The 24th outdoor mural in downtown Pontiac made its debut on June 18, just in time for the Hang Loose weekend. It was placed on the eastern exterior wall of Edinger’s Filling Station at 423 W. Madison St.
Unlike the first 18 murals, which were painted in the summer of 2009 by the Walldogs — a collection of sign painters and muralists — the newest edition to the outdoor art collection was designed by international artist Tang Dongbai.
The mural portrays a red 1926 Pontiac driving past a cafe on Route 66. The vehicle Dongbai used for reference is currently on display in the Pontiac-Oakland Museum and Resource Center. According to american-automobiles.com, “The Oakland Motor Car Company was formed in 1907 by Edward Murphy, founder of Pontiac Buggy Company. In 1909, the company became part of General Motors. By 1926, the company was in full production of the Pontiac and the higher-priced Oakland.” The Pontiac brand was created by General Motors President Alfred Sloan. It was intended to be priced between the $525 Chevrolet and the $900 Oldsmobile.”
Like the vehicle, work on Route 66 also began in 1926, after the Bureau of Public Roads launched the nation’s first federal highway system. Like the Mother Road, which was a cobbling of existing local, state and national road networks, the new mural ties Pontiac automobiles to Route 66 and the city of Pontiac to the international interest in Route 66.
“Since Route 66 and the Pontiac automobile are centerpieces of our tourism efforts, we thought it would be great to have a mural that would combine them,” City Administrator Bob Karls said. “With 1926 being the beginning of both of them, we thought that was a neat way to tie them together.”
Becky Edinger, co-owner of Edinger’s Filing Station, said when she and her husband, Jimm, purchased the building, they talked to the city about the mural process. Other than the initial conversation, Edinger said the city took care of everything, picking both the mural and the artist.
“When we were looking at purchasing the building last summer, we knew we would have a big space that we could use to add to the murals downtown,” Edinger said. “I think it adds some extra curb appeal to the building and brings tourists who are taking the mural tour a little bit further outside the square.”
In the upper-right-hand corner of the mural is a cafe. Although there is no signage, the cafe represents Jimmie’s Super Mart Grocery, which was owned and operated by Jimmie and Mary Hicks from 1946 until 1972. The business was one of the original buildings on Ladd Street, constructed in 1926, according to Dave Sullivan, an avid fan of Route 66 and a local historian.
“I just think it’s great that we can feature a mural on the side of our building that depicts part of Pontiac history,” Edinger said. “Customers like it, too. We posted pictures on our Facebook page and they have done well.”
Work on the mural was completed in Dongbai’s International Airbrush Art School nearby. For transport, the piece was split into four sections and covered with clear coat.
“Every five years or so we have to put a new clear coat on the murals, but it’s been pretty light maintenance,” Karls said.
Luke Smucker – Pontiac Daily Leader