Some people race cars.... some people play
sport.... some people just like to veg out in front of the TV on their
days off. A few strangely unique, twisted individuals, like to run amok
with paintbrushes on any old thing that strikes their fancy... we call
these people Letterheads!
The most commonly asked question
from innocent bystanders who happen upon a letterhead gathering is, "Why
are they doing this?" You might as well ask, Why do the stars shine at
night?, Why do your feet point to the ground? Why do jobs always go wrong
at the last minute?
Because they can!
The reasons aren't important, what's
important is that you have FUN doing whatever it is that fills your spare
A while back some over-excited signie decided that April 2000
would be a great time of year to undertake a sign restoration in
'everyone's' spare time, and what made this unique was other people
agreed. And so on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of April a couple of
dozen talented tradespeople descended on an old corrugated iron barn in
the Hunter Valley, near the small historical township of Morpeth New South
|This site was owned by Mr Ray Mudd who at 74
years of age assured us the structure hadn't seen a coat of
paint in his lifetime. Mr Mudd was an enthusiastic participant
in this sign restoration project from the very first mention
of it...as were the local heritage committee of Morpeth.
Root Pills in the early part of last century were supposedly a
general cure all for such ailments as constipation, sallow
complexion and general ill feeling, touted as the answer to
everyone's problems, this product was sold right into the late
Advertisements like the three sides of
this barn were quite commonplace in regional areas. While pictures of
original signs were a little hard to find (even on the Internet) we all
had a fair idea of what it was supposed to look like.
was made originally to restore the southwestern wall, and if there was
time and enough letterheads we may attempt the eastern wall as well. The
overall size of the signs were quite deceptive from our original
photographs, with our main focus measuring approximately 10 mtrs in
It was our understanding that most Indian Root Pills signs
were modified to fit each individual site used, thereby creating a unique
look. The work on this barn was no exception, our main problem was that
these were all but gone. The only way to prepare the corrugated iron
without losing the last remnants of the original signs was to use a
transparent covering, Penatrol!
The long-range weather forecast was
for fine and sunny days, and as out of towners started arriving in the
days before the big weekend, all eyes lifted heavenward checking to make
sure the weatherman was correct... the last thing we needed in an open
paddock with no weather protection was the rain that is so common at this
time of the year.
Darren Watkins from Fraser Coast signs was the
first to arrive, he and Melissa had driven all night from Hervey Bay in
Queensland so as to be on hand to help with the most necessary behind the
scenes work. First thing Thursday morning Darren attacked our sponsors
banners with great gusto, all letterheads appreciate the generous support
given to our movement by our major sign supply companies and having there
trademarks displayed "loud and proud" on site is the least we can do.
We recognise the real cost involved for our supporters to donate
their products and technical information that guarantees our voluntary
time is well spent. As always Graphic Art Mart, Spandex (formerly the
Graphi-Cal Group) and Viponds Paint opened their stores to meet this
projects needs, they were joined on our resto by FX Banners and The Flood
Company's enthusiastic donation of, the present day Signwriters best
friend, Penatrol. With Ark hire and the Valleys local Beavis hire company
coming to party we had scaffold and the great Aussie Dunny so necessary
for a project like this one.
Actually while we are thanking people,
special thanks have to go to Brian of Hunter Valley Signs for the addition
of his companies scaffold... couldn't have done it with our you
"Let's get at it then" insisted Jon Butterworth from Toowoomba
in Qld, first thing Saturday morning, (wow was the ever anxious).
or Bushie as he's most commonly called eats these sorts of jobs for
breakfast... Bushie has made quite a name for himself as the man who
changed the face of Millmerrin in south west Queensland with his amazing
mural transformations of old buildings and the most notable water
reservoir documented in Signs Australasia Magazine. With his lovely wife
Sue, Bushie was eager to get a start.
Jackie Nagle, her partner
Steve, the enthusiastic Shannon and 'ever so polite Pete' were more than
ready to take their first glimpse of our antique monster.
( Darren's right hand girl) just wanted to play with paint.... " and can I
use one of those malh sticks too...please ?" she asked, meaning of course
that she wished to have a weapon close to bash Darren if he got out of
line (which we all knew he would).
