Movable Letter Illuminated Sign

Efficient Evangelistic Methods and Pastoral Technique.

By EVERETT E. DUNCAN, Evangelist, Tacoma, Washington

To the evangelist who finds himself in pos­session of a tabernacle or tent, may I present a method of advertising on the front of the meeting place which we have found to be of real value,- yet costing but a fraction of any budget. Recently when my brother and I found we were to have a portable tabernacle, we decided we would utilize the best possible method of advertising our sermon topic at the building entrance in an attrac­tive, yet inexpensive, way.

Undoubtedly all have noticed the unique mov­able-letter lighted signs used on theater marquees. The large black or red or green letters used against " the lighted background arrest the attention of busy, preoccupied people, especially after nightfall, and doubly so if the sign happens to be in a less-lighted area of the city or street.

Upon inquiry at the proper advertising agencies, we found to our dismay that the average movable-letter lighted sign on a marquee costs between $1,500 and $3,000. We were told that a sign of this type, the size of the one on the front of our tabernacle in the accompanying picture, would cost us over $1,000, plus the cost of the letters, priced at about $1 apiece. Any idea of ours to purchase such a sign was immediately dismissed. However, we still liked the idea, and had visions of how attractive such a sign would be on the front of our tabernacle. [Picture of tabernacle front appears on next page.—Editor.]

Our building was located on Main Street just outside of the fire zone. Our location was excel­lent, as many people drove past morning and eve­ning, going to and from work. We had a large canvas sign hung over the street directly in front of the building, but this, of course, was not illu­mined. So we decided to build the movable-letter sign ourselves.

Out of scraps of lumber we built our box 38 inches wide, 12 feet long, and i foot deep, inside measurements. The inside of the box was lined with asbestos, and wired with two rows of porcelain sockets set about 12 inches apart, making eleven sockets in each row. (See Figure I.) The two rows were set about 12 inches apart. We used 25-watt light globes, which gave a bright, smooth light under the lid.

The lid was composed of a wooden frame, hold­ing the regular waxed cloth used extensively on ;the front of chicken coops. The cloth must be stretched tightly and tacked firmly. It cost under two dollars, and from a distance of a few feet folk were unable to distinguish it from expensive glass used on the regular signs. The lid was hinged at the top and hooked at the bottom, so that it could be swung open in case a light globe needed to be replaced.

The metal strips of angle iron upon which the letters were set were welded together and screwed onto the lid over the cloth. There were four of these strips of angle iron %" x I", and long enough to cover the length of the box. (See Figure 2.) Three smaller strips were used vertically, onto which to weld the horizontal strips, to give sup­port and to assure the correct spread between each strip. The strips were painted with black enamel. After covering the roof of the box with roofing paper to make it waterproof, we fastened the box to the front of the building with nails and screws. We also placed a 2" X 2" under the box to give it added support.

From the woodwork shop of Auburn Academy we obtained the material for our letters. From the pile of reject waterproof veneer we found enough good three-fourths-inch plyboard to cut out our en­tire supply of letters, of which we used two sizes. The large letters are ten inches high and the small ones four inches high. For convenience, you need at least eight or ten each of the popular vowels and consonants of both sizes of letters. It is also ex­pedient to have a supply of question marks, excla­mation points, quotes, numerals, etc. We dipped all the letters twice in black enamel, which gives them a coal-black color in contrast to the bright smooth light over which they are placed.

All the letters were slit (according to Figure 3), the slit being a little larger than the thickness of the angle iron, so that the letters could be easily placed upon the sign and removed.

We changed the sign after every sermon, or the first thing the morning after the sermon. The sign was lighted every evening just before dark, and all passing by on their way home from work could plainly see the subject for the evening, as well as the time of service and any other items we wanted to mention, such as special music or simi­lar features.

There is no end of variety that can be used in arranging the subjects by using the large and small letters together. Our box, twelve feet long, was a bit short for some topics ; so I would suggest that if you decide to make a box, make it fourteen or sixteen feet long. However, much space can be saved by using small letters on many of the more unimportant words, such as "the," "and," "of," etc, and putting the "key" word or words in the large-size letters. One illustration would be : "MARK of the BEAST !" In the storeroom of the taber­nacle or tent a convenient shelf should be built for the letters, the letters being stacked in neat piles from A to Z—all A's in one pile, etc.

We appreciated very much the help of a brother in the church who is a licensed electrician. He wired the sign and helped to cut down the expense in many ways. Instead of the $1,000 or $1,500 our sign would have cost us commercially, we spent about $30 to $35 for our entire outlay.

Those approaching the building for the evening meeting would frequently comment on the effective­ness of the sign in attract­ing attention to the eve­ning's subject. Needless to say, the sign can be used indefinitely, over and over again.

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By EVERETT E. DUNCAN, Evangelist, Tacoma, Washington

July 1946

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