Wichita Then Fort Worth


I arrived in Wichita just before New Years day 1924. When I came to Wichita one of the first things I did was join an art sketch class. There was one sponsored by the Wichita Art Association in the basement at the public library occasionally taught by volunteer teachers, C.A. Seward, Bob Aitchison and Ed Davison. I just came fresh from years of life drawing and I was so much better than the rest of the class the others petitioned the Art Association to make me their regular instructor. This they did and the only pay I got was to collect 50 cents per night from each of the students which I kept after paying the model. When I started I guess I made $5 per week.

We got kicked out of the library and for a couple of years went wherever we could find a cheap place to have the class - for awhile a room above the Butts Motor Co., then at East High School and Central Intermediate. Finally the class got big enough the Art Association rented a room in the old Butts Building. I was paid $10 per week and taught two nights a week. The class became still larger and in 1930 Bill Dickerson, just out of art school was hired to teach also two nights per week. In 1931 when I left to take a job in Fort Worth, Bill took over both classes and has made it his job ever since.


Western Lithograph - 1931;
At Western Lithograph (l-r) C.A. Seward, Loren Kennedy,
Vern Day (?), Lloyd Foltz & Clarence Hotvedt.
 

Clarence, Lloyd Foltz, Bill Huff

Because of my teaching at the art class, membership in the Art Association, Artists Guild and Prairie Printmakers I was very active in art circles and pretty well-known. There were very few good artists in Wichita in the twenties, not over a dozen who could ever be called proficient. The Artists Guild of which I was a charter member, organized in 1924 held an exhibit every year and I always exhibited several pieces. Seward, Capps, Foltz, Logan, Leo Courtney and I organized the Prairie Printmakers going up to Sandzen’s studio in Lindsborg for the organization meeting. I was really a busy boy in those days.


We move to Fort Worth, Texas

Laurence Lurker, whom I knew slightly for he had worked at Western Litho, had moved to Fort Worth to work for Safford-Lowdon. Loren Kennedy who was working for The Western also and was learning stone engraving under Bill Tusche and Bill Estes was asked by Lurker if he knew of an artist who might want a job. Loren mentioned me as a possible candidate. Then Bob Lowdon wrote to see if I was interested. This was in early 1931. I expressed my interest and suggested that I go down to interview them. So I got together some samples of my work I had done for Western Litho. They thought it would be a good idea to do a job for them to see how I could do. They wanted a color poster advertising "Texas Tom Tomatoes" and I made up one in my spare time and sent it to them charging $40 for the job.


Loren and Ruth Kennedy

Well they decided they would like me to come work for them and they offered me $100 per week with a year’s contract and with the stipulation that if they wanted to let me go they would have to give me three months notice and I would do likewise if I wanted to leave. At the time I was making $65 per week for The Western and I knew that Vincent would be loathe to give me any more.

It was a terrific decision to make. We had lots of good friends and as an artist I was well known and had a good standing in the community art circles. I was making $10 per week teaching nights, not much to be sure, but it helped my finances and my career. I was getting pretty tired of it though and I did not feel at all bad about leaving and turning my class over to Bill Dickerson, so I accepted the Fort Worth job and resigned from The Western.

The old building where Stafford-Lowdon was located was rather decrepit and they also had an office supply stock up in the second floor where I had my studio. They treated me exceedingly well, though, and I rated high around there for a long time. They had three good salesmen who fed me lots of work, Joe Fournace, Russell Griffith, and Herb Aldrich. The superintendant, Ray Cooper, seemed to take a great liking to me.

I had not been there long when they hired Albert Couchman. It was their idea to have a creative service to create new business and service their present customers, he to do the copy writing and generate the ideas while I did the necessary art. We were doing pretty well, we thought but in 1931 and 1932 the Great Depression was upon us.


A Christmas card Clarence designed and printed
based on their home in Fort Worth.
As for us, during this depression, we were living clover. I had a guarantee of $100 per week (no deductions). At that time things were so bad at The Western my pay would probably have been cut to $25 per week. After I had been there about a year and one half they did cut my salary back to $80 per week and they were fully justified in doing that considering the depression we were in.
 
I did lots of art work for Walkers Austex Chili Co., Bewley Universal and Light Crust Flour Mills, Gebhardt Chili Co., The Julep Co., Pangburn and King Candy Companies, Crazy Water Crystals, and the Cattleman’s Assn. and lots and lots of letterheads and building drawings.

While in Fort worth I tried to keep active in art circles, did quite a few prints and a few lectures but never did achieve the stature I had held in Wichita. An art organization was there called The Allied Artists of Fort Worth. We had a few activities, exhibits, socials and a sketch class of sorts and a few of the artists started an art school.

I started doing some work for Waples-Platter on labels for their canned goods. Would stop over there after work and pick up the jobs to work on at home. I did this for years.
 
An early block print.

About six months after Al Couchman left they hired Charley Johnson to take his place. Charley was sort of an artist, too, and I thought he was overly conceited. I felt that sooner or later there would be friction between us. He was evidently trying to convince the Lowdons that they did not need me and he could do the art himself as well as take on the copywriting. This went on for a long time. About July 1936 I received notice that I would no longer be needed. It was quite a shock to me but I held them to their promise of giving me three months notice. During the three months I made plans to go to New York and go to school for awhile before looking for another job. We were well enough off financially that I thought we could swing this.

The Lowdons evidently had some second thoughts in the mean-time for they called me in and told me that if I went to New York for the winter, went to a litho school there and got into the Lithographer’s Union they would on my return groom me for the job of Assistant Superintendent under Ray Cooper. So when I was ready to go to New York they paid my fare.