Thursday, September 27, 2012

The "bare" walls


I was writing a blog entry about an Easter celebration and it reminded me of another holiday meal. My parents bought a house in 1964. Like anyone moving into an existing house, we had work to do first. The house had previously been converted into a duplex so we started turning it back into a single-family house. This included removing all of the wallpaper. It could be fun if the paper was steamed just so we could strip a section from floor to ceiling in one shot. The house was old enough that even the ceilings were covered in wallpaper. That was really fun when we got a strip going.

After we had the new stove installed and a china cabinet built into the wall between the kitchen and dining room, we moved in. The upstairs walls were finished shortly after we moved in but the downstairs walls were still bare. The bare walls were old fashioned plaster and lath and looked like they would stand for a couple of hundred years. After our first Sunday dinner in the dining room under the crystal chandelier, my brother Ralph climbed a step ladder and wrote the menu for our dinner on the wall between the living room and dining room.  That was the beginning of a tradition that would continue for over 2 years. Everyone that came through our doors would autograph the walls. My sister Zoe was a talented artist and she decided that we needed something to perk up the living room d├ęcor. Using a step ladder she sketched a harbor scene. I think she modeled it on a picture from Maine.

Not to be outdone by Zoe, my brother Ralph did his magnificent drawling on the ceiling! His master piece was suggestive of the works of Salvador Dali, Picasso, Grant Wood and Grandma Moses. A cubist, surreal and primitive work in pencil on plaster, it featured melted watches and teacups on a bare landscape populated only by cubist nudes wielding pitchforks. It is signed “Ralph Raphael Rawlings” and is the only piece known to be produced by this artist.

We enjoyed our autographed walls and I was actually sad when my father announced that he had hired someone to put up new wallpaper. I just wonder if all of those autographs are still hidden under wallpaper and there is the chance that they could see daylight again if the wallpaper were removed. I don’t know when I will be in Wellsville again, but visiting that house is now on my bucket list. Especially since I remember those walls so well and don’t seem to have any pictures of them!

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