Another memory from my cartoonist buddy, Randy Enos.
When I was not old enough to work on summer vacations (as I did later on as a caddie and a Western Union boy and putting jelly in jelly doughnuts and in the lab of the Titleist golf ball factory) my dad would often take me downtown with him to where he worked at an insurance company. I would go across the street to the Empire Theater and hang out with the old guy who would be cleaning up the movie house before the folks would come in at noon. When the movie was about to start he’d sneak me into a seat and I’d enjoy a free movie. This was my favorite thing to do. I loved movies and I still do. I’ve affected my two boys with that same fever so much that my oldest son is now a movie cameraman.
But, that’s not what I came here to write. I came here to write about a different adventure when I accompanied my dad down to his office one summer morning; he told me that he had a surprise for me. After Dad did a little business at the office we drove down to the south end of the city. We parked the car and got out. He pointed up in the air across the street; there, high up on a scaffolding in front of a big billboard, two men were painting an advertisement for Sunbeam Bread.
“You want to watch?” my dad said. Of course I wanted to watch. So, he left me there supplied with a tuna fish sandwich for lunch while he went about collecting the 10 cents a week payments for life insurance from the poor Portuguese living in the south end of New Bedford.
I settled down on the curb and for a few hours, I watched mesmerized by the two men working high up on the billboard. One of them was slowly and methodically painting Little Miss Sunbeam biting into a slice of Sunbeam Bread while the other fellow was painting in a large expanse of background color. Watching that head of the girl slowly emerging increment by increment was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. The painter was consulting a picture he held in his hand as he worked. It was obviously the master drawing that had been “squared” off and he was “enlarging” it by painting in each corresponding square on the squared off billboard. It wasn’t like a painter standing at an easel and, perhaps broadly stroking in fairly large areas and then working detail into them. This guy was finishing off each little section at a time. I was fascinated. A positive thrill was coursing through my brain as I watched the smiling face of the familiar Little Miss Sunbeam slowly emerging.
I could barely appreciate my tuna sandwich when lunchtime rolled around. Finally, I watched them finish the job. I don’t think they ever saw me across the street seated on the curb. The “master” painter ended by signing his name, “Joe Martin” down in the lower right corner. Later on I was to see his signed billboards all around New Bedford.
That was the first time in my very young life that I had ever seen an artist at work. It stays with me to this day. To me, he wasn’t just a commercial artist doing a mundane advertising billboard.
To me, he was like a Rembrandt of the skies.
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: