Restoring history: Local artist brings downtown sign back to life

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When George Starcher first painted the Liberty Overalls ad on the side of Buck and Lorene Falkner&8217;s store in 1953, the entire project cost the mural artist $38.

Over 50 years have passed since the sign advertising &8220;better looking, better fitting, long wear&8221; overalls was created.

The Falkner&8217;s store has long since moved out of the building, located in the heart of downtown Columbiana, and the sign has nearly faded away &045; until this past week.

Beginning last Wednesday, local freelance artist Lynn Dodson has been restoring the old sign under the charge of the Columbiana Beautification board.

&8220;This is a great thing for this city,&8221; Dodson said from atop her scaffolding late Wednesday. &8220;It adds a whole lot of history to this area.&8221;

With the help of her husband Rusty and parents Bruce and Connie Jones, Dodson was able to finish the sign in time for its unveiling at the annual Monster Walk last night.

Beautification board member Dr. Stancil Handley, who headed up the sign restoration project, said he was excited about bringing back part of Columbiana&8217;s history.

&8220;A lot of the old towns you go into have great history,&8221; Handley said. &8220;This is a great part of ours.&8221;

Handley noted there were a large number of people who were around when the original Liberty sign was viewable.

&8220;A lot of people here are going to remember that sign,&8221; he said.

Two of those people are the Falkners, who still live in Columbiana decades after their store, the Eagle Department Store, moved on to a different location.

&8220;It feels good,&8221; Falkner said as he watched Dodson paint the green trim around the outside of the sign. &8220;I should run for public office again for having my name so big up there.&8221;

Dodson said the reconstruction of the sign was quite a challenge, including discovering what a portion of the sign said that had been lost completely over time.

&8220;We&8217;ve called people all over the country trying to get information about the sign,&8221; she said. &8220;We even contacted the owner of Liberty Overalls in Texas.&8221;

Pictures showing the downtown Columbiana area in the 50s and 60s were used as a reference point for the restoration. But the quality of the photographs left a good bit of research to be done.

&8220;I wanted it to be as authentic and identical as possible,&8221; Dodson said. &8220;I wouldn&8217;t have it any other way.&8221;

The cost of the sign could prove to be the only difference between 1953 and 2006. The $38 that Starcher spent on the advertisement over five decades ago would land him one bucket of the paint needed today to completely restore the sign.