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February 2003:  The Banner

In the Sixties, any self-respecting radio station identified itself at a remote broadcast by draping a colorful piece of cloth over the front of the table.  As the new station director at ten-watt WOBC, I wanted a new banner.

On June 24, 1968, I wrote as follows to another Oberlin College junior, my friend Jan Olson, a seamstress who made much of her own clothing.

Do you recall one evening when we were working on math problems when I asked you if you would be interested in making a WOBC banner for us this summer?  As you’ve undoubtedly discovered by now, I’ve enclosed a design for such a banner.

The scale is three inches to a foot; i.e., your assignment, if you should decide to accept it, is to make a banner about two feet by three and a half feet.  It will often be hung from the edge of a table which is thirty inches from the floor, so two feet is about the maximum possible for height.  We’d like it to be a yellow banner with red letters.  Oberlin’s colors are theoretically crimson and gold, but the team uniforms are almost always just red and yellow.

You notice the grid of half-inch squares superimposed on the letters WOBC; these squares correspond to eighth-inch squares drawn over the letters WOBC in our letterhead (which provided the pattern for the form of these letters with their serifs and all), or to the two-inch squares you’ll probably  use in making your full-size pattern.

As far as materials go, you know more than I do about it.  The banner needs to be flexible enough to be folded up so we can take it with us on the basketball bus, yet hang it up at the game with no noticeable wrinkles.  It also has to be of a rather heavy material, both for durability and to assure that it will hang straight and not billow in the breeze from some ventilating fan.  And it should be possible to clean it without taking undue precautions.  The banner we have now, which is a little too heavy and looks terrible, appears to be some sort of vinyl on a canvas backing; commercial banners are made of felt.

Another item:  in order to hang the banner, we need three to five loops of some sort attached to the back of it at the top, or a better system if you can think of it.

WOBC will pay for the materials you use, within reason.  Please don’t make the banner of chinchilla fur, however.  We can have a banner made for us by some company in Iowa for about $20, though I’m sure the quality would be inferior to what you would produce.

Also, don’t think that I’m demanding that you do this.  If your job for the summer consists of washing dishes at a hospital for eighty-three hours a week, I can imagine that in your spare time you would like to do something other than cutting little letters out of felt.  But if you’re looking for a worthwhile secondary endeavor, this, I think, is a good one.  It’s certainly a lot more practical than making another dress.

Jan put off the project until the end of summer, but she didn’t forget that she’d been commissioned by the president of the Oberlin College Student Network, Inc., namely me, to create a work of art.

She cut letters from yellow felt and glued them onto a piece of red felt.  The banner included our “audio radiance” slogan and looked rather like the re-creation at the right.  Colorful enough for you?

There must have been some materials left over.  Not long afterward, I received an envelope from Jan, containing what you see at the top of this page:  a 6½" by 4½" bannerlet and a note ("I present to you this small token of friendship").



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