The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Entertainment

August 12, 2010

Milton murals bring people back to town

The Milton murals have transformed blank walls into lively, whimsical works of art. With at-a-glance history lessons.

"Murals tell little stories about the history of the town," said muralist Pamela Snyder-Etters. "I think that's what makes me like murals. They're accessible to everyone. Even if they speak a different language."

No matter what language you speak, you can learn about Milton's lumbering and steel industries, the importance of trains, trolleys, early airplanes, the river, and even the downtown shops and churches, just by looking at "Milton in View," Snyder-Etters' first mural, located on the exterior of the Moose Family Center on Front Street.

"It's gorgeous," said lifelong resident Molly Brown. "It's done a lot for our town. It brings back good memories."

The Capitol Theatre mural on the side of The Coup Agency building on Broadway Street shows the beloved town theater before it burned and was demolished. Huge depictions of King Kong, Laurel and Hardy, and Shirley Temple gaze from the spotlight over the marquee. Films from 1934 featuring these characters were played at the reopening of the theater in 1972 as a tribute to the year it was built.

Milton's revitalization group, The Improved Milton Experience (TIME), approved all sketches for the murals. Main Street Manager Deb Owens hopes to commission more murals in the future.

"I think they bring people downtown to see them. I think they educate people about the history of Milton. I think they provide public art in a public place. And I think they improve the appearance of Milton," she said. She especially likes the Capitol mural.

"I think the Capitol Theatre mural provided a lot of nostalgia for Milton because everyone in the Milton area went to the Capitol Theatre," she said, recalling memories of Saturday matinees. "It was really a spectacular building."

Careful observers will find a consistent trademark in Snyder-Etters' murals: her dogs. Kensi, a 6-year-old Black Labrador Retriever, is in the first two murals, on the packet boat with three little boys in the Moose mural, and waiting in line at the Capitol Theatre mural. And 2-year-old Great Dane Hounslow made his first appearance as Kensi's shadow in the Capitol mural. He makes his first actual appearance in the Stetler Hotel mural, now in progress on the corner of Arch and Broadway Streets.

"Hounslow is in full glory hanging out the window on the Stetler Building," Owens said.

The murals undoubtedly bring people downtown, even from as far away as Ohio. Jack Oberleitner of Ohio was co-owner of the Capitol Theatre and poured his heart into making its grand re-opening a success in 1972. When, a few years after he'd sold it, he learned of the fire and eventual demolition of the building, he could not bring himself to return to the town. Until he heard of the mural and of a possible celebration honoring the Capitol Theatre, scheduled for either this summer or next year. For that, he agreed to return.

"It'll be kind of neat because it'll be his first time returning to Milton since the 1970s," Snyder-Etters said. "I think that speaks volumes for what the murals have done for the town."

For more information on Snyder-Etters' murals, visit www.pjsnyderfinearts.com.

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