WASKOM — A colorful tribute to Waskom’s rich history is turning heads as Signature Cleaning Service, located at 140 W. Texas Avenue, recently unveiled a big surprise – a jaw-dropping 60-foot long and 15-foot-high mural.
“I love it,” said Waskom resident, Maviel Terrazas, as she stopped by Monday to get a closer look.
Terrazas shared how excited she was to see the end result as she had watched the process from the beginning strokes.
“It’s really pretty,” said Terrazas.
“I’ve been here since 5 years old, and I’m now looking at the history and everything,” she said, gazing at the masterpiece.
Seeing the artistic depictions of landmarks such as the old First Baptist Church building, the old Hall’s Super Store and the Chevron gas station took her on a trip down memory lane.
“The Baptist church has been here so long. That’s the old building…and like everything has changed, even from when I got here,” said Terrazas as she pointed out each structure she recognized on the mural.
“I remember Chevron wasn’t as big either. It didn’t have Burger King or anything. It was just a small little space just to pay your gas,” she said. “Philpot’s Store is no longer here anymore either. Hall’s is not here, either.”
The mural brought back good memories of yesteryear.
“That’s why I had to stop by and look at it,” said Terrazas. “This is so pretty.”
Passersby Boyd Merritt and Madison Reel also had to stop and take a look Monday after seeing a view of it from the highway.
“It’s really nice,” Reel said, sharing she’s from Waskom.
It was so striking that she and Merritt had to stop and take pictures.
“I recognized some of it as I was driving by,” Merritt said of the historic landmarks that are celebrated on the mural.
“I’d never seen it before anytime I’ve came here,” he said of the mural. “I saw it, and it was new and I wanted to check it out because it looked really cool.”
He was particularly mesmerized by the field of vibrant bluebonnets, in honor of Texas.
“The bluebonnets there look really colorful,” said Merritt. “I just wanted to stop and see what it looked like.”
A Surprise Gift
The mural was the gift and brainchild of Signature Cleaning Service owner, Tina Lowery. Lowery, who operates the family-owned Christian-based cleaning business said they love Waskom and wanted to do something in honor of the close-knit town.
“We did not tell anybody. The only people that knew were us — our family and the painter, of course. We didn’t even tell the employees. The only people we kind of told were the families of the buildings. We were like it’s a surprise,” said Lowery.
She decided a mural would be the perfect thing to adorn the outside wall of her building after moving in it about a year-and-a-half ago.
“Actually, I was just driving in Shreveport one day, looking at all the beautiful murals and I was like: ‘Oh, we have a building; we can do something on the side of our building; but we wanted it to be something meaningful,” said Lowery. “We wanted it to catch attention and be meaningful.”
A friend of hers suggested a mural, depicting the history of Waskom and the city’s small businesses.
“We thought, well, what a better way,” Lowery said. “A lot of the businesses we put on there are small family-owned business like we are, so we thought to honor not just Waskom.”
Her son, Jay Lowery, suggested adding the train as a tribute to Waskom’s railroad days.
“The train is just kind of symbolizing the railroad track here,” said Lowery.
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the community was founded about 1850 as Powell Town, probably for Jonathan S. Powell, who owned a land grant in the area. It had a post office as Powellton from 1850 to 1872. The name was changed to Waskom Station in 1872 and to Waskom in 1881 to honor J. M. Waskom, a director of the Southern Pacific Railroad who was instrumental in bringing the railroad through the community.
“That’s kind of why this city was founded really. It was called Powell Town; and then it became Waskom Station because of the train station and then they just dropped the station and kept it as Waskom,” said Jay.
The Lowery family commissioned Waskom painter, Manuel Macias, for the job. Macias was a godsend, Tina shared.
“It was the Lord,” Tina Lowery said of how they found Macias.
With her favorite Bible verse, Colossians 3:23, in mind, Tina said she learned of Macias’ craft through a recommendation.
“I’ve always had this verse on my window, Colossians 3:23; that is our verse. We’re a Christian-based company and we are very much vocal about that, so I was simply looking for somebody that could paint my window,” she said. “So I called the guy that had a lot of these other paintings, and I said is your guy still around that did the painting, because I also knew I wanted to talk to somebody about the mural.”
That’s when she was referred to Macias. Macias, along with his sons, came to the store to originally just do her window painting.
“I was just like: ‘Do you think you can do something big?’” Tina recalled. “We kind of had in mind what we wanted. We want to honor Waskom. We want to honor the history of Waskom, the small-family owned businesses in Waskom. We want to incorporate the train. So we just asked, can you do something that big. And he said well, he had done walls in restaurants, but he had never done anything that big. So, he just brought us a sketch and we looked at it and we were like, you know what, that’s what we’re wanting.”