By the time we made our way to
the paddock Ace had set up camp with all the essentials. We had the
'bloody big esky', a tent and barbecue in place along with Michael George,
Cooky, Cheyne, Andrew and Des all enjoying the warm sun and peaceful
sounds of a country morning..... well we wrecked that, didn't
It seemed to only take moments before Bushie had one letter
painted in silver, drop shadowed in black, and a small amount of the
background ultramarine blue cut in to show everybody what was expected on
their section of wall. Three hours flew by with 22 brushes cutting through
the work faster than anyone had anticipated, by the time we stopped for
our barbecue lunch.. sitting back to view the progress, we realised our
hope for the second wall wasn't so unrealistic after all.
larrikinism that is so commonly found when a few Ozies get together was
never far from the fore as the afternoon passed with among other things
Ace's display of lettering (cover your eyes ladies) the old adage of 'time
fly's when your having fun' was again proved.
And by the end of the
first day it was smiles all round the camp as locals in media types
stopped by to admire our handiwork. Someone ....who cant be mentioned in
an effort to hide the guilty :) suggested in addition to restoring the
original signs a 'Ladies Wall' be painted on the small iron return. Bushie
had found some delightful artwork noting 'Women of the Highest Type' that
we just HAD to copy. When the projector blew a fuse we decided to mark it
out after dinner instead and so it was off to goal we went.
five minutes from our work site lies the 150 year-old maximum security
Maitland prison affectionately known as "The Hill". Since it's closure
last year guided tours of this amazing facility have drawn crowds from all
over and with the new Goal Break Cafe offering a terrific feed to starving
paint splattered signees it seemed like the best place to be.
looked through a number of different cell blocks that once housed such
notorious figures as Ivan Mallat, John Travis and the Murphy boys, all
people who you most certainly wouldn't wish to have dinner with.
point to punctuate a story a volunteer was called to enter a black
cell.... with the door closed this room allows for absolutely no light
whatsoever, seems Devo couldn't let Cooky brave the darkness alone and his
mate Darren wasn't going to miss the fun, (I know a few of us wished the
locks from the old gaol had still been in operation) but sadly the warder
had to let them out and as they emerged, hand in hand, humming a tune, we
figured... best not to ask what was like!
The things you find out
about on a tour like this one really do make for interesting dinner
conversation and so it was off to the cafe we went. I don't think anyone
expected the feast we were offered, and as hungry as we were I know most
of us couldn't make it through dessert...
the back of the ute... was fine
Getting a cold nose from the early
morning dew... was fine
Getting BLOWN UP BY DARREN....WAS NOT FINE!!!
well like they say... ya get that.
Sunday morning kicked off with
a bang (now you had to expect that didn't u) as the over eager, over
excited, over hung members of our collective sprang... ( more like
stumbled) into action painting out the eastern wall with the background
colour. Because of repair work done to this wall and doors of the shed it
was decided to just paint over everything and then tick out the sign,
instead of cutting in. Devo raced off to get a layout for everyone to work
off, while the 'ladies' viewed their marked out wall.
Now at this point
I have to explain that after returning to the site the night before, a few
of the boys most gallantly offered (am I gunna get in trouble if I don't
do what she wants?) to mark out the return for me... not withstanding Ace
falling asleep on the bottom line of text, I thought it looked ok... till
the sun came up that is :)
Nothing that an outline wont fix.
bodies arrived to replace some who had to leave on Saturday and the day
progressed at a steady pace. One of the fun things about this many people
together is always the oop's that can occur. When there is a customer and
a deadline things that go wrong aren't very funny, but with no such
constraints... spilled paint and errors in judgement are down right
hilarious. Like the fact that John Rigby is known for never getting any
paint on himself whilst working, so when Darren helped dispel that belief
my passing the yellow pot to John (from the top of three lifts of
scaffold) all Mr Rigby could do was cop it sweet and pose for the
Ben Hadfield gave us a few notes from his now famous dig and
then jumped in and painted everything in site. Dave Wilson, a local signee
stoped by to say hello and got roped into going home to change and
returning to help finish the wall.
Thanks to both Ace and Andrew we
all had Indian Root Pills t-shirts to wear for the final group photo's and
apart from no-one wanting to be on a plank with Uncle (alias Jamie) the
photo's show just how happy we were that is was finished.... well
Two weekends later Michael George and Ace (Adam Howison)
returned to the shed to finish off with the clear. Now all that's left to
do is screw the signature panel in place and it is inri.
different people recall different things from any letterheads gathering.
My favourite moments were perhaps
1- The view of Ace that I'd never seen
before (nor wish to see again) and the dear elderly lady who raced across
the road with camera in hand to get the proof!
2- Cookie who can sleep anywhere, doing
just that in his high-rise hammock.
3- Drop-dogs (as apposed to drop sheets)
who as Jackie put it, were in need of just a little contrast
4- Anzac cookies... or more rightly the
effect they can have on the unsuspecting.
If your intrigued then the only answer
is to come to the next letterheads meeting and see for