Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hannibal, Missouri, 1983

Hannibal, Missouri, August 25, 1983, by James Gurney. Pencil, 11x14 inches.
In 1983 I sat on the curb in Hannibal, Missouri and sketched the storefronts on Broadway. In the margins I wrote the following notes:

A mortician told us that the Schwartz Funeral Home caught fire. He said, "It really went. Biggest fire they had around in a long time. Luckily there was no stiffs inside. Old Schwartz don't do much business."

The owner of the TV repair shop came over. His name is Frank Brashears, and his shop used to be a confectionary. It once belonged to Molly Brown's sister. Upstairs there used to be a bordello. Frank brought over the title and the deed, dated 1823.

Frank has a ham radio set. He recently spoke to Bombay, India. He showed us his postcard, with a picture of his radio equipment. It said "88s" which means Love and Kisses. All ham operators have postcards with their call letters. Frank wrote his: WØCJH.

We met a black artist named Larry Washington whose idols were Boris and Frazetta. He had a pencil drawing of a snake lady. He had a girlfriend who was pregnant. She saw her mother drive by, and her mother stopped and picked her up.

A hobo told us the clock over the P-D Sports Store is five minutes slow. 

Everyone recommends the Steamboat Inn on Main Street. We ate there--good ribeye steak. At the Steamboat Inn, a fellow told us that Mark Twain stayed on the second floor.

All the businesses have changed now, according to Google Street View. That page from my sketchbook is just a yellow leaf, drifting in the winds of time.


Larry MacDougall said...

What a beautiful drawing. Except for the bike, it looks like it could have been done any time in the last 100 years.

Unknown said...

What an elegant, Rockwellian drawing, James!

Celia said...

Great drawing, now a piece of history.

h.n. said...

Dear Jim,

Could you help me out with a technical term for what in Greek is called a zografiko plasimo? It's a way of showing the form of a figure not with a line but is outlined or framed by the colour field surrounding it.

It comes up in Palaeologian Greek art. I seem to recall a blog entry on Pyle where a certain way of framing the elements in a picture had name, I don't know if that's related.

Ezra Suko said...

Love it! That's what is so great about sketching from life. You're capturing and experiencing a unique point in history.

raisinglaura said...


I love your drawing and wish I could own it. See, I own the Brashears Building. I bought it in 2009, and though it doesn't look like it, a lot has been done to the building - new roof and roof supports, garbage removed (all 32 tons of it) and all the walls gutted and ready for electricity, etc. I also have that old abstract with all of the previous owners recorded, including Molly's sister. Moses Bates was the first owner (of the land underneath. It's so good to read your blog post, as any history on the building is largely gone with the oral history of its historic story tellers.

James Gurney said...

I'm so glad to hear from someone from Hannibal, and what a surprise to hear from the owner of the building. What an amazing job you've done with the building. How true that many oral stories are lost with the passing of time. I would be happy to send you a signed printout of the sketch if you would send me a private email me your name and address. My email is at the bottom left of the blog.