An open tribute letter to a sign painter named ‘Clem.’
Photo courtesy of Valerie Adinolfi Berekely, California
Christmas Day 1989, Whitney Place, Saratoga Springs
Dear Clem (Walter Clements),
My name is John Greenwood. Back in the 1980’s I owned and operated a milk delivery business named Price’s Dairy. During those years you painted that name on the sides of some of my milk trucks. I was always fascinated by your profession and by your quiet talent. I was even more curious about your personal story. Over my years in business I would run into you at the counter of a corner diner having breakfast or maybe on the stool of a Caroline St. bar. You were always friendly to me. You seemed to notice I was a young man trying to preserve a withering profession. Maybe because you were doing the same as an aging sign painter. You could see your profession was an endangered species, just like mine.
There was something about your persona that lead me to believe you may have wanted more out of life and a paint brush. You took a great deal of pride in your work. That fact revealed itself as I researched your career looking for signs of your work and your life. I found many hidden treasures during my search. I reunited with friends long forgotten. I made new friends with people in your past. People I’d never met. Nice people who even while living on the other side of the country embraced and understood my search. I heard of your quiet kindness, and your dry and sometimes playful wit. I discovered 40 year old ‘Clem Signs’ right on Broadway that I had been passing by for decades. I truly enjoyed my search so far and felt the need to publicly declare my admiration for you and your work.
As I dug deeper and found more I was even more convinced that your desire to paint had much deeper roots. I felt the pulse of a frustrated artist yearning for a more varied palette and audience. The need to survive and quench your thirst always changing the path you were forced to travel. I too have been searching for a venue to share my creativity. It came later in life and I believe with all my heart that my search for your story played a huge role in me finding my own story.
So Mr. Walter Clements I want to say thank you to you and the loved ones you left behind. My search for a sign from Clem continues on. I am confident there are more hidden treasures to be uncovered and shared. For those of you following this story I know that if you have one ounce of wonder in your body you will have an inkling of what I am trying to accomplish with this seemingly fanatical journey. It’s not so much the treasure as it is the digging.
To follow the entire Searching For A Sign From Clem collection simply search Clem Signs at the top of the blog page. There is a palette full of posts related to this search.
If you find a sign from Clem in your travels around the Saratoga and Glens Falls area please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be there in the stroke of a brush.