Frank Moritz produced high-quality signs

By Don McAlavy: Freedom columnist

Some of you old-timers may recall those two dang good sign painters and the building that Richard Pettigrew used to have for his engineer office. But the old-timers I knew were Frank and Art Moritz and I and my buddy, George DeVoll, lived with his folks just zig zagged across the street to the corner of Prince and Grand streets.

Frank and Art Moritz were the sign painters and George and I got to know them. Art and his wife, Ethel, lived around the corner at 219 Ross.

Like I say, Art was a dang good sign painter (they used to call it “sign writer”), but it was his father, Old Frank Moritz, who was the master of lettering.

I just stood in awe as Frank Moritz dipped his small paint brush into some paint and we watched as his hand shook. It looked like he couldn’t control his hand and I thought that he couldn’t begin to paint a sign with his hand shaking like that.

Well, the old man’s hand might have trembled, but as he raised it to the sign and started a letter or a line, why that hand was as steady as you please. And he always turned out fine signs. He was a master of gold leaf, too. You don’t see that anymore.

The bank signs and the jewelry store windows used to display some of his handicraft.

He would paint the sign black and then brush on varnish in the areas where he’d lay on gold leaf. The gold leaf was extra thin sheets of gold. I think the gold leaf’s high price is the reason you don’t see much of it now; I think old masters of the craft of the craft, like Frank Moritz, just died off.

Frank Moritz had his sign shop at 711 E. Grand. It must have started around World War II.

As far as I know, Frank only had the one son, Art. Art’s wife was the former Ethel Stone whose folks homesteaded in this country early on.

I was too young then to care about the Moritz family history and unfortunately I never got it. About all I know is when they were born and when they died.

Frank, born in 1880, died in 1961. His wife Ethel Marie was born in 1879 and died in 1962. Art’s wife, born in 1901, died in 1971.

Art B. Moritz was born in 1900 and died in 1973.

But Moritz was a name to remember. If you were fortunate enough to have had a sign by Moritz, you had a sign of quality.

Late at night, while working on the newspaper, Ray or Diana Freedman might sense someone looking over their shoulder, and turning around to see no one.

Have nothing to fear. It is probably only the spirit of old Frank Moritz coming around to see if things are going all right, checking errors, and helping put the paper to bed.


Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: dmcalavy@telescopelab.com