This is an historic week in the world of soap opera comic strips.
I know, I know … “What are soap opera comic strips? Do they even make comic strips anymore?”
A soap opera comic strip is a daily dramatic strip, following a set of characters through various emotional and personal storylines. When I was a kid, these strips were the ones to be found at the very bottom of the comics page. Think Rex Morgan, M.D., or Mary Worth, or Apartment 3-G.
They do still make soap opera comics, although the outlets for them in print have diminished greatly and their time is probably short—especially “legacy” strips that have been around for several decades.
And so back to my original comment about this being an historic day for these soap opera comics. This week, more than 50 years after its first publication, one of those long-running strips is seeing its final new episode published in newspapers.
Apartment 3-G was created by Dr. Nicholas Dallis, a psychiatrist who already had two soap opera strips—Rex Morgan, M.D. and Judge Parker—to his credit. The strip revolved around three single career women—Margo, Tommie, and Lu Ann—sharing a New York City Apartment.
Pretty cutting edge, perhaps, for the comics pages of 1961. But not so much in 2015. Like many other soap opera strips over the years, Apartment 3-G declined in quality, and also found it hard to be relevant—some might even say interesting. Still, the strip continued to have its admirers as well as its critics, and even inspired fan critic blogs such as Ladies of Apartment 3G. Whether you read it or not, it was sort of like an institution; always there, a comfort in its presence if not in its execution.
So what does the demise of Apartment 3G have to do with projection screens, window shades, or Draper in general?
No, we aren’t creating a new comic strip called Of Soaps and Screens.
You might say it’s a cautionary tale, and a story of opposites.
Like Apartment 3G, Draper started a long time ago (60 years before the strip), with an interesting idea that hadn’t been explored very fully. For Apartment 3G it was the modern working woman; for Draper it was managing daylight and glare in school buildings using window shades.
Over the years, Draper could very easily have taken the Apartment 3-G approach: always counting on the same old story, the tried-and-true, and never trying something new or continuing to innovate. Had Draper taken that approach, however, the company would likely have gone the way of Apartment 3G.
Of course, most people who know Draper know the story: Founded in 1902 as a window shade manufacturer, providing daylighting and solar control solutions to schools; the development of our first projection screen, the V Screen, in the 1950s; our eventual growth to one of the largest projection screen manufacturers in the world; the addition of lifts, videoconferencing solutions and more to our line; our remaining a family-owned company in the same small town where we started out; how we’ve never had a layoff. Ever. But one part of the story that can get lost in the “since 1902” line is this: Draper hasn’t just been around for a long time, gathering dust; we have a long and proud tradition of product and process innovation. For instance, did you know we were the first projection screen manufacturer to develop and patent the “case now screen later” concept? Or that over the past few years we spent millions researching and developing our award-winning TecVision line of premium projection viewing surfaces? I could list many more examples but that would make this blog post too long to read in one sitting. Every day our staff of engineers and chemists are looking at ways to improve products and developing new solutions.
In fact, this year we’ve brought home several awards for our product innovations, including TecVision and the Access Fit. This week it continued at two trade shows, Greenbuild and the Worship Facilities Expo. At Greenbuild, our Topspin solar control solution received a Product Innovation Award from Architectural Products Magazine, while at WFX our Screen Boom mounting system received a “Best” Award from Worship Facilities Magazine.
I guess you could say the secret to Draper’s 113-years-and-counting success is in never standing still.
So as Margo, Tommie, and Lu Ann close the door to Apartment 3-G for the final time and slip the key under the landlord’s mat, remember: At Draper, we’re rooted in our history and community, but reaching ahead for future innovations in all of our product lines.
And we’re going to be around for a very long time.