Sunday, March 2, 2014

Dad as Artist

 I've always thought Dad faced the possibility of three careers: funeral director (because that's what his father was), grocery store manager (that's how he ended up) or artist.
 He gave up on the mortuary business because he was allergic to so many substances and his sensitive body and formaldehyde wouldn't have gotten along. Plus, he probably didn't have the personality for the funeral business. He wore his heart of his sleeve (a good thing in my opinion) and he'd certainly have spent many a funeral crying right along with the bereaved.
 After high school he worked for a toolmaker in Dayton, driving there each morning during WWII. He wasn't drafted because of pneumonia as a young child and missing ribs and scars. When the war ended - he had already married in 1943 - he was out of a job. Enter Andy's Ninth Street Market in Miamisburg. It wasn't the sort of job where you had any chance of advancement, but it was certainly one with dependable employment. It was stable. It was near home. It was convenient.
 His artistic talent came in handy in the grocery business. All of the window signs - and many inside the store, too - were produced by him. He could draw a beautiful hand-lettered sign in minutes.
 As a kid, I'd always ask him to sketch me cartoon characters and he could draw them freehand. It seemed as though the black wax crayons he used (from the grocery store) could not be producing anything recognizable as he drew and yet, in the end, Micky Mouse or Popeye jumped from the page. I was thrilled to have my own cartoon artist living under the same roof. It must have been like having Walt Disney for a Dad.
 I'm sure when he was a kid he'd draw airplanes (a favorite hobby of his was making balsa wood planes). Surely he was a doodler.
We've always had two of his artworks on display in our house. Both are probably from 1942 when he was a junior in high school.
 "We'd walk across the street [Sixth Street] to that old building [now the Wantz building] for art class," Mom said. Mom remembers the art teacher's name as Ann Shepherd. Mom has nothing from those years. Dad, however, saved two.

Winter Scene - 1942
©William H Schmidt

Windmills - 1942
©William H Schmidt

We have the Winter Scene in a second floor bedroom, against blue wallpaper. It's the perfect spot for it. I walk by it many times each day and marvel at Dad's skill with pastel chalk. It is framed and behind glass. I have no idea where the scene is located - maybe it was taken from a commercial print? - but I've always imagined it to be a home in Bear Lake, Michigan.
 Windmills is kept propped atop Dad's dresser in his bedroom. It is watercolor on art board and is not framed. I've always loved the vivid sunset colors. I only wish some of Dad and Mom's artistic abilities had come to me.

Miamisburg High School - 1942 - Juniors (Part 1)

 This is scanned from the MHS 1942 Mirus. It represents only half the junior class. I didn't want to crop Dad's picture away from some of his high school friends. Dad is in the second row from the top, second in from the left (click the picture to enlarge). He has sort of a Norman Rockwell look in this shot, don't you think?
 He might have made something as an artist, I like to think. But in the war years, I suppose that would have been thought of as a frivolous occupation. At least locally, he'd have had a hard time supporting the war effort with his art.
 Then, too, he married two years after graduating from high school and four years later he had an expanding family to support (namely me). Rather than merely grocer, he was foremost husband and father and I'd rather remember him with either of those titles anyway.
 He excelled at both.

Added: I thought it only fair that I post the second page of the junior class. This page is actually shown first in the 1942 Mirus (because the names are alphabetized). My mother, Mary Paulsen, is in the bottom row, third in from the right edge.

Miamisburg High School - Juniors - 1942 (Part 2)

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