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You may have seen his signs in East Tennessee and beyond | Arts & Culture

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You may have seen his signs in East Tennessee and beyond
You may have seen his signs in East Tennessee and beyond

For a business the sign outside is often a customer's first impression.

An East Tennessee man had an impressive career in the sign business.

Fifty years ago, Jack and Helen Arp built a house in West Knoxville on Coleman Road.

"Mr. Coleman was my neighbor here and he worked for Post Sign Company," Jack Arp remembered.

That's how he started in the sign business. Over the years he worked for different sign companies putting up signs across the country and East Tennessee.

"I set the first McDonald's sign in Knoxville and the first Nissan, first Burger King, first Shoney's, just about all the firsts," he said.

He set one of the first Cracker Barrel signs at headquarters in Lebanon, Tennessee and claims to have eaten the restaurant's first hamburger.

"They gave us our dinner and it was the first hamburger first fries and Coke that they served," he said.

He's responsible for the original sign at the Arby's off Papermill.

"I did the McDonald's sign the first one out on Magnolia Avenue and it was the most beautiful sign I believe I've ever set. It was all neon with several hundred feet of neon it was beautiful," he said.

An on-the-job injury in 1988 forced his retirement.

"I really missed it for awhile because I had been it so many years," he said.

His legacy lived on for years because he would weld his name and the date inside each sign and those who replaced those signs would see it.

The 86 year old is perhaps most proud of two sign assignments he completed in Knoxville. He had a hand in erecting the JFG coffee sign and he put up the signs at the old Baptist Hospital.

"I devised a beam that stuck over the edge of the building and I could move it. And I used a second line on my crane to hoist the sign up so it worked out great," he explained.

It was a great career for Jack Arp who left his mark on East Tennessee and beyond. Then he quietly retired in the house he built next to the neighbor who gave him his start.

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