John Getchell purchased a marquee a few years ago and began writing pithy sayings on it. Those sayings can now be found compiled in a published book. COURTESY PHOTO


KENNEBUNK — In the midst of a dreadful winter, local carpenter, artist and humorist John Getchell had a flash of creative inspiration in a big box store.

It was March 2015, and Getchell saw a marque sign for sale in Sam’s Club. He looked at it and thought, “It will be my analog twitter.” He shared with his girlfriend his idea of buying the sign, installing it in his yard, and putting a daily message on it. His girlfriend scoffed at the idea.

The girlfriend is gone, but the sign remains, parked in front of Getchell’s house on River Road in Arundel, with a message that has changed nearly every day for more than three years.

The messages are 100 characters maximum, and contain pithy thoughts, some with puns or plays on words.


One of Getchell’s favorites is: HIPPO: I’M A LITTLE HEAVY. ZIPPO: I’M A LITTLE LIGHTER!”



There are also messages that are short stories, such as “DAY AFTER DAY, SHE GAZED AT THE SEA, PRAYING FOR HER HUSBAND’S DEPARTURE.”

Getchell also had a series of signs to a fictitious ex-girlfriend named Wendy, including “WENDY, PLEASE TAKE ME BACK! I HEARD WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT LISTENING OR SOMETHING. ETC..ETC.”

Members of a local mom’s Facebook group tried to guess who this “Wendy” woman was, and a few local women named Wendy tried to claim the honor, but Getchell insists she’s just a fabrication.

Though the majority of Getchell’s messages are humorous, some show a more serious side of Getchell, such as last month’s “ -TODDLERS IN DETENTION- THE STAFF IS NOT ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM OR PICK THEM UP OR TO CONSOLE THEM.”

Though many of the messages are original material, some have come from other sources, including people who have given Getchell ideas.


“I’m a curator of bits of wit and wisdom,” Getchell said at a recent interview at Synchronicity Licensing.

His signs have caught the eye of many passersby, and many cars, including local school buses, slow down to read the message of the day.

Getchell has come home to find books of quotes at his door. Objects including a garden gnome and a steel sculpture of a duck have appeared by the sign.

“I love it because I think collaboration is really fun. It’s become more than just my goofball project,” he said.

Among those who noticed the attention grabbing signs was Cynthia Hall Domine, owner of Synchronicity Licensing in downtown Kennebunk.

Domine loved Getchell’s cleverness and wit, and envisioned a book when she saw Getchell’s messages.


“It’s like peanuts, you just want to have more and more,” said Domine.

Domine is now his licensing agent and her vision of a book has become a reality. “Sign of the Apocalypse: Ruminations and Wit from an American Roadside Prophet,” was published in November. Getchell promoted his work on a book tour and has also done speaking engagements.

Synchronicity Licensing has compiled a database of all Getchell’s messages and a 2019 Sign of the Apocalypse daily desk calendar will soon be available, in addition to other items including magnets and buttons.

“I never thought it would get this big,” Getchell said.

As for Getchell, he’s not going to stop writing his messages any time soon. He still keeps a pad by his bed to write down ideas and keeps a running list of potential material on his iPhone.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected].

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