Naming Names

Once a month I’d bundle 10 crowns and bridges, and send them to a place I’d never been and to a man I never met. Branford is 26 miles from my door and the Shaw family put RS logos in frame parts since 1976. That’s when I decided to become one of those whose marque appears on bicycles, highlighted in contrasting paint. Through a Yellow Pages search I found Cooney Engraving, told them what I wanted, and they said, “No problem.” For over 40 years it was no problem at all.

Two weeks ago I get an email from a lady introducing herself as Mrs. Shaw asking about a parcel with my name on it. She’s closing the place down asap. Arnie died suddenly, and it’s the end of the road for the family business. She has to return my last box and just needs an address.

There was this smooth routine since Carter was in office. Everything around us may change, but I could always depend on the Shaws to carve perfectly edged graphics in the pieces I sent. I don’t know if I ever said thanks, past the small note I stuck in each box along with payment. I don’t know if they ever saw one of my bicycles either in person or print to know the weight their labors carried. They were skilled craftsmen who did intermediate work so that mine could look a bit more elegant.

The folks at Cooney Engraving were a key part in my life as a maker. Anonymous, and unsung, until now. The last check, never cashed.
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