Family, former employees gather to see mural featuring Shamokin dairies
SHAMOKIN - The corner of Water and Market streets has grown more colorful, and it might make some hungry for ice cream.
The Northumberland County Council for the Arts and Humanities' (NCCAH) fourth mural in the city is complete, decorating a building owned by Kathy and Sam Vetovich.
Local artists Matt Leavens, who designed the mural, Jeff Tweed and Claude Harrington put some 250 man hours into the painting over 15 days in the past few weeks. Measuring about 30-by-30 feet at its highest and longest points, it features Martz's Dairy, Reed's Dairy, Maurer's Dairy and Tharp's Dairy, and shows ice cream parlors, a horse-drawn wagon, an ice cream truck, balloons, banners and children enjoying the cool summer treat.
Several people involved with those historic dairies or related to those who were gathered at the scene Tuesday morning to see the mural firsthand. They included Earl Maurer and Ken Bethge, former and current owners, respectively, of Maurer's Dairy; Betty Milbrand, a secretary at Martz's Dairy for 38 years, and Debra Losiewicz, a daughter of the late Frederick "Fritz" Reed from Reed's Dairy.
"I think it is absolutely gorgeous," Bethge said. "I probably have about 200 likes on Facebook for the mural."
Written on the side of the horse-drawn wagon are the words, "Shamokin is the home of bittersweet ice cream," a reference to the popular flavor that originated with Martz's. That business was later purchased by Maurer's.
Bethge, who purchased Maurer's from Earl Maurer in 1993, still makes the famous bittersweet, among many others treats, at his shop on Market Street. His is the only one of the four dairies still in business.
For Betty Milbrand, working at Martz's was a family affair. Her father, Harry Grow, worked there as a route foreman; her husband, Dick Milbrand, was a mechanic in charge of the Martz fleet of trucks, and her brother, Bill Grow, and her brother-in-law, Francis Webber, were both milk men. Even her son, Bobby Milbrand, worked there in the summer.
"Oh, it does," Milbrand said when asked if the mural brought back memories. "I had a good time."
She called the mural "beautiful."
"I think it is an absolutely wonderful tribute to the families and their heritage, and also the community for supporting the businesses," Losiewicz said. "They are the ones that made it successful."
She said the mural evoked "tremendous memories." She said she "admires these young artists for giving their time," and that her late father would be honored and humbled.
Tom Chesney, a great-grandson of Casper and Katherine (Clark) Tharp from Tharp's Dairy, was unable to visit Tuesday, but relayed a memory via Jeanie Shaffer, executive director of the arts council, of a time when his grandmother gave him a ticket to take one friend to get an ice cream and see a movie. Chesney also provided photos to the arts council of his relatives and one of their ice cream trucks parked in front of the Capitol Theatre in Shamokin, which his family also owned.
Leavens said the murals have brought together two subjects he loves - history and art. To have people involved who are connected to the mural subjects adds to the accomplishment.
"To have people be able to reminisce based on what you do is really neat," Leavens said. "I feel honored to meet some of these people and learn more about the heritage of Shamokin. I feel very lucky to be able to do it."
More to come
A smaller mural by Tweed will be hung in the fall at the corner of Eighth and Independence streets on the Varano Insurance building, next to the "Market" mural by Clause Harrington.
The murals are funded in part by a small grant from PA Partners in the Arts. Future murals will depend on donations and funding from individuals and organizations. Donations can be sent to NCCAH POB 472, Shamokin 17872. Any amount is appreciated and can be tax deductible.