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Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's certainly a sign of the times

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OK, I'll admit it. I'm a sucker for a good pun, a punchy play on words or a sweet juxtaposition of word or phrase.

I'm even partial to clever old punch lines like "Schlitz, the beer that made Bill Fawmy walk us" (as opposed to "the beer that made Milwaukee famous") or the joke about the Foo monster with the play on words surrounding "if the shoe fits wear it."

But more recently I've had to satisfy my inner pun with some of the more creative local signage.

"I'm in no shape to exercise patience," read the sign posted by Ed Lattanzio one day recently at ServiceMaster on Indianapolis Road. I nearly choked on my iced tea straw when I saw that one.

Further down the street, Family Video recently offered a nifty take on current fast-food advertising. "Over 5,000 items on our dollar menu," read the video store signage across from Kroger. Clever.

"Gas is on sale" was ServiceMaster's recent commentary on the price drop that put unleaded back under four bucks. Nice perspective.

I absolutely love it that our local business owners are not only trying to use their message boards to promote business but also to provoke a smile or a chuckle or two.

The folks at Humphrey's Outdoor Power used their message board to applaud the efforts of Greencastle City Police in busting the stolen chainsaw caper earlier this spring. It was a simple "Thanks, GPD," that spoke volumes.

The same was true the morning after we all learned that the Navy Seals had taken out Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hiding place. The gang at Headley Hardware said what we all felt: "Great job, Navy Seals!"

Such examples are certainly much, much better than the half-hearted attempts we got at patriotism through signage a couple years back. That's when we routinely saw signs like "2-liter Pepsi 99 cents, God bless America." I was never sure whether to be thankful for freedom or cheap pop.

Or at the local beauty shop: "Shampoo or set, $10. God bless America." Didn't know it was such a big, hairy deal.

And finally, seen at Burger King: "Home of the Whopper ... God bless America." Super-size Him!

Singer Petula Clark may have given us "It's a sign of the times" and the Five Man Electric Band warned us of "Sign, sign everywhere a sign ..." But the granddaddy of local signage will always be Steve Jones at the old Greencastle Wash 'n' Fill. Oh, how we miss that sharp wit displayed for all to see on the plastic Shell gasoline sign.

He always seemed to hit just the right note for what I myself was thinking. Like back when the Michigan Fab Five were supposed to dominate the Final Four. The sign at the car wash read: "Anybody but Michigan."

Or the simple notation that it was that time of year again ... "Moo, oink, cluck ... it's the fair."

And then there's the day Margaret Thatcher came to town to speak at DePauw University. Surely even she had to chuckle through her prim-and-proper British facade when the Wash 'n' Fill sign greeted her with: "Hey, Maggie, wash your Jag?"

But my very favorite is still the message Jones posted the day after I called to see if he had any advice on keeping the neighbor's cats from leaving dirty little paw prints all over my otherwise clean black car.

Jones had no words of wisdom for me, but was inspired enough that the next day his sign carried the infamous phrase, "So many cats, so few good recipes."

"That's one of my favorites, too," Jones says to this day. "Who knew it was 'Be Kind to Animals Week'!"

That alone is worth a smile now, even several years later.

So the community standard has been set. If you have a message board, please use it wisely. Be cute. Be funny. Be creative. After all, we'll be watching.

And oh yeah ... God bless America!