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f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

General Sign Co.

Posted Monday, May 19, 2014, at 12:00 AM

General Sign Co. is shown at 351 North Kingshighway in this undated photo by G.D. Fronabarger.

Lon Maxey founded General Sign Co. in 1939. In a Southeast Missourian story published April 3, 1985, Maxey tells about starting the business and moving the plant several times.

At age 21, Maxey was an artist painting the likenesses of movie stars such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard for Paramount Theaters in Florida.

But Maxey, a native of Marston in Southeast Missouri, couldn't see much future in that job. "The theater business was waning," he recalled and said there was a diminishing call for artists to draw pictures of the stars.

During a visit to the Cape Girardeau area in 1939, he decided not to return to his job in Florida. Instead, he moved here and put his artistic talents to use in an area he felt would ultimately be more profitable painting advertising signs.

Maxey started the business by himself, painting signs in a small shop above the old Shaul Feed & Supply Co. on South Spanish.

"From Spanish we moved to Broadway in a small building where KFVS-TV is now," he said. "Then we moved to Independence and Sprigg streets. After the war, we opened on Broadway, then moved back to Spanish, then to west Broadway, then Kingshighway, and from there we moved here to Broadview where we've been now for 14 years."

In a May 13, 1983 Southeast Missourian story, Maxey said he would relocate from 39 North Broadview after the business was recently flooded. The business had suffered flooding six times from Cape LaCroix Creek.

General Sign relocated to the Nash Road Industrial Park in 1988.

The business closed in June, 2010. It was purchased by the Canedy Group of Sikeston, Mo.

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  • This photo of General Sign Company was taken in the late 50's or very early 60's before the original A&W Root Beer Drive-In was built to the left. The Seven-Up Bottling Plant was to the right. I remember the old vehicles, I used to drive them, Lon Maxey was my uncle.

    -- Posted by Thankful Heartlander on Sat, May 24, 2014, at 9:22 AM
  • I first worked at General Sign in the summer of 1966 while going to the Memphis College of Art between my freshman and sophomore years. I was hired as a sculptor in their fiberglass division. That summer I designed and carved the 22' tall giant that was sold to the Big John Food stores and the Giant Grocery stores.

    In the spring of 1970 I again worked for General as an apprentice sketch artist. Because of the pay I was earning, I soon was a Journeyman in the Sign Painters and Allied Trades Union. Lon Maxey sold the Company to the Society Brands Company in 1971. Because that company wanted to cut back on expenses and employees, I was laid off in 1971. The next year or so, Lon bought the company back. By that time I was to working for a sign Company in Memphis.

    The wonderful thing about working for General in those days was that all the employees seemed to all be really excellent craftsmen. The sign writers and painters, the metal fabricators, the neon and wood workers. It was one of the most fascinating places that I have ever worked.

    -- Posted by Fred Lincoln on Mon, Dec 8, 2014, at 3:01 PM