Small Maine towns are filled with lots of interesting people that make the communities sparkle, special, different.
The career path for one young lad in one small Maine town in Aroostook County started early. Always drawing, sketching. Guiding either a number two graphite lead or colored pencil in his hands. Eventually dabbling in paint colors.
Shaping, forming, creating simple works of creative art.
The drawings that would never end up displayed some day in the Lourve. Or hanging on some other famous lighted display wall.
Roped off in purple or maroon velvet hip high arched strands. To contain, keep the crowd back. Wearing cameras hung around their necks. Herded to a safe distance away to protect, preserve his one of a kind work.
His dad worked for Putnam Brothers, a local petroleum products dealer on Pierce before it turned the corner heading east. Becoming Leonard Street. Long before 911 jumbled all the Maine small town street names.
So everyone became confused, not so sure. Not just a few to these new parts transplants that needed to raise their hand. Had the need to go ask for travel directions to get somewhere and back.
Allison Britton, the main, primary local sign painter was sitting on a wooden stool.
Lettering the driver’s sign door of a new service vehicle for the blue and orange brand color oil company. One practical sign painting application demonstrated.
That the small boy of twelve witnessed when he had ridden his bike over to just say hello to Dad. Enjoying the freedom of street to street summer vacation travel with pedal power. Under his own steam of his two wheel bike that all safe small Maine towns afford youngsters that get off the couch.
The liquid strokes of paint, the fluid motion of lettering his Dad’s name just below the driver’s side window mesmorized the boy.
Inquisitive, engaged and thinking I can do that. But finding out at home that duplication of what he had seen, studied was not so easy. But practice makes perfect. The vocation training, inspiration outside his own doodling at home had started. To flatten the learning curve.
The advancement of the young lad’s career got a little help from one of Cupid’s sharp arrow.
As fate, destiny would have it, the young boy as a teenage used to walk home with the sign painter’s daughter Barbara. They would say their goodbyes, the up and coming sign painter wannabe would go into apprentice mode.
Entering the shop when Mr Britton, the girl’s Dad was in his paint studio on Spring Street. The one beside Chadwick’s Florist on one side. The young girlfriend, classmate’s matching red colored home on the other.
Twenty questions were asked but mostly learning by watching in silence provided the most information transfer.
Observing the ease that the practiced right hand danced, darted with deliberate strokes. Leaning for support on the left one planted on the surface of whatever lettering project for support. Outdoor advertising, billboards in Maine was not illegal. Not banned, outlawed yet around the countryside. For messages aimed to be read at 55 mph by highway motorists. Kept simple to appear in the corner of their eyeballs.
Lettering trucks, service vehicles, window flyers for store advertising part of the sign painter’s operation.
Hand painted work from scratch done for hanging business shingles for out front an enterprise. To be hoisted when the paint dried. To ride high, wide and handsome on a sign belt above the shop doors.
My Dad has this talented painter create an eight foot ear of corn. “Farm Fresh Corn” announced in a crown over the golden kernels. Just peeking through the green skin ear covering. With cascading brown, white and golden silk topping his vegetable creation.
The one placed yearly on US Rt 2 to announce the Maine farm stand for just picked produce, vegetables, fruits is open for business.
The farmer’s market in the front yard of the homestead. To beckon to motorists that created a steady stream of customers for me a boy of nine to peddle product to after school, weekends.
My Dad also used Allison Britton every time a new trailer truck was bought and needed the Prem Pak label centered, hand lettered on the doors along with the vehicle numbers. To help Mom keep the shipping freight paperwork straight.
I remember being on my hunches squatting, watching the gold leaf applied. Or whatever lettering Allison had been commissioned to do by my parents.
The young Jedi sign painter that learned by watching did not end up marrying the daughter he walked home, then dated through high school. Did not inherit the camel brushes, the wall murals created during the slower winter months by the seasoned teacher, his inspiration. But the skills made the transfer from old to young just the same in a small Maine town connection on the border in Aroostook County.