It will be 40 years this July since three stalwart members of the Mount Vernon Downtown Merchants Association stood in front of a newly installed sign, proudly, according to an article in the local paper, “designating where ‘downtowne Mount Vernon’ officially begins.” You can’t help but notice the nostalgic affectation achieved not only by adding the “e” at the end of “town”, but also by the sign’s overall design, which seems to hearken back to Mount Vernon’s pioneer past, when quite possibly gaslight rather than electricity might have illuminated it.
Below the “staff photo” taken by one Jon Brunk (presumably from the Skagit Valley Herald), the brief article acknowledges the contributions of the various Association members responsible for the sign:
Among those lending a hand with the project are the John Meyer Sign Company, who provided needed guidance and installation of the sign poles; Mount Baker Yards donated the wood preservative; Ray Decore, paint; Musser’s Hardware, nuts and bolts; Witco, wood for the sign and General Telephone, dug the pole holes. Others helping were Jim Nichols, Doug Olson, Bill Beck, and Dale McCalib.”
Pictured in the photo are three individuals credited with being “the main force behind the project.” From left to right, they are C.K. Ash, John Meyer, and Tom Henry. Those familiar with the history of Meyer Sign & Advertising need no introduction to the resolute looking man in the middle of the photo. He is, of course, the founder of our company — a proud Dutch immigrant to the Skagit Valley who had founded Meyer Sign some two decades prior to this photo. Knowing John, his “investment” in the sign he stands in front of was probably a reflection of his love and gratitude for the place that welcomed him and his young family following the trauma of the Second World War.
There is another connection between our company and an individual in this photo. It just so happens that our permit specialist, Stefanie Lindquist, is the granddaughter of C.K. Ash. The article cites Ash’s contribution as having “built the lathe for the 18-foot poles and turned them out with a chainsaw.” If this seems like a prodigious task, it’s certainly in keeping with how Stefanie remembers her Grandpa Keith.
“He went by Charles Keith, but you either called him CK or Keith. He had worked for the telephone company, and he would climb up on those old wooden poles to fix the wires. He was the one in the photo who provided the pole and helped dig the hole for it. It was a telephone pole.”
Stefanie remains mystified when it comes to the subject of her how Grandpa Keith might have found the space to turn out 18-foot poles — with a chain saw, no less.
“My grandparents lived in a tiny house on 15th (Mount Vernon) with a small shop in the back, but it wasn’t large enough. Then they moved out to Big Lake, and he had a huge shop — but that wasn’t until the ‘80s. I don’t know how he did it…but I thought it was pretty cool.”
What Stefanie doesn’t wonder about is her Grandpa Keith’s inclination or ability when it came to promoting “downtowne” Mount Vernon. “He would have loved that project…he loved to do stuff like that,” she remembers, smiling.
Coming full circle in this bit of local lore, you should know that we recently completed a new project for the City of Mount Vernon. Some 40 years after John Meyer stood in front of a sign delineating the city’s commercial core, we’ve now installed one that helps you move around in it. The more things change…