AMHERST - Daren White gets a history lesson every day when he climbs the ladder to work on the mural at Dayle's Department Store.
Despite cold and wet weather, the mural artist is about a week away from completing his latest creation celebrating the history of the department store that recently celebrated 100 years of business dating back to the days as the Two Barkers.
"I'm just amazed at what I'm learning about the history of this building. It seems as though everyone has a story to tell," said White while working on the mural he's creating over the rear entrance to the department store that has been a longtime fixture in downtown Amherst. "People will stop by and tell me about their childhood experiences going into the Two Barkers."
White started painting the mural last summer soon after completing the Sports Mural that's located on the south side of the Your Place Fitness Salon on Church Street. That mural, which will be signed at the same time as the Dayle's Department Store mural, depicts Amherst's rich sporting heritage.
After a wet fall scuttled attempts to get much done on the mural last year, White was hoping to finish it shortly after the school year ended. Weather has again hindered his efforts, but he's making the most of whatever time he gets.
"I've been out of school now for about three weeks, but this is only my fifth day of painting. It has been very wet and very cool. When it rains you have to wait until the surface completely dries while you can't paint when the temperature is cooler than 10 C. It hasn't been a typical summer."
As the mural itself begins to take shape, White said people are commenting on the intricate detail of some of the panels. He got a lot of his inspiration and material from the store's archives, including a 1917 catalog.
The mural depicts the store as it would have looked between the early 1900s and the 1960s and features some of the popular products of a bygone era. Another of the panels features the store's former lunch counter while he's also hoping to somehow incorporate the old system of carrying cash back and forth to the sales floor from the office.
"A lot of people still remember the days when a tin envelope was attached to a chain and carried to the cashier upstairs and the change returned," he said. "Myself, I still remember the old lunch counter from when I was a student at Acadia Street School. We used to get a drink of water there on the way back to school."
White also remembers hearing stories of how Santa's only appearance in Amherst was at the store.
"Bette Douglas was telling me the children would be lined up down the stairs and out the door to see Santa Claus," he said. "It was a big thing because it was the only store in Amherst he came to."
In the coming days White is hoping to add a car that was built in Amherst to the mural as well as people coming in and out of the store and walking by.
He hopes to have the mural complete by July 23 or 24.
It will be the 12th installment in the Amherst Mural Project and will be featured in a calendar that's being put together by the Downtown Amherst Revitalization Society. The signing ceremony for another of the murals is set for Friday at the Amherst Mystery Mural on LaPlanche Street beginning at 3 p.m.