“I Survived the Mold Attack” Shirts

I Survived the Mold Attack Shirts


In late summer 1995 as I was awaiting to begin my 5th grade in elementary school, my parents received a letter from the school district which informed us all of a significant change to our 95-96 school year itinerary: the elementary school was temporarily shut down due to a severe mold infestation. We weren’t told the specifics of it, but the general story was that over the summer, the school’s antiquated ventilation systems malfunctioned which spread dangerous black mold throughout the building, damaging a lot of the items in the building such as books and computers.

According to testimony from some of my teachers, they described the building as looking like the set of a horror movie, with large strands of fungus hanging from the ceilings and stuck to desks, books, and walls. This meant that that while the school was closed for the cleanup effort, all students were temporarily shuttled to various schools in the region and taught inside mobile trailers for the duration.

After a few months of extensive cleaning, the doors of East Petersburg Elementary School were finally re-opened for us to attend once again by the start of 1996. To raise money for the cleanup efforts, my 5th grade teacher Mr. Mateer designed a charity T-shirt of the school being attacked by a green monster, along with the phrase “I SURVIVED THE MOLD ATTACK”; this was a simple design using white and green on a black background, and presumably created in primitive graphic design tools. These shirts were then printed in a limited run, and the students were heavily encouraged to each buy one to wear in solidarity.

Well, my mom and stepdad were kind of strict and hated it when I tried to have fun, and didn’t like the idea of me partaking in things like school spirit and extracurricular activities. Basically, that tired trope of “If all of your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too!?” was a phrase they’d use when I begged them to get me a mold attack shirt. Then after the shirts sold out, I was one of the few kids in the entire school who didn’t have one, and I was excluded from the publicity photo in the newspaper of the students wearing their Mold Attack shirts in unity.

Years would go by, and I eventually grew up to become a strapping and handsome young man with an extensive career as a graphic designer. At some point in my career, I said to myself, “Hey, since I know how to use Illustrator pretty damn well, why don’t I ask my friends on Facebook if they still have their shirts, so I can trace it and make my own version!?”

And so, I posted a Facebook post and received a mix of replies such as former classmates claiming to still have theirs but can’t find it, to people claiming they’ll send me a photo – but never actually did. Eventually one of my friends from 5th grade named Steve Kann – who was in my Boy Scout troop in 95-96 – sent me a private message to show me a photo of his original Mold Attack T-shirt in great condition, placed down flat on a table.

Photos courtesy of Steve Kann

I was able to use this as a base image, and thus after hours of tracing and identifying the exact fonts used in the original shirt design, I created an accurate vector design of the Mold Attack shirt!

After making some minor tweaks with my redesign, I submitted my artwork to CustomInk.com to get a prototype shirt printed on demand. I was initially satisfied with the print quality, but then made some slight adjustments to my file yet again, and eventually got two more shirts printed. The images you see below are photos of me wearing my second edition of the shirts after my slight redesigns; basically, the second versions have some of the lines and colors fixed compared to my first draft:


I Survived the Mold Attack

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