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Examiner
  • Ted Stillwell's Portraits of the Past: Can I show it to Bess?

  • I guess you could probably say I was born an artist. My older sister, Margie, started me out on crayons pretty young. I think I was 7 when I made my first quarter peddling my artwork, and was immediately hooked – I’ve been trying to peddle my artwork ever since.

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  • I guess you could probably say I was born an artist. My older sister, Margie, started me out on crayons pretty young. I think I was 7 when I made my first quarter peddling my artwork, and was immediately hooked – I’ve been trying to peddle my artwork ever since.
    During my high school years, I had the desire to be an architect and my fine arts credits were taken up with mechanical drawing and drafting classes. But I had room for one elective in my sophomore year, so I signed up for Art-I, which was all fun and games for me. Our teacher was Virginia Jennings, and one day she decided we were all going over and sit in the yard across the street from the Truman Home and we were all going to draw the house. She cautioned us though, that this was not to be a play period. “Anyone who does not turn in a completed drawing of the Truman Home at the end of class would receive a zero for the day,” she said.
    Being a born artist with an intense interest in architecture, this was a breeze for me. I took my straight edge and laid out the house and filled in the details long before the end of class. I was in the process of lying in the shrubbery when none other than Harry Truman himself drove out of the drive on the south side of the house and pulled up to the curb in front of us on the wrong side of the road, no less, and stopped. “Drawing the house, are you kids?” The whole class responded with “Yes sir,” or “Hi Mr. Truman!” and some even said “Hi Harry!” I simply held up my nearly complete picture of the Truman Home and he immediately made direct eye contact with me. “Bring that down here so I can see it.”
    I turned around and looked at Miss Jennings and she had a very stern look on her face, as if to say you had better be on your best behavior, and then nodded her head yes. So, I eagerly jumped up and ran down that terrace and handed him my picture.
    Now, Mr. Truman was always diplomatic and courteous whenever he was talking to the public, and especially when he was interacting with children. And, I’m sure he was just being complimentary, but he said, “Well I do believe this is the best drawing of the house I have ever seen, do mind if I keep it so I can show it to Bess, and here, sign your name to it for her.”
    Once again, I turned and looked at Miss Jennings, and she still had that very stern look on her face. I turned back to Mr. Truman and said, “It would be an honor sir,” and I whipped out my pencil and signed it for him. As luck would have it though, I never had a completed piece of artwork to hand in and Jennings gave me a zero.
    Page 2 of 2 - The next day after class I was standing beside her desk and told her I didn’t think it was fair for her to give me a zero because, after all, I did draw the Truman Home. Well, she agreed with me and said she would remove the zero, but she added, “I knew this would get your attention, you have so much artistic potential, and you are just slacking off in this classroom. I believe you need to apply yourself a little better. In fact, I think you need to also take Art II and Art III before you graduate.” Which of course, I was unable to do because of my architectural ambitions.
    Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups. To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to teddystillwell@yahoo.com or call him at 816-252-9909.
     
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