“We gave him a rough, I mean a rough. He made it better,” Jay chuckled.
Macias, who specializes in seasonal window designs, hand painted signs and smaller paintings, shared with the News Messenger how honored he is to have been asked to bring the Lowerys’ vision to life.
He said his vision is to also “see Waskom beautiful.”
“We feel excited for painting that mural,” Macias said Monday. “It’s the biggest we have done because my two sons work with me, and we are so proud for it; and so glad for the people of Waskom.
“We say thanks Tina, for trusting in our job,” said Macias.
The mural took about three weeks to complete. Tina said she loves the outcome.
“In about three weeks he painted that, which amazes me,” she said.
When Macias brought in his sketch, they didn’t realize just how striking it would be.
“We were like ok, just have fun on the building,” Tina recalled. “So we were just watching and the more he painted…people were (captivated).”
“I mean he did such a beautiful job,” she said. “I was just blown away.”
The details of the mural are particularly interesting as the artist didn’t miss a beat.
“Especially when you get back to the road and you look at it, which when you get close you can see that there’s ledges and different things that could obscure a painting,” Jay pointed out. “But, he had it to where when you stand back from the road or you stand back, you can really see the detail.”
“He is such an artist,” Tina praised.
Tina said she particularly loves how the artist paid attention to the history of each building by making sure both large and small details were highlighted – from the parking of classic cars in front of the old Hall’s Super Store to the unique three-dimensional sign that was once on Jim’s barbecue.
“I love what the painter did. I loved what he did, even on the Jim’s barbecue,” said Tina.
“Kristy at Jim’s was telling me that the reason people knew Jim’s used to be here is they had a sign and it flashed ‘Good Food.’ And the ‘Good’ would come and then the ‘Food’, and you could see it from the interstate when they first put the interstate in, so the people would follow the ‘Good Food’ sign,” Tina said. “So I was telling the painter. Well, when he did the painting, he did the ‘Good’ behind the ‘Food’. You could see the ‘G” to make it look just like it was. I thought that was awesome that he put that detail.”
To help their vision come alive, Tina said she went to the families of some of the town’s businesses to get some tidbits of their history. Her family also utilized Waskom Public Library for research.
“The townspeople really kind of helped us with the detail as we went to them to tell us about their place,” she said.
“The library was a huge help,” she added. “We went in there and we got old pictures of Waskom, old pictures of the water tower, of all the different things.”
Tina said Macias replicated the old photos perfectly.
“He is very talented. I really want people to see his work because he is such an artist,” she said.
The mural also includes historic moments such as Waskom’s honor of being a Purple Heart City, recognizing the town as the first sanctuary city for the unborn. Milestones such as the Waskom football team’s 2014-2015 state championship is also highlighted on the masterpiece.
“There was no way we couldn’t put the 2014-2015 football state champs; it’s that East Texas football pride,” Jay beamed.
Tina said she and her family moved to Waskom 26 years ago, and it’s their home. She said they enjoyed learning a lot of the history throughout the mural project.
“My kids went all through school here. They’ve always gone to church here. We settled here and we fell in love with these townspeople. There’s so much history here that you can tap into,” she said.
“We have learned so much,” she added. “Some of those old businesses, we weren’t even around when they were here, like the (Hillin’s) cleaners used to be here. The old townspeople were telling us Futch’s Station was a full service gas station. So we really wanted to depict the history,” she said. That’s why we put the old cars in front of the stores. And like the church out there, we have been members of First Baptist for years. And that’s the original building (on the painting). They tore that down recently but we really wanted to kind of put that up there, because a lot of people got married in that church…it’s really special.”
The Lowery family said it’s just a neat way to capture history.
“People around can appreciate it. A lot of people got a lot of pride in this city, so we want to keep that going strong,” said Jay.
“That was really our motive,” added Tina. “We just wanted to bring Waskom back alive.”
They were happy to be able to savor some memories of the buildings, particularly since it’s on the remaining of a historic structure that had to be demolished due to aging.
“Out of all of these buildings this building was in the best condition. Some of them they had to tear down, which made this available,” Tina said of the once antique store building her store is in. “They gave us the wall really when they tore it down. They were coming down and falling apart; so when they tore it down a lot of people were like they tore down history, so this is another way (to savor history).”
One of her favorite parts of the mural is the train, Tina said. She hopes viewers enjoy the painter’s artwork through the mural, too.
“It is beautiful and I love the attention it’s getting. Like I said, I think he’s great and I think he did a fabulous job,” she said. “We’re excited.”