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Painters of 1947 mural at Kenmore school reunite with art teacher

By admin Published: October 13, 2011

During the spring of 1947, the art teacher at Lawndale school in Kenmore inspired her seventh-grade students to paint a mural about the Akron rubber industry.

The students painted several scenes, including a rubber tree tapper, a chemist in a laboratory and workers molding an automobile tire.

They used tempura paints blues, rusts and creams on a canvas stretched about 10 feet high and 8 feet wide that still hangs in the top-floor stairwell.

A Beacon Journal photographer took a picture of the students and their teacher, Virginia Goson, when the mural was near completion.

On Tuesday afternoon, Goson and three of those boys, now 77-year-old retirees, returned to Lawndale to look at the mural and recall how it was made. When they attended, Lawndale included grades one through eight.

Two of them, Guy Thrams and David Robinson, are seated at the base of the ladder in the photo. They ended up going to different high schools and hadn't seen each other since eighth grade until the reunion Tuesday.

Another student, Jim Dorton, is standing by the teacher, who is seated, in the photo.

''Hey, Jim, was I a good teacher?'' Goson asked Tuesday.

''Oh, yes. I had a crush on you,'' Dorton said.

Former Akron school board member Sam Salem brought them all together after learning about the art teacher and her students at a recent all-class Kenmore High School reunion.

Salem managed to track down all of the students in the Beacon Journal photo. John Reffner, shown at the top of the ladder in the photo, lives in Connecticut. Don Holliday lives in Colorado. So does Grace Prats Gillings, the girl they remember helping to design the background, though she wasn't in the photo. Hubert Schaneman died last month.

Dorton and Schaneman went on to careers with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and B.F. Goodrich, respectively. Reffner became a professor at the University of Connecticut, according to Salem's research. Holliday started his own specialty metal business in California. Dorton and Prats Gillings both became school teachers.

Goson wouldn't reveal her age, but she retired from teaching art in 1973.

She couldn't recall the exact assignment that got her class in the newspaper back then.

''It was about the time of the war, and we wanted to do something about Akron,'' she said. ''And I let the boys just go. I was their teacher. I just let them go and paint.''

John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.

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