Curtain Restoration

Wyreema, Queensland, Australia

Oz Letterheads to the Rescue ... Again!

A plea for help appeared in the Toowoomba Chronicle prior to Christmas, complete with photo of a theatre curtain covered in signwritten adverts. "Can anybody restore this before it falls apart?"

cr begining.JPG (88301 bytes)It was like a carrot to a donkey, and the hall was less than 10 minutes down the road! Phoned the number and arranged a meeting with the "trustees" of the hall.

Took one look! Wow!!!! 5.6m x 3.5m of pure history written on calico in the old powder paints in 1918! The only reason it had survived to this date is the fact that half of it had been rolled up for years and the top half had another layer of calico glued to the back of it to hold it together.

"Can you help?" "Yes, I would love to, but need some help" "How much? We don't have much left after renovating the hall" "How about FREE?" Silence (is this paint covered old dude for real?) "Give me a couple of weeks to organize some paint etc and we will do it!" "Australia Day long weekend suit you?" Sorta fitting time to restore an 80+ year old piece of history.

Rest was easy. Sponsors came out of the woodwork when all you asked for was anything but money.

cr thanks.JPG (34547 bytes)Oxlades/Viponds provided the Tautflex Paint, BMS Mitre 10/Solver the Acrylics, Master Hire compressors and cherry picker, Mr Ply & Wood the Weathertex ,and my local ISP... ... loaned us a laptop/cam and gave us free hours so we could broadcast live to Letterheads around the World via HeadTV. Of the original surviving advertisers on the curtain ... McKinney's grandson paid for the food. Downs Hotel provided all the liquid refreshments and the Chronicle heaps of publicity. With the unbelievable local hospitality from the Wyreema townspeople ... we could ask for nothing more!

Pre-meet Preparations:

I enlisted the help of another "established" Toowoomba Signwriter: Peter Tierney (henceforth known as "PT") PT is a past President of the Australian Sign Association and now a Life Member ... and definitely now infected by the deadly Letterhead Virus ... hahahahaha.

Together we inspected the curtain again and formulated the best plan of attack. With the help of what seemed to be half the town, we mounted the curtain permanently on the back wall of the stage. Because it was impossible to clean with any sort of solvent, we just ran a vacuum cleaner over it to remove layers of dust and then sprayed it with 2 coats of clear Tautflex to seal it. It was then framed with 4x2 planks from 100 year old church pews found under the hall.

It was also decided to repaint the outside front of the hall if time allowed. I did a typical "Bushie" sepia mural to go above the front doors, and PT scrolled the top of a plaque to go in the hall, so we could all sign it for prosperity when we finished.

Day Minus 1

The Eager Beavers started arriving. Katie (Kookaburra) was already here spending a month of her school holidays doing work experience with me. Bob (Badges2), her dad ,arrived from Bundaberg with his friend Kerry from Gladstone and a heap of appropriately printed T-Shirts. Kel Lawton found us via a cell phonecall from around the corner! Immediately asked if he has missed out on anything!

Friday Day 1

Where do we start? We just did!!!!! If you saw something that needed doing, you did it. If you were not sure how ... you asked. Everybody shared ... isn't that what Letterheads is all about!
Darren & Melissa turned up from Hervey Bay and never stopped 'till the meet finished! Barry from Oxlades hogged the TV footage they shot that day for the News. Had to share it with the other good looking chicks like my Daughter Vicki, Katie, Melissa and my apprentice Sarah though.

By lunchtime, we had enthusiastic L'Heads washing in backgrounds so we could still see the original lettering. Kel took over the outside front of the hall and was first to discover how old signwriters made the lettering fit the spaces! Check out the photo .. the LL on HALL horizontal strokes are twice as long as they should be to try and fill up the rest of the sign! But we were here to restore, not to correct, so the theme was always follow the original! It proved to be a constant sorce of amusement and learning. Swiftly the nickname "Doovers"was given to all the little dots, dashes etc ... that filled in gaps in lines. Letter styles changed within words! Suddenly you were writing a serif then back to block! The Freehand script was unreal! But altogther it looked great. Just hard to understand some of the language tho ... Quote: 'nuff said!

Army Bob from Brisbane was closely followed in the door by Bloke (Dave Fisher) .... first time I have seen Dave spend more time with brush than a keyboard at a meet! Ray Wain, who was apprenticed to the apprentice of the original signwriter of the curtain arrived. Very "old school" ... none of this computer stuff! His source of information and original techniques was invaluable. Got him tho! ... infected with "Letterheads" hahahahaha
By the end of the first day we were starting to feel the effects of the heat and hospitality. It was back to my place for a quiet BBQ and reminiscing over a few coldies.

Saturday Day 2

It was an early start via my place for a BYOE (bring your own egg!) BBQ breakfast. With midday temperatures hitting 41c in the shade, it was impossable to keep up the pace, even with the unlimited supply of free refreshments.

Brendon turned up from Kingaroy and Ian (pinstiping ace extraordinaire) Coster-Stewart arrived in time to take over the intricate job of painting the blended scrolls around every panel. 
Kel finished the front of the hall and moved inside to do the panel above the stage. We left the mural untouched as it was too far gone to repaint. Just sealed it with multiple coats of clear and left it as an example of the original work. The locals insisted we put a Letterhead scroll up there too.

Katie was doing a great job on the Web Cam and Letterville Chat, informing the world of the proceedings, but still found time to do a bit of lettering.

Suddenly things were realy starting to take shape. The chorus of local visitors in the back of the hall was like a cheer squad at a football game! With most of it complete by late afternoon the pressure came off and fun blossomed. Anyone on a plank was fair game from below,  pinstriped runners, or at least "L" & "R" on the heels.

We finally retired that night to the air-conditioned comfort and buffet meal at a local hotel ... and lots more reminiscing. It's a known fact signwriters can talk under a load of wet cement as long as the lubrication is adequate!

Sunday Day 3

The finishing touches. Gold pinstripe on the border. Couple of panels completely repainted because the backgrounds were not quite right. Faux panel work on the front doors. Group photos. "Thank you"s from both sides. Group photos for the locals! Fond farewells and it was over except for the shouting by midday.

Darren finally could restrain himself no longer and several "bungers" punctuated the proceedings. An Oz Meet ain't an OZ Meet without fireworks !

Thanks to all that attended or contributed in any way ... it was not possible without you. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and look forward to the next.

I close with a quote from the bottom line of one of the panels:
"Trials Solicited"

We think it meant ... "Try us, you might like what we have to offer!"

Jon "Bushie" Butterworth
Jon lives and works with his loverly wife Sue in
Toowoomba, Q
ld., Australia

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