Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lafayette Centre street clocks, Johnny Unitas and Delgado Signs- Wash., D.C.

Here's a picture of the finished product.
One of two street clocks my company:
Roy Delgado Signs manufactured and installed in Washington, D.C. back around 1986-87 in
the multi-complex development called
Lafayette Centre.
The clocks stood 12.5 ft tall.
At that time, my company had 32 employees and we were booming, it felt great, Saw the two Redskin Superbowl games, 0ne in Pasadena, California when we took the Miami Dolphins to the cleaners and the second in Tampa Bay, Florida when the great Al Davis' Oakland Raiders cleaned the Redskins' clock decisively.
Anyway, one of the clocks was installed on 20th Street and the second one was installed on 21st street, N.W.
between L & M streets N.W.
These two beautiful street clocks were designed by the renowned New York based environmental graphic
design firm, Lance Wyman & Associates, winner of multiple awards for his excellence in industrial design
projects.  One was for his outstanding work for the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington, D.C..
My company bid on the two clocks and the lowest bid came from a company in Washington state, but they would prefer to deal with a local company, so I got the job. My firm had manufactured and installed most of the signage throughout the three-building complex called Lafayette Centre.
After studying the blueprints thoroughly with my team, we decided to have a "basic" welded aluminum frame structure of just the main rectangular portion of the clock which houses the tenant panels outsourced . . . . I figured that if we started with a very accurate skeleton, we could then build on to that outwardly and the rest of the clock in house.
I went to look for a reliable top-notch metal fabricator
in the area.  I knew of none in Washington, D.C. . . .
I did however learn of a company in nearby Baltimore that had manufactured aluminum engine blocks for jet airplanes that required a tolerance of accurateness to 1/100th of an inch.  I instantly realized I found what I was looking for.  I called them up, described what I had and we set up an appointment for a few days later.
I found the company in an industrial area of Baltimore.  They had a marvelous reputation and had been in business for a long time.
In the conference room, I layed out copies of the blueprint and went over in detail exactly their portion of the job . . . basicly two aluminum skeleton frames
consisting of 2x12 inch aluminum channels and various other units of rectangular and square tubing to make up the frame which would eventually house the interior-illuminated tenant panel box.  From there we could easily go forward.
Right after our initial meeting which concluded
at about 11:15 A.M., they invited me for lunch and as I was still seated but getting up, my contact
indicated that he wanted me meet someone important from the company . . . at first, I thought it would probably be the president of the firm . . .
anyway, I looked and stood up and they told me, meet Johnny Unitis . . . . I was kind of stunned and speechless, I said . . . " Well, you sure do look exactly like him !  "
I mean, like what else could I say . . . ? I felt stupid.
Well, anyway, they'd invited me to lunch, about five of us, we talked about football . . . I'll always cherish those moments the day Johnny Unitis bought me lunch !
I learned that Johnny Unitis worked for the firm as a public relations type gig and went along to close large jobs.  I was lucky.
THAT'S my Jonny Unitis story !
I visited the area in 2010 on Memorial Day
to spend a few moments at the VietNam memorial.
Afterwards I grabbed a cab and thought I'd vist my clocks at Lafayette Centre . . . I learned that they'd been repainted a nice satin-black . . . they still look magnificent. These two clocks were probably the greatest job we ever accomplished !
I noticed, my nameplate was still on
one of the legs at the bottom.
Kind of makes you feel like going in and having a glass of 100 proof Wild Turkey . . . on the rocks ! . . . which I did.
As I was gazing and "enjoying" one of my clocks, the bartender asked why I was so pre-occupied with the clock . . .  I just said, you know, that is really a beautiful clock !  He agreed.  I had one more and left him a good tip, and went about my business.
If you're ever in D.C., look at the clocks and remember Johnny Unitis !
Did somebody say:
And I want to add one more thing about my own first-hand experience with "OVER-REGULATION " . . .
I had a SMALL company, actually it is what America's economy is made up of . . . mostly little guys like my company . . . This is what happened:  In about 1990,
one of my men was on a job in Maryland servicing an electric sign from my 55 ft. "Cherry-picker" type bucket truck . . . ( The bucket was the type that was open and looked like a welded cage ).   As he had the boom extended all the way out, he still could not reach where he had to, he was about six inches short, so he put his foot on top of the tray that housed the bucket ( about 6 inches above floor of the bucket )
Down below was a beauroucrat from the Maryland office of the Occupational Safety Hazard Office . . . who just "happened" to have a Polaroid camera . . . Bingo! he takes a picture with my man having his foot six inches
from the base of the bucket . . . straddling his foot for balance on the bottom rung . . . .
A few days later I get a letter with a picture of the infraction . . . choice:  I can pay the fine:  $900.00 or I can hire a lawyer and fight it.
The little guy can't afford this and can put him out of business.
One of my competitors in the same city but a larger company was visited by The National Occupational Safety Hazard people and was fined $52,000.00. All for violations that could be found in ANY sign company in any city in the United States at any time.
 - - - - - - -
When you've experienced this first hand it makes you think about a larger government or a smaller government . . .
And you wonder why businesses are afraid and holding on to their money . . .
I suggest that EVERYONE should go into business just to see what they are up against . . .  


  1. Great Clock! Great Story! Both of them. I especially like the L and C design at the very bottom of the sign. Nice work!
    The closest I can come to your J. Unitas story is that while Drew Belsoe was playing for the N. E. Patriots, he was living in my town. Never once saw him around town, let alone having him buy me lunch. Not comparing the two QB's, just the stories.
    Best, Gary Z.

    1. Hey Gary, interesting . . . I'm a Drew Bledsoe fan.

  2. Hey Roy, I just noticed I didn't even spell Bledsoe's name correctly. Apparently my fingers are much slower than my brain... In any event, I have been a fan of Bledsoe as well. I think he had one of the best arms in football, however, I feel his thought process was just a bit slower than what it needed to be. Thus, his decision making suffered somewhat. I am in no way a football aficionado, I simply enjoy watching the games.
    Again, great clock\sign!
    Best, Gary Z.

  3. Gary,
    Bledso, Bledsoe, Schmledsoe . . . don't feel bad, most doctors who earn in the high six-figures not only can't spell, but can't write legibly ! AND, AND can't draw cartoons !

    I made a deal with my heart surgeon: I won't operate on hearts if he won't draw cartoons ! The amazing thing, at the New Yorker they have writers who try to draw cartoons.

    But a writer who draws cartoons ? You might count on one hand all of the great writers who draw or have drawn cartoons, however there are many cartoonists who write good gags . . . not the same thing, in my opinion.

    Would you have a plumber do the electrical wiring at a nuclear facility ? Some people think it is okay.