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Jobs of Yesteryear

29 June, 2010

The oldest elevator man in Chicago, 1903. Full-length portrait of William Kennedy, said to be the oldest elevator man in Chicago, Illinois. Kennedy operated the freight elevator at the Marshall Field & Company warehouse. 16 Feb 1903 (DN-0000331, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum, via Library of Congress)

NPR has a feature up on its website about jobs that no longer exist, like milkman or bowling alley pin setter.  While it might seem that sign painting limps along, ever on the verge of extinction, I don’t imagine we’ll ever quite go the way of the lamplighter and the elevator operator.   On the other hand, one undeniable outcome of technical advances in the means of production, is that more and more people are producing their own signs without the apparent need of any sort of skill in design or workmanship…

While I’m 100% in favor of the DIY urge whenever and wherever it arises, and I generally support people expanding their judgement about what has aesthetic value–I guess I need, in order to preserve whatever validity attends a sign painting career, to remain ever mindful of having a gift here at NBS, to offer to aspiring sign writers and to local businesses and homeowners.

Hmm… now what is that gift, exactly?  I haven’t spent enough time sussing that out…  Off hand, I’ll say: years of experience, and some measure of intuition, in making things look good.  I’ll keep pondering that, and see how I might better refine it…

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