photo. It was Signtist! Doug Bernhardt from Ottawa, Ontario, accompanied by KC, his very attractive wife. It was wonderful to finally meet my on-line pal of over a year in person and we directed them towards the Windjammer for some supper.The rest of Thursday night is a blur. We setup the computer and hung a Letterhead Website banner, shook some hands and carried out Jack's orders.(grin)
Jack's shop is perfect for a Letterhead Meet. He has 2 huge buildings, lots of bays, a neon plant, cranes, bucket trucks and enough stuff with plugs to make Mike Jackson drool. Jordan Signs has been operating in Hyannis for over 40 years and in that time, he had seen and done it all. His staff includes son, Peter and gal Friday Jan Merrill, who looks after the office and never seems to stop working. There's an electrician called "Ski" and a tube bender named Joe who dwells upstairs in the neon plant.
We awoke Friday morning to a bright sunny day and warm temperatures. In this part of the country it's called "Indian Summer," exactly what Jack had promised. By the time we made it to the shop, things were already beginning to happen. In the front shop, newcomers were wolfing down donuts and coffee while examining all the fine work displayed on the Portfolio Table. Outside, the carvers were already taking advantage of all the free wood panels donated by AllWood Sign Panels of Florida. The next bay was full of Letterheads rolling, spattering, sponging and brushing backgrounds of paint on future project panels. It never fails to amaze me how all these things just seem to happen spontaneously. Letterheads remind me of the turtles that always return to the place of their birth. Creativity seems to come so naturally.
Before long it was time for lunch, and all the cheeseburgers, hot dogs and salads we could handle. I gotta mention our cook John. The guy did an incredible job! The food was hot and there was always plenty of it. Great job John!
On display in the lunch area was a beautiful banner shipped to us from our Letterhead brothers and sisters in Australia. This banner was done for us at the recent Aussie Letterhead Meet and everyone sure appreciated the work, as well as their thoughtfulness. Love those Aussies!
By the time we finished lunch, the suppliers were all set up. Spandex was busy demonstrating the Gerber Edge, Gemini Letters were showing off all their letters and AllWood Sign Blanks were busy handing out samples. Thanks to OneShot and Ronan, there was a generous supply of paints and other additives on hand. Everywhere you went, there was something new going on.
Doug Bernhardt had a good crowd around him. He was busy making good use of all the goldleaf Jacob of Art Essentials had sent along. For many, this was the first time they had seen the process of surface gilding and Signtist was putting on quite a show. He showed them a few burnishing tricks and demonstrated split shades, outlines and many other techniques. Talk about sharing!
In another bay, people were busy pinstriping an old chevy pick-up that Jack's son Peter had just bought. DeWayne and Val Connot arrived along with their family and before long DeWayne was amazing everyone with his mastery of the miniature. Outside of Alton Gillespie, I don't believe I have ever seen anyone so good at small lettering. Sharon from Virginia was ecstatic over the tiny Tweety Bird he painted on her glasses. I've never met DeWayne and his family before and for me, he was a real discovery. How do they letter that small?
Later that evening, Jack had another treat planned for supper. We all gathered at the local Elk's Lodge for a fish & chip dinner. By this time, we all seemed like old pals and everyone really seemed to really enjoy themselves. Thanks to Marty Connelly and his digital camera, we were able to get some candid shots of the group as they filled their faces.
After desert, it was back to the shop. Some worked on their panels. Others chatted with their IRC Letterhead Pals via the computer at The Letterhead Website location. Dave Morris did his guitar thing and a sing-a-long got going. Many were not ready to call it a day so a group of us headed over to the Windjammer to sample the drink and music of a local couple called "Hunky Dory." Did anyone ever manage to talk those guys into a new banner? They sure need one!
The sun was out in full force again on Saturday morning. Barb, Prisilla, Jan & Shirley were kept busy registering late arrivals and hawking meet t-shirts. Coffee and donuts were once more available and before long everyone was back to work.
For an oldtimer like me, there's still nothing like the smell of paint. With all of today's computer technology, many of us don't get to experience this smell as much as we used to. With all the concern about health issues, many are glad to see the odor of paints gone but to me it is still the sweetest smell in the world. One of the myths out there is that vinyl based people are not interested in using paint, but in my chats with those present I found out just the opposite was true. There's just something very enjoyable about doing brush lettering and it's always really neat to see the look on someone's face when they pull that first stroke or pinstripe.
Looking around Saturday morning, I saw Bob Timmerman working away on a panel assisted by Cory, Jack's five year old Grandson. The Connot kids were not about to be left out, and were busy doing panels of their own too. Everyone was amazed at the knowledge these kids had about our trade. It's a wonderful thing to be part of a business the whole family can become involved in. I really like the way the Connot gang do their thing together as a family.
Just before lunch, it was brought to everyone's attention that Jordan Signs had a van that was not yet lettered. To a Letterhead, there's nothing worse than an unlettered shop van and before ya knew it, the van was being wiped down and prepped. There was no particular design in mind at this point but the ideas started coming and a stabilo layout started to take shape. I wish I knew who did what, but at this point all I can recall is multitude of faces all helping out. Some pinstriped, others filled in and still others followed with outlining and shadows. A real group project!
The action stopped at noon to give all an opportunity to sample John's homemade pizza and subs. Some claimed it was some of the best pizza they had ever tasted and I have to agree. Lunch is always a perfect time to talk shop and everywhere I sat there were discussions on customers, pricing and all the other topics so important to each of us.
