Thankful for Sign Talents
I’m very thankful for sign talents that have been with me for over fifty years. It was the fall of 1976. Jimmy Carter had just become our new President. I was a freshman at Spencerville Junior Academy, a Christian school in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our principal, Maynard Yeary, contracted me to paint our school mascot, a bee, on the band’s bass drum. All through my school days, in fact, from day one, I had been the resident artist and go-to guy for calligraphy, posters, illustrations, or charts. It actually all started before school.
When I was just two years old, still in diapers, Mom said I would pull soup cans from the cupboard, and copy the letters. One of these early “Mark Hackley” drawings has even been preserved in a book of memories that she assembled and made sure I kept safe into posterity! I skipped Kindergarten and on my very first day in First Grade, I won the handwriting contest, my work displayed on the wall from the start. Then soon after, I won the best drawing of our school building, and so on up through Junior High (now Middle School) where I was the artist for the school newspaper and yearbook. So it only made sense that by the time I reached High School it was appropriate that I be hired to paint the bass drum, which was a pretty challenging task for a guy used to pencil or pen and ink as a medium. I remember researching the proper paint to use for plastic surfaces. I wish I had a picture of the drum, but I don’t; But I do remember it was a success. The first of many successful sign projects!
From there, I went on to paint huge mural-type backdrops for the senior play, letter certificates for student awards, design and make campaign posters for school government candidates, and the list goes on and on. After high school, I had a scholarship to attend Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, but declined to take a position as a sign apprentice instead with the US Navy in Bethesda, Maryland.
There I learned how to paint various freestyle letters by hand under the tutelage of experienced sign painter, Herb Root. I learned the basics of industrial painting and sign painting but did not feel like a master as of this point. When I transferred to Andrews Air Force Base in 1982, it was here that I became proficient in the trade and after about three years, I felt like I could take on any job with ease. and speed. I lettered the entryway of the air terminal used by our President and Congressmen, lettered water towers, helipads, interior and exterior wayfinding signs, safety billboards, airport taxiways, insignias, vehicles, you name it!
It was after these early years of training, I felt confident enough to start my own sign business. My Uncle Ellsworth Hackley (A.K.A. Boo-Boo) was the entrepreneurial example in my family who I emulated starting out. Soon I had a part-time business where I developed a good sense of limitations for my talents- certain jobs I was good at and certain ones I was not.
In 1990, I went full-time into the sign biz. Looking back after all those years, I am extremely thankful for the God-given talent of art and design. That talent has enabled me to be self-sufficient. It has enabled me to help people and organizations needing to get noticed and be profitable by increasing revenues; It has helped me realize and share this great gift, a gift that leaves a lasting impression everywhere I go. I’m forever passing signs all over the place that I put into service decades ago! It’s humbling to see all the work I was blessed with the ability to complete.
This Thanksgiving has allowed me time to reflect on my talent and those who have purchased it or benefited from it in some way. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!!
Mark Hackley owns Augusta Sign Company of Staunton, VA.
1619 Middlebrook Road, Staunton, VA 24401 540-943-9818