Personal, Stories Told

How to make a bumper sticker in the 1980s

I’ve written many times about my experience in college at the campus radio station, WMHD. I’d always loved radio and was thrilled to be on the air.

The station went on the air in 1981, and off the air for good in 2013. Who could have foreseen how radio would be come less and less vital? Fewer and fewer students wanted to be on the air, and finally the school threw in the towel.

A small group of students shifted the station to online streaming and still operate it that way. You can listen here. Over the summer, the current station manager found some of my old blog posts about WMHD and emailed me to ask about the old days. She described a small but vibrant group that keeps WMHD streaming, but also involved in providing live music at campus events. It’s exciting to see.

I was looking through some old files the other day when I came upon these two WMHD bumper stickers from around 1987. I designed them myself.

It’s crazy to imagine it now, but in 1987 computers were primitive compared to what we have today and they lacked the tools to design such things. I used paper and pencil to design this sticker. I used a straightedge to draw the WMHD logo. If I recall correctly, I traced some curved object to get the D right.

I used rub-on letters for “Rose-Hulman 90.5FM.” These were sheets with lots of letters on them. You could get them in a bunch of different fonts, but I chose this typewriter font because it looked clean. I drew a faint line and then, letter by letter, put the sheet down onto the paper letter side down, lined up the letter on the line and next to the adjacent letter, and used a pencil to scribble across each letter to transfer it from the sheet to the paper. It was exacting work.

Then I sent the finished artwork off to a bumper-sticker company with written instructions to make the background black, the WMHD and 90.5FM letters yellow, and Rose-Hulman white. I forget how many we ordered, probably 1,000. They came back perfect.

After I graduated I put one on my new car. Looking at it now, I see that it is a slightly different design. We must have run out of the original stickers and lost the original artwork. I would have had to recreate the artwork for a second sticker run!

This wasn’t the only time or way I rendered the WMHD logo. The school let me and some buddies paint the hallway in the dormitory our station was in. We chose this red-stripe-on-white scheme to replace a drab beige. I painted our logo on the wall next to the broadcast-studio door. Because I always did our logo by hand, they came out a little different every time. We painted these walls in 1988 and they stayed this way for nearly three decades. My son made this photo of me next to the logo in 2012.

Me at WMHD

I loved my time on WMHD. It gave me pleasure and joy as I ground my way through engineering school. I used to do the morning show (story here), and I was on the air when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded (story here).

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Film Photography

A 1989 photo ride

My first apartment was the back half of an old house on the north side of Terre Haute, Indiana. The tree-lined street was less than a block away from Collett Park, one of the city’s loveliest spots. I felt fortunate.

I had seen some interesting spots in my neighborhood through my car’s windshield as I went about my business. I thought it might be fun to photograph some of them. So I bought some film, loaded up my best camera, and headed out on my bicycle.

That camera was the Kodak VR35 K40, a typical 1980s 35mm point and shoot. (See my review here.) The film was probably Kodacolor Gold 200, Kodak’s everyday color film that was available anywhere.

The Coca-Cola bottler was a few blocks away on Lafayette Avenue. This great sign faced the street. It was there through at least 1994, when I moved away from Terre Haute, but was removed at some point afterward.

When I moved to Terre Haute in 1985, this plant still bottled Coke into glass bottles. The common size my whole childhood had been the pint bottle, sold in an eight pack. Sometimes you’d see the eight-ounce bottle in a six pack. But I never saw 12-ounce bottles sold in grocery stores until I moved to Terre Haute. 16 ounces had always been too much for me to drink at once, where 12 ounces was just right. And I always preferred a bottle over a can! Sadly, the plant quit the 12-ounce size after a few years. Then the plant stopped bottling altogether and became a Coke warehouse. And now it stores up Coke no more; the building’s for sale. Oh, there’s the seat of my bicycle poking up from the bottom of this photo.

This little pull-behind cart in the bottling company yard was painted in throwback colors and designs that hearkened to the 1950s or maybe even earlier.

I also wanted to capture this odd tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk on 7th Street.

Also this humorous sign on 12th Street across from the Maple Avenue United Methodist Church.

The centerpiece of the neighborhood was the park, of course. Its land was donated to the city by Josephus Collett, a railroad magnate. Terre Haute was at one time a big railroad town. Many tracks still pass through town at grade; in most cases being delayed for a passing train is a valid excuse for being late.

Pity I didn’t photograph within the park that day. Manicured and proper, it always reminded me of something from a long-lost time where ladies and gentlemen, dressed properly, would stroll on a warm afternoon. I used to walk or ride up there all the time, sit on a bench, read a book, and watch people go by.

Down the block was my apartment, in the back half of the house on the left. That’s my car parked out front.

Here’s my front door. Home!

I make photo walks all the time now. I didn’t when I was in my early 20s. I wish I’d done it more often, because I love looking at these photos from way back when and wish I had more.

I did do this one other time, after an ice storm. I photographed the park in its glistening glory. See that post here.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

Along the National Road in western Indiana, 2009

Another camera review I refreshed recently was of my Minolta X-700. I shot just two rolls with it before it succumbed to the common but dreaded Stuck Winder Problem. A certain capacitor fails, and the X-700 becomes a brick.

Minolta X-700
Brick.

That second roll (it was Fujicolor 200) was shot primarily on a road trip along Indiana’s National Road from Indianapolis to the Illinois state line. My goodness but do I miss taking to the old roads. I’ve made not a single road trip this year. Life just has presented higher priorities. I hope for next year.

It felt great, however, to look through these photos from my trip ten years ago and remember a great day alone on this old highway. You might know it as US 40. First, here’s an abandoned bridge just west of Plainfield. It carried US 40 from probably about 1925 until the road was rebuilt as a four-lane divided highway in about 1940. Two new bridges were built just to the south — I stood on one of them to make this photograph — and this one was left behind to molder.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Here’s another view. You can park on a clearing just east of this bridge and walk out onto it.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Just before the four-lane highway reaches Putnamville, a short older alignment branches off. This 1923 bridge is on it, and you can still drive across it.

Old US 40

The bridge feels narrow, and the railing feels heavy.

Old US 40

Near Reelsville you’ll find an old alignment of the road that never got paved.

Old National Road

For a long time I thought this was the National Road’s original alignment. But I learned that the National Road was moved to this alignment in 1875 when a bridge on the original alignment, to the south, washed out and was not replaced. Read about the history of these alignments here.

Old National Road

Near here I stopped to photograph some roadside flowers.

Roadside flowers

When I made it to Terre Haute, I walked along the road for several blocks downtown. It’s known as Wabash Avenue here. This is the entrance to Hulman and Company, which for many years made Clabber Girl Baking Powder.

Hulman & Co.

This building may once have housed the Terre Haute Trust Company, but for as long as I can remember — since I moved to Terre Haute in 1985 — it has housed the Merchant’s National Bank and, after a merger, the Old National Bank.

Former Tribune-Star building

I drove from there all the way to the end of the Indiana portion of the road. Then I turned around and went back to Terre Haute to catch dinner at the Saratoga, a longtime restaurant right on the road.

The Saratoga

It was a great day, and my Minolta X-700 helped me capture it — before it failed.

If you’d like to see more from this trip, via my digital camera, check it out on my old site, here.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Restored: Terre Haute’s 1930s Clabber Girl billboard

If you ever drive US 40 westbound into Terre Haute, you’ll find a great old billboard for Clabber Girl Baking Powder at the edge of town. Clabber Girl has been made in Terre Haute since 1899. The billboard dates to the 1930s. Here’s a photo I made of it way back in 2007.

Clabber Girl

It was in pretty good shape then, but time and the elements are not kind to anything left outside. Here are some more photographs I’ve made of it over the years, showing its slow deterioration. 2009:

Clabber Girl

2013, and notice the clock is different:

Five Minutes to Terre Haute

2014:

Clabber Girl
Clabber Girl

This billboard is on what was the property of Mary Fendrich Hulman, whose family owns the makers of Clabber Girl. Mary died a few years ago, and her sprawling horse farm was sold to neighboring Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, expanding its campus. Rose-Hulman got the billboard in the deal, and decided to have this Terre Haute landmark restored. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star tells the restoration story and shares a photograph of the refreshed billboard. Read it here.

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Film Photography, Personal

From the archives: WMHD-FM Terre Haute, 1986-87

I was 20 and thrilled.

So many children dream of being a fireman or a policeman when they grew up. Not me. I wanted to be the voice on the radio. And look: here I am! Microphone before me, Sennheiser HD40s hanging around my neck, my finger on the turntable’s go button. Let’s do this!

Me on the air at WMHD, 1987

I’ve written many times about my time at WMHD (click here to read every story) but have shown few photographs. I dug through my archives to find some. While you’re looking at what I found, here’s 45 minutes of my show from Dec. 8, 1987, to provide the soundtrack!


WMHD was the student station at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a tough engineering school in Terre Haute, Indiana. Students built this station from the ground up, including its studios.

WMHD studio

Here are our station’s engineers, Steve and Tim, doing some late-night work to keep the equipment in fine tune. It was their custom to take over the station on Saturday nights, playing album sides into the wee hours as they worked.

WMHD engineers working

This was the lobby of our broadcast studio. If you know your rock album covers you’ll recognize our mural as being a reproduction of the 1981 Yes album, Classic Yes.

WMHD lobby

The station’s office was across the hall. I became station manager in 1987; this was my desk.

WMHD office

Here’s the rest of the office. That’s the Program Director’s desk, our cabinet full of public files behind it. I remember the discussion that led to the drawing on the chalkboard: this is the layout for the booth in the production studio we were building.

WMHD office

My buddies tolerated my random photography but I don’t think they understood it. I simply wanted a record of this place so I could remember it better. Mission accomplished; seeing these images puts me right back in that studio, keeping my good memories fully intact. I feel incredibly fortunate that I got to be a part of WMHD, and to fulfill my childhood dream of being on the air.

Times change. Radio started to lose its luster with the millennial generation, and Generation Z abandoned it in favor of streaming. Student interest in WMHD flagged; the station quit broadcasting over the air in 2013. Rose-Hulman sold the license to crosstown Indiana State University, which operates the station now as WZIS-FM from studios on their campus. The former WMHD studios don’t exist anymore.

The desire to broadcast hasn’t died entirely, however. A small group of Rose students operate an Internet music stream that they call WMHD. You can listen here if you’re curious.

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Coffee out

Cup and carafe
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Agfa APX 100 (expired 7/1998)
2018

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, and I love to take it in a restaurant.

When I was in my early 20s I sometimes stopped at a cheerful little cafe downtown on my way to work. It was on 6th St.; I think it was called Boo’s. I always sat at the counter, leaving the few tables to parties of more than one.

Frequently the sheriff ate his breakfast next to me. Such is life in a town the size of Terre Haute. It was his habit to sit at the second stool from the end, and I soon learned to leave it vacant for him. We never spoke, but we always greeted each other by turning our heads toward each other and tilting them back a little.

My eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee set me back only about $3.50, as I recall. Adjusted for inflation, that’s not much more than $6 today. Since moving to Indianapolis I’ve always wished to find a place where I can buy breakfast so inexpensively. The day I drank this carafe of coffee, in a cafe up in Carmel, it and my little egg frittata set me back $13.

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Film Photography

single frame: Cup and carafe

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