ONE AMAZING SIGN PAINTER

June 14, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

Lake City's Frank Thompson, Sr. was one of the most talented early sign painters in our town's history. Many sign painters who came later saw him as a natural born artist. His son, Frank Jr., himself a skilled artist, called his Dad's work "amazing".

In fact, Signcraft magazine recognized Frank's artistry with a cover story in 1986.

Frank, born in 1881, was self-taught and opened his own sign shop here at age 16. For a time, he was the only sign painter between Valdosta and Gainesville and between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. He painted signs, window lettering, banners—whatever was needed.

In 1924, He also started building "Opalite" signs, the first electric signs in this area. His Opalite signs usually had ornate backgrounds and lights that formed 'chasing borders.'

Later Frank did some of the first silk screen signs ever done here.

Frank made Lake City's first street signs and around 1933 he convinced the state to put a sign shop here and make him the superintendent. That DOT sign shop is still here and turns out some of the best highway signs in the country.

In 1911, he photographed most of the storefront signs he had made and thus preserved a pictorial history of his own work and Lake City's businesses in the early 1900's.

Typically he also photographed the store owner standing in front of the store, so he had a picture of the store, his sign, and the store owner. His photographs preserved valuable local history found nowhere else.

Some of those early businesses were "M.J. Walden, Tailor", "J.H. Sandlin, Livery Stable", "L.J. Cobia, Cash Bargains", "A. J. Henry, Law Office", "Desoto Drug Co.", "Piedmont, The Cigarette of Quality", "Sovereign Cigarettes, "Quick Lunch Oysters", "Wise's Drug Store", "Southern Express Co.", "Ballard's Obelisk Flour", "Vanity Fair Millinery", and "Garner Brothers Ladies' and Children's Ready-to-Wear".

Frank died in 1975 at age 84 and left his photographs to his son Frank, Jr., known locally as 'Booger', also an outstanding sign painter.

Both Frank and Booger are now deceased but it would be wonderful if whoever has these old photographs would make them available for display during our sesquicentennial year celebration.

WILDFLOWER MUSICIANS

Do you like to hear talented amateur musicians perform in a relaxed, laid back setting, no charge? Then visit the Wildflower Cafe, 488 North Marion, Thursday evenings around 7 p.m. and you will hear these sidewalk musicians picking and singing with their guitars, mandolins, banjos, and whatever other instruments anyone happens to bring.

Wildflower Café owner Ester Sherrod kindly lets these musicians bring her café chairs out on the sidewalk so everyone can be comfortable.

For photos and more information, go to the cafe's web site at www.wildflower-cafe.com.

HISTORY FLASHBACKS

In 1954: Pat Weeks Arnold was selected as the "Most Talented" girl in her CHS senior class. Four years later, her sister Carole was selected "Most Talented" girl in her CHS class of 1958.

In 1964: George and Betty Etheridge founded Etheridge Furniture Store.

In 1984: Florida Governor Bob Graham recognized Jessie Gleason as a nominee to the Florida Women's Hall of Fame.

In 1958: School Superintendent Buford H. Galloway awarded teacher Lucille Young Inman a "Faithful Service Commendation" for her 24 years as an "Outstanding Public School Teacher" in Columbia County.

In 2001: Linda Sue Felder, the first principal at the 'new' Columbia City Elementary School, retired after 33 years service with our school system.

In 2002: Thelma G. Flanagan, 94, of Columbia County died. She is generally credited with founding the School Food Service in Florida, the beginning of school lunchrooms.

In 2007: Siloam United Methodist Church honored Evelyn Metzger, one of our county's greatest teachers and volunteers, on her 100th birthday.

MUSEUM THANKS

School Museum thanks go to Rosemary M. Bankston for donating copies of her grandfather's (R.A. Mole) teaching certificates from 1894, 1897, and 1911, signed by School Superintendents Thomas C. Collins, H. L. Avant, and J. W. Burns, respectively.

LOOKING BETTER

A doctor examined a man who had been rushed to the Emergency Room, then took his wife to one side and said, "I don't like the looks of your husband at all." The wife replied, "Me neither Doc, but he's a hard worker and really good with the kids." square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.

www.hmorriswilliams.com