May 24, 2001

Beginning of the Road

By Dane Sorensen


I am sure many of you will agree. It is like a smiling face, a warm cup of tea, and a piece of chocolate laying on your bed. I am talking about seeing our beautiful Ely logo on the water tower as you come into town after a long sojourn. When I see the Ely logo I know I am only minutes from home. I have made it back once again in one piece. People all over the world feel much the same thing when they see that logo. Whether they see it on the bumper sticker they have on their Illinois car or on the Sheridan flags that were the backdrop in a summer vacation photograph.

Many people don't realize this logo is the work of one of our most creative graphic artists in Ely. Ruth Pengal designed it way back in 1988 when she was only 25 years old. After the design was picked there was a controversy. The city wanted to copyright the design and restrict its use. After a big public outcry it was given over to the public domain for anyone to use. As far as I can see the public has used it well. It is on web sites, brochures and many other clever places.

Alas, our beloved logo is in danger of being diminished. The same people who are bringing us a gold plated sewage plant is now in the process of correcting the lousy paint job on our water tower. This time I hope they get it the painting done right.

The PUC is thinking about having another contest and replace our lovely logo with a new design. This was published in the Echo, though according to Ken Hegman the decision to have the contest has not been made final. Maybe they feel times have changed and a simple logo with trees and a sunrise is not good enough?. Maybe they don't think the single word "Ely" says it all? Maybe they just want people to forget about how much money this paint job is costing us by focusing our attention on what our new look should be? Will we end up with a new abstract look that this time will be plastered with legal symbols like "r" and "c"?. I feel Ely is a bastion of freedom and lots of gray area; we don't need our image redefined. We now have too many special interest groups as it is and they would all want their say in the new logo.

My mind freezes up when I think of what a committee could come up with as far as a new logo. All the good will the old logo had would be wasted. It would be like changing our name. Imagine dropping the name Ely. Granted, few outsiders pronounce it correctly. I have yet to hear a telemarketer not mangle Ely, but to change it is unthinkable. We have over 100 years of history with the name of Ely.

I am by nature a believer in new technology and improvement. I am tempted to pass on some possibilities that represent the kind of Ely some people would like to see us become. Other possibilities just represent an attempt at raw honesty as to what we could turn into if we don't watch out.


After reviewing my attempts at modernizing a logo for Ely I realize more than ever what a can of worms the PUC may be opening up. I don't even like my creations. I guess I would have to agree with Ken Hegman in that I, too, like the old logo and really don't see a need to change it. Paint if you must that old rusty water tower, but please put back our time tested and respected Ely logo.


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