The Painting at the Community Center

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Vic Mentink, host at the Buckhorn Dining Room, alerted me to the news that the redwood building on Railroad Avenue, across from the Post Office, was for sale for $2,000, and suggested that we each put in $1,000 and buy the building.

The building formerly housed the Winters Dried Fruit Company, prior to that firm building a new concrete building on Abbey Street, and Vic had rented the building and had sleeping quarters in it for those nights when he was too tired to drive to his home in Davis.

One problem in buying the building was that the property on which it was located belonged to Southern Pacific. As I remember, the rent was something like $20 a month, but could be cancelled at any time.

While looking inside the building, we spotted a large painting of orchards and mountains in the background. At that time, the Winters District Chamber of Commerce had a booth in the Yolo County Fair each year, and I felt the painting would be an ideal background for the Winters booth. Whoever was showing the building to us just handed over the painting to me.

Rats had chewed off some of the base of the painting, but those working on the Chamber booth for the fair trimmed off the frayed bottom, dressed it up, and it was used for several years at the fair.

Dick Frisbee, of Frisbee Motor Sales, was secretary of the Winters District Chamber of Commerce, and the painting was stored between fairs, at his business.
The Express ran a picture of the painting in the paper, asking for its history.

W. Irwin Baker, then in his 90s, said that, when he was a youngster walking to Wolfskill School, he observed a painter, on a platform near the railroad tracks, facing the mountains to the west, working on a painting.

I printed Baker’s story in the Express, but then Craig Niemann told me that he didn’t want any publicity, but that his father, Robert Niemann, who ran the Winters Dried Fruit Company in the early part of the century, had commissioned the painting for the Winters Dried Fruit Company’s exhibit in the Pan Pacific Exposition in 1915, celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal.

He said that the painting was done from photos his father provided, and, as far as he knew, the painter had never been in Winters.

The painting was stored at Frisbee Motor Sales between fairs, and when that firm went out of business, we moved the painting to Petersen’s Hardware; the Petersen’s had purchased the business from Everett Fenley.

The Petersens filed for bankruptcy, and before the Chamber could reclaim the painting, the Taylor family had purchased the business, and the painting was legally theirs.
The Community Center was being completed at that time, and the Taylors had a new frame made for the painting, and donated it to the Center.

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