Men Seek Preservation of Artwork at Old School  
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Ed Patenaude So I’ve Heard

John C. Bayer, the retired Bayer Motors Co. officer, can rest easy: Joseph Rodio, director of the Chester C. Corbin Public Library in Webster, is on the bas-relief case.

Both men are interested in an art piece, “Love Wisdom and Seek Her Out From Thy Youth,” still in the library of the vacant Anthony J. Sitkowski School. Installed around 1934, it was a gift of the John W. Dobbie estate, when Bartlett High School classes were held in the building.

Sculptor Warren Wheelock carved the piece that surmounts a faux fireplace in the former BHS library. He was a graduate of Webster High School (that’s before the name was changed to Bartlett) and had relatives here. Barbara (Kindler) Bayer, Mr. Bayer’s late wife, was a niece, so he naturally wants the bas-relief preserved.

Mr. Rodio, who came to appreciate the carving when he was a student at Bartlett, has a sharp eye on its future. The Wheelock carving is one of a kind, made so by the inscription, and deserves a place of honor in a public property here, Mr. Rodio suggested.

The Webster School Department might transfer the solid French mahogany carving to another school, as is its prerogative, but if not, Mr. Rodio sees it as a historical draw to a new or expanded public library.

Mark this as a good idea.

Webster Assessor Joseph J. Smith III said he met John J. Kunkel recently and, mindful of Mr. Kunkel’s long tenure as an owner of the former Kunkel Buick Co. of Webster, told the one-time auto dealer that he still has his 1971 Buick station wagon.

“I told him I take good care of it,” Mr. Smith said, “and he told me, ‘It’s guys like you, driving around in 35-year-old cars, that put me out of business.’ ”

Ralph Campbell, a native of the Greater Chicago area, worked as a letter carrier north of that city before transferring to the southern Worcester County postal zone some time ago. He lives now in Oxford.

Mr. Campbell was distributing the mail in my Webster neighborhood when he paused to say he reads “So I’ve Heard” because it frequently provides historical information about his new environs. The difference between Illinois and Massachusetts, he said, is “one is flat and the other is hilly. My legs have really got into condition since I arrived here.”

“Peewee’s” barber shop is still behind Sandi’s Restaurant on Main Street in Webster, but Julian P. Kaczynski, the talent behind the identity, is not around.

The buzz is Mr. Kaczynski and his wife, Rosemarie, have moved to Cooperstown, N.Y., where their daughter runs a campground, and the two-chair shop is on the market. Mr. Kaczynski worked at several locations, starting in the former Maanexit Hotel barber shop in 1948, meaning 58 years with shears and comb. The hotel was on Main Street, between High and School streets. The site is now the downtown Dunkin’ Donuts.

Everyone who sat in his chair was a valued customer, and most were friends, so the young man who entered his shop one day in the 1950s was treated in the same way as everyone else, even though Peewee recognized his customer.

U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy was supposed to be opening the local Democratic campaign headquarters in the same building, but he placed his schedule on hold for some personal grooming. Whatever he said, if anything, was held in confidence, which was the way Mr. Kaczynski treated all chair talk.

Other than to acknowledge that, yes, Mr. Kennedy was a customer, Peewee made but one subsequent reference to the walk-in, and then it was many years later, after President Kennedy memorabilia went on sale. “I should have kept his (hair) clippings,” the barber said.

Computer searches tend to lead me astray. I tried looking for the genesis of air mail service recently and wound up with a sales pitch for a program from New York City’s reception for famed aviator Charles A. Li
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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