Old Munichburg mural unveiled
Art is just part of area’s revitalization
Sunday, June 9, 2013
A large crowd of spectators gathered in Old Munichburg for the unveiling of artist Jim Dyke’s mural on Saturday morning. The historical mural — 48 by 8 feet in size — depicts life in the neighborhood from earlier eras.
Friends, neighbors, acquaintances and family members approached Dyke to congratulate him on his achievement and chat about their memories of growing up on Jefferson City’s South Side, an early stronghold for the German immigrants who settled the district.
The mural is located at 117 E. Dunklin St. on property owned and used by Central Dairy. Protected by a glass window, the work of art shows a mix of beautiful old buildings that no longer stand and others still in use today.
Dyke was gratified by the crowd’s appreciation.
“It’s a nice day. They could have been doing other stuff,” he said.
Painting the mural was time-consuming, and Dyke worked on it for most of last year. Creating the original sketches was his biggest challenge, he said. In the end, he created a picture that allows viewers to experience what it’s like to walk down several blocks of the neighborhood.
For many of the visitors, the mural — which depicts scenes from their childhoods — sparked memories of growing up in the neighborhood.
Carolyn McDowell attended Central School — now the Jefferson City Public School District’s administrative building — between the first and sixth grades. She remembers strolling down the street as a girl to buy her first “Sugar Daddy” — a candy on a stick — at a narrow five-and-dime store stacked to the ceiling with goods.
Around the block, her mother would admonish her father not to tear up the cloth sacks when he purchased grain at the nearby Pay Way Feed Store. The patterned cloth sacks would become McDowell’s dresses.
“My mother made most of her own patterns and she would buy notions — rick rack and such — across the street,” McDowell remembered.
Stanley Scott, 69, has lived in the neighborhood his entire life, minus the four he gave to the U.S. Marine Corps.
He grew up at 817 Madison St. — it’s now 819 Madison St. — and now lives at 314 W. Atchison Street.
“When they redid the house numbers, it made my dad so mad!” he recalled.
As a teen, he threw newspapers around the neighborhood and remembers popping into his mother’s workplace, Busch’s Florist, where he’d buy a five-cent vending-machine soda.
“This block was my playground,” Scott said. “Jefferson City was my home. I never had any desire to leave.”
Both Scott and McDowell remember when the neighborhood used to be a popular shopping district that drew visitors from all over the county. “It used to have a men’s store and a shoe store and a laundry,” Scott said.
“The barbershop has always been open,” McDowell replied.
They said the deterioration of the neighborhood happened over a long period of time — 50 years — and so wasn’t immediately felt. When the Kroger grocery store pulled out, that was a blow, they agreed.
But seeing the neighborhood come back to life has been a joy.
“I would just like to see the rest of Old Munichburg refurbished, not just a couple of blocks,” Scott said.
McDowell, who is a friend of Dyke’s, said she sat with the artist as he worked on the massive painting. As Dyke painted, McDowell would share her recollections of growing up in Jefferson City.
Dyke used models from today’s Jefferson City to represent men and women who lived in the city long ago. For example, Harold Nesbit — who lives in Old Munichburg and works at Saffee’s — was the model for “John the Baptist,” or John Angle, a black man who led Jefferson City’s parades, even in an era where blacks were not well-accepted everywhere.
“John the Baptist was a man who decided to start getting in front of all the parades. It became a tradition,” Dyke said.
Dyke also included an image of his grandfather, who enjoyed walking in the neighborhood, and his grandmother, who still lives in Jefferson City today.
The artist hadn’t really seen the mural since it was mounted behind the glass and said the reflections add an unexpected dimension.
“I like the fact that you can see the painting and then let your eyes see the reflections. It’s like you are seeing the present, in the past,” he said.
Walter Schroeder, a past president of the Old Munichburg Association, introduced Dyke and the work of art.
The former geographer and history buff said it’s important for communities to support public art, because art is a way for cities to distinguish themselves.
“We need this public art to stimulate us, to make us think in different ways and to make a place unique,” he said.
Schroeder also explained how Old Munichburg first came to be settled in 1844. He noted it occurred during another high-flood year when it was possible for small steamboats to float up Wears Creek. Once they arrived, they loaded up their wagons and settled the countryside. He noted, at the time, the area was quite a bit lower, but has been raised with fill dirt.
“It’s hard to believe, but if you were here in 1993, you know how far the water backed up,” he said.
This is the latest project funded through Oktoberfest proceeds and association memberships to restore the South Side as a destination.
A list of donors is posted on the double doors dividing the mural into two parts. Concealed in the mural are 44 names of people who helped fund the work.
The mural is protected from the sun by a covered arcade. The new, tidied space also features new benches.
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