In this case, last Friday evening, the task was to get the iconic Willits Rexall neon sign from its perch in front of the erstwhile Willits Rexall Store to the Mendocino County Museum. We had received word a few days earlier that owners Dave and Dana Lovitt, who have caringly and competently managed the pharmacy on which many in town rely, wanted to give the sign to the Museum, to join what is turning out, sign by sign, to be a fascinating, albeit heavy, collection.
Throwing down a challenge like that in front of intrepid Museum staff person Janet Rayner is like holding an easel in front of an artist. Engaging her design-build skills, and those of her trusty partner, Jeff Crawford, she fashioned a harness for the sign for transport. She figured out time frames with the Pacific Neon Company guys who had a mega-extension truck and were responsible for blow-torching the sign from its moorings.
But a solution for getting the sign in harness from Point A to Point B was proving elusive - until Janet walked into Bob Doty's office at Mendo Mill and asked for help.
Mendo Mill is just down the street from the Museum, and it has been our go-to place for the myriad of projects that accompany exhibit development. It turns out that, in addition to stocking nails, plywood, door handles, and clear plastic, Mendo Mill also stocks heart.
Which explains why on an incredibly hot Friday evening for three hours, Bob and his crew of Robert Southwick and Jason Chesser were part of the community rescuing the Willits Rexall Sign, while Michael Streeter waited at the Mendo Mill yard with the forklift.
- Dave and Dana Lovitt, for being wonderful business people in the spirit of Local First, and for sharing their business history with everyone through the Museum.
- Ricardo Grajeda and Junior from Pacific Neon Company for expertly freeing the Willits Rexall Sign in temperatures reminiscent of their Sacramento base and assisting to harness the sign and move it to Mendo Mill's flatbed truck, as well as being willing and gracious about working with local folks.
- Bob Doty, Robert Southwick, Jason Chesser, and Michael Streeter of Mendo Mill for patiently waiting their turn and then, with skill and finesse, transporting the sign from flatbed truck to forklift to dolly to its spot at the Museum.
- Janet Rayner, Museum Staff, and Jeff Crawford, Museum Volunteer, for creativity and craft and persistence, under heat and pressure.
- The people, passersby and drivers, who waved, stopped to take pictures, expressed their support for rescuing the sign for the Museum, and didn't run us over when we "halted traffic" while the flatbed truck pulled onto Main Street
- Willits and Mendocino County for being the kind of places where people rally together when something good needs to happen, despite their differences.
I wonder if we could create a "sign garden" at the Museum? It would take planning and time and money, but we know what our community can do!