I had met the priest of Longview’s largest Catholic church, and his volunteer helper, Linda, there on the church grounds a while back. It was soon obvious that all the existing architectural signs, installed back when the facility was originally built, were truly showing their age. It was determined, that over time, I would repaint and re-letter every one of them. Some of the work would be done on location, and some of it would be done at the shop.
But, the project would be done in installments, starting with the two main signs there by the building, plus a couple of small ones in the portico on the north side. Later we’d tackle those at the parking lot entrances and street corners some distance away. However, I promised that the first and most important group of signs would be looking brand new before Easter Sunday.
Since I was not going to be digging up the signs, which were well cemented into the ground, I had to work around mostly wet and stormy early spring weather. It was the Monday before Easter when I came out to remove those well-worn sign faces, which was not as easy as it looked. I took them back to the shop to strip off the old copy, and then cleaned and prepped them before spray painting a new finish of dark bronze architectural enamel late Tuesday evening. I sprayed the posts in the field on Thursday, but used a different reducer for the work I did onsite, which ended up being a blessing in disguise.
I say that because, although the paint job on the posts dried and cured just fine, days later the signs faces painted with the same paint, but using a different reducer, were still too tacky to touch or put lettering on, even on Good Friday, the Friday before Easter.
Too late to start over, my only chance was to heat cure them in some way, and hopefully my ace in the hole would be the big powder coating oven over at WPC Services across the street. But after the first attempt at force curing them at 220 degrees or so, the paint was only marginally dryer, and now it was after lunchtime on Saturday! I had never lied to a Catholic priest before, or any other kind of priest, rabbi or preacher, and I didn’t want to start now. Back in the oven they went, and up went the heat… and the second attempt worked.
But, by the time they cooled, and I had them lettered, wrapped, and loaded into the truck, it was, according to one of the signs I’d just put lettering on, too close to the 5:30 Saturday mass to go over and install the four signs I was ready to put back in place.
So I worked on something else and didn’t show up until after 7:30, only to find the whole group gathered around a temporary wooden cross set a few feet from one of my signs. What to do? Well, maybe what I often do in times of crisis… eat. So I quietly drove away to get some supper and kill some time.
I returned at 8:30, but church was still going on, and I decided I might as well join them so at least I would know when things were winding down.
Later I would be told that this Saturday evening Easter Service actually started at 7, and is the longest one of the year. It included and all kinds of things this Texas protestant was little familiar with, but I was determined to stay with my Catholic friends until the service was over. I don’t think the priest recognized his sign man there on the back row, but likely assumed I was just one more back sliding sinner who only came to church at Easter. I stayed until it was over sometime after 10 p.m.
Father Dower may have been dismayed when his signs were not done by that important Saturday evening mass, the big one prior to Easter Sunday. But he must have thought it some type of miracle that by the Sunrise service, or whenever they started that lovely Easter morning, there they were, looking brand spanking new when only parts and pieces had there just hours before.
I had waited patiently until all had left, then worked diligently and quietly around that facility while the priest slept peacefully in his residence a few yards away. Like the Easter Bunny, this sinner-sign maker left pleasant surprises all around the lawn of his church, and sometime after midnight quietly drove his old service truck off into the night, the night before Easter, having kept his promise at whatever cost. I made it to my own and second Easter service, with a clear but very sleepy conscious, having protected the good name and reputation of sign men and sign women all over this country.
Well, what else could I do?
Have a great month, –Rick