IT HAS BEEN CLOSE TO 25 YEARS since I wrote anything for Cincinnati Magazine. I am pleased to be back on its pages with an essay on my father and the signs he painted all over the city in the 1950s and 1960s. You can find "Man of Letters" here.
My girlfriend and I were lingering by the display windows of a dirty bookstore. The year must have been 1972 or 1973. We were high school sweethearts, teenagers downtown on a date, probably to see a movie at the Grand or the Albee or perhaps the boxy little duplex Studio Cinemas on Seventh Street. As for the adult emporium, it had made headlines by brazenly opening for business on Vine Street in disregard of the local judiciary, which took a dim view of smut. The commercial space leased by the proprietors had these large windows on two sides, but my girlfriend and I were not peering in to ogle the inventory. The owners had discretely covered the windows with white butcher paper signs inviting 18-and-older Cincinnatians to come in and peruse the racy merchandise. We were amusing ourselves by reading these signs when I thought, Wait a minute. I know that script. Only one sign painter in Cincinnati produced such distinctive italic lettering, simultaneously vigorous and elegant and commercial: my father.