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Welland's Murals: 
MURAL ON THE MOVE
16. Tell Me About The Olden Days

Background:
Unforeseen situations can and do arise over which the Festival of Arts has no control. One such problem was encountered in 1989. One of the buildings displaying a mural was to be totally renovated, threatening the future of the mural.

The Atlas and Civic Employees' Credit Union had purchased the old Firestone building on East Main Street, on which Dan Sawatzky painted his first Welland mural, "Tell Me About The Olden Days." The Credit Union intended to reconstruct and refurbish the building