The afternoon was a blur of activity. These Letterheads are like a pack of sharks in a feeding frenzy! Everyone was busy doing something. One real find was an old toilet seat, which soon became someone's project. Over at the computer, people were busy looking through the BullBoard messages at The Letterhead Website and chatting with other Letterheads around the World on Letterhead Chat. We took the opportunity to do a mini workshop on how to join the chat channel and make better use of the website. It's really neat to see the new faces on Letterhead chat the last few nights. Talk about a good time! :)
Late that afternoon, the call came down that people were assembling outside for the customary group photo shoot. Someone came up with the idea of putting Jack's bucket truck to use in order to capture an unique aerial shot. As you can see, the digital cam photos leave a bit to be desired and I hope to get ahold of a better photo scanned from one of the regular cams. Who's got a good one out there?
There was another terrific workshop going on upstairs in the neon plant. I have to confess that I missed most of the action up there, but from all reports, instructors Joe Augusta and Steve Hughey did an outstanding job. Barb was lucky enough to win the project they created, and it is now serving as a cool nightlite in our bedroom. Thank's guys! You'll never know how much we enjoy that light. (grin)
Around 6pm, the smell of steak sizzling on the BBQ filled the air. John the cook was at it again! Everyone really enjoyed his feed of steak, beans and salad. We used this opportunity of having the whole group together to start drawing for door prizes. And what door prizes! Once again, our suppliers came through with a virtual treasure of goodies. There were rolls of SignGold. Cd's from CrazyJack. Some real cool molded sign panels from SignEdge in Arizonia, books, t-shirts and subscriptions from SignCraft, Sign Business and Letterheads Magazine, lots of neat stuff from Kapco and AirTek Products. Everyone went home with something. Thanks to all our generous suppliers!
After supper, everyone went back to work on their projects. Later on in the evening we were able to establish a live video hookup with our friends, Dave & Gail Beattie of Tauras Signcraft in Australia. What a hoot! Even the most diehard painter seemed to be impressed by this technology and a few were even seen to put down their brushes to join in the video hi jinks. Our Aussie visitors put on quite a show. Devo showed off his tattoos and more!
I really feel live video conferencing is going to be a big part of our future at The Letterhead Website. The possibilities of sharing techniques and communicating via video and voice really gets me excited. We'll be able to link students of our trade together with pros all over the World. Just imagine IRC Chat with video. Can you imagine actually watching our own Donna (Signmaker) lick out her empty popcorn bowl. Makes me shudder! (grin)
The rest of Saturday night was spent just painting and talking. There was first-timers to meet and old pals like "Checkers" to relive old adventures with. By 11pm Jack was ready to lock up for the night and the crowd either headed back to their hotel rooms or made a beeline for the Windjammer. Barb and I were wiped out and didn't last too long at the "Jammer," but we imagine the party carried on into the wee hours as usual.
The weather Sunday morning was perfect. Lots of sun and blue sky! Everyone was at the shop early for a special brunch John had prepared. We were about to embark on a great adventure. At 11:45 am we were booked on a 4 hour whale watch cruise. For us land lubbers, the promise of seeing humpback whales in their natural setting was very exciting indeed.
The trip originated from Barnstable Harbour, a short 10 minute drive from Jack's shop. After leaving the dock, we slowly sailed out the channel until we reached the open waters of Cape Cod Bay, at which time the Captain opened the throttles and our speed increased dramatically..
As we raced north towards the tip of Cape Cod and the open Atlantic, you could clearly see the land mass that surrounded us on three sides. Plymouth was off to our west and the Cape Cod coastline behind us and to the east. Our tour guide gave an informative talk on how the Cape was formed and why the whales love the area. She went on to explain that she had no idea where the whales might be, but would rely on radio reports and other methods to locate them.
It took almost 1 1/2 hours to reach an area where whales had been reported and sure enough, it wasn't long before we sighted our first whales. The boat slowed to a stop and we were soon surrounded by huge humpback whales basking in the sun. In every direction we looked new whales were surfacing, shooting columns of water skyward through their huge blowholes. A pungent smell filled the air. I was just about to give Jack hell, thinking he was to blame, when the naturalist explained that the smell was just whale's breath. I'm still not too sure if she was right, but I'll just have to take her word for it. (grin)
The afternoon was perfect, except for one casualty. Barb has never really liked boats. As we sat there bobbing around on the waves, she became very quiet and her color began to change. We all tried to cheer her up and I even offered her a couple of the tasty hot dogs that were being served onboard. Nothing seemed to work, Barb was seasick and just wanted to be left alone.
We spent the better part of an hour with the whales, but it was soon time to begin our long trip back to Barnstable. The sun had disappeared and it was a cold, windy trip back to the dock. I had never seen tides before and was amazed to find the water level was 8-9 ft. lower than when we left. All in all, the cruise was a perfect ending to a perfect weekend. Lot's of memories!
Back at the shop, there were projects to finish up, good byes to be said and final pictures to be taken. About 20 of us went out for one final supper together at the local Starbucks. Nobody wanted to see the weekend end, including us. I never like to say good bye, just "so long" until the next time we all get together.
I hope this gives you all a better idea of what goes on at a Letterhead Meet. Many of you have always wanted to attend one in person, but something always seems to come up. Some of you may feel intimidated, I know I sure did at our first meet, but you'll soon find that it's not the quality of your work that is important, just your desire to learn and share your experiences with others. Watch the Events Page for a meet near you and come join us. Barb and I are looking forward to welcoming each of you to your first meet in the near future. Get involved!
Some Cape Cod Links
The Virtual Cape Cod Page
An Illustrated Guide Of Hyannis...Take a look around town!
Live "WebCam" From Cape Cod
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