RANTOUL — Traffic might flow a little faster in a few weeks on Rantoul's North Century Boulevard.
During the last three decades, Bryce Morris' sign at Morris Mufflers and More has provided temptation for drivers to take their eyes off the road. They want to read Morris' latest quip.
Never mind the hundreds, if not thousands, of mufflers or brakes that Morris has installed over the years. The business at 300 N. Century Blvd. will always be remembered for the sign.
For close to 30 years, the 69-year-old Morris has been maintaining the sign, with a different saying on each side.
Morris will hold a retirement auction at the business Nov. 3, and it's unknown whether the sign will remain.
"Rantoul's been good to me," the Wisconsin native said. "I hope people think well of me, that I'm ... fair, and I like to think that I stand behind what I do."
Morris is known for his ability to converse. Anyone who has a difficult time making small talk would have no trouble doing so with Morris, who knows about as much about the history and residents of Rantoul as anyone, and who has a funny story to tell on about any subject.
Born in Milwaukee, Morris grew up in Waukesha, Wis.
He joined the Air Force after high school, which brought him to Rantoul.
"I was a 20-year man — four in and 16 out," Morris said.
It was while stationed at Chanute that he met his future wife, Marlys, and they settled here.
"That was 45 years ago," Morris said.
After the Air Force, where he was an accounting specialist, he held down a couple of jobs, but neither for too long — jobs in the cost-accounting department at Magnavox in Urbana, then selling insurance.
Then he went to work for Kmart in Champaign, where he ran the auto department for 8 1/2 years.
"My father-in-law, John Schluter of Schluter Homes, drove me kicking and screaming into business for myself, and I have been here for 35 1/2 years," Morris said.
He opened his business May 2, 1977.
In many ways, Morris learned on the job, saying: "The first thousand mufflers are tough. Then they get easier. The same with brake jobs."
It's been a good living, he said. His wife, daughter and son have all been able to go to college and get good jobs on what he has made at the business.
After retirement, Morris intends to do as much volunteer work as he can. He is active in American Lutheran Church in Rantoul. He also hopes to do a little traveling.
"Luckily we're in good enough health to do some of that," he said.
Morris Mufflers and More has also been known for something else. It has been the site for perhaps hundreds of car washes put on by youth groups, cheerleaders, ball teams and bands and other groups.
"It started out with one church group wanted to have it," Morris said. "Now whenever (anyone wants) to have a car wash" they almost always have it at his shop.
But never mind all the brakes, mufflers and car washes. When it comes to the future of his business, about the only thing people want to talk to Morris about is his sign.
Is the sign going to stay? That all depends on whether anyone buys the store and wants to keep the sign. Morris said he would be glad to continue to change it if the new owner wants him to.
At the auction, he will try to sell the business as a whole. If there are no interested buyers, he will sell items piecemeal.
As for what gets put on the sign, Morris doesn't write his own material. He's always on the lookout for new stuff to put on the sign.
He gets it from everywhere, and he's got a million of them — from magazines to advertising to even old Will Rogers sayings.
"Sometimes people bring them to me. I don't try to offend anybody. I don't like to put any political stuff up, but that might change this year," he said with a chuckle.
It takes him about 30 minutes to change both sides of the sign. The sign gets changed about every other week.
"The colder the weather gets, the shorter the sayings," Morris said.
His favorite sign offerings?
Morris doesn't hesitate.
One is: "Raising teenagers is like nailing Jello to a tree."
The other, he had to get the OK from his wife before putting it up: "I knew I married Miss Right. I just didn't know her first name was 'Always.'"