Dr. Know: Sign Design, News Anchor Cameos, and Underage Drinking


My family enjoyed our visit to the American Sign Museum in Camp Washington, but something was missing. We saw all those restored signs and their fascinating histories, but there was no information about the museum’s own sign at the entrance. It’s gorgeous. Who designed it? —SIGN RIGHT HERE

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Here:
The world clearly needs some variation of the old saying, “Physician, heal thyself.” Maybe something like, “Sign, sign thyself?” Awkward. We asked Tod Swormstedt, founder of the American Sign Museum, about his own eponymous display. He was literally born into this business: Since 1906, his family has published Signs of the Times magazine, which is still the industry bible, so his passion for collecting and restoring old signs is totally understandable.

It’s also totally forgivable that Swormstedt—busy guy—neglected to credit the sign in front of his own damn museum. That beautiful design came from David Butler of Syracuse, Indiana, who is also rather fanatical about old signage. The logo, you will notice, has wings at either end, which may make the layman think of Aerosmith. For people like Butler and Swormstedt, however, the wings are an echo of something that goes much further back in history: A winged banner proclaiming, “Tell the world with signs!” which was the industry’s slogan and logo for much of the 20th century.

The Doctor notes that your question employed the words museum and enjoyed in the same sentence. Impressive.

I sometimes watch old TV shows on the nostalgia channels. On an episode of Gunsmoke, the western, a courtroom scene briefly showed the bailiff. It was Al Schottelkotte, Cincinnati’s legendary news anchor! I watched the end credits to make sure, and there was his name. How on earth did that happen? —NEWS TO ME

Dear News:
Stay tuned. That is, keep watching those old shows. You’ll eventually hear Al Schottelkotte’s voice coming from a battery-powered radio on an episode of Gilligan’s Island. And if you remember local TV host Glenn “Skipper” Ryle, he’ll briefly show up in an episode of The Rifleman.

This obviously raises many questions, not the least of which is: “How did Gilligan still have working radio batteries midway through the second season?” Back when it was common for a large team of familiar personalities to inhabit local TV stations—in news, kid shows, talk shows, etc.—a few of them would occasionally fly out to Hollywood for cameos on network series. This benefitted everybody: The local station got to promote one of their own, the show got some curious local viewers, and the personality got a chance to show the world that acting was not his or her strongest talent.

You probably failed to notice other cities’ TV celebrities popping into these shows. Remember that brief affair Lassie had? Could have been with that news anchor from Cleveland. Just kidding.

My favorite bartender knows me and my 17-year-old son well, and knows that Ohio law allows underage persons to be served when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. My question is: If we go to an unfamiliar bar, what criteria is acceptable for proving parentage or guardianship? —THAT’S MY BOY, HONEST

Dear Honest:
Because the Doctor is not a lawyer, and because his research and advice are free, and because finding a lawyer whose research and advice are also free is roughly comparable to finding the end of a rainbow, this is quite a challenge.

The law, ORC 4301.69, is no help at all. It clearly permits furnishing alcohol to an underage person in the presence of a parent or guardian, but never addresses the proof required for any skeptical bartender. Birth certificate with your name as the parent? What if you’re a stepparent or guardian? And hey, dude, is “your” kid here the actual kid on that certificate?

The best free advice the Doctor could find suggested that this is the bartender’s call. Officially, the drink is served to the adult, who then gives it to the minor. If the bartender has made a reasonable effort to determine that this is legal, the liquor license is safe. The bartender always has the right to refuse service if anything is askance, so here’s hoping your son has a strong family resemblance. Cheers.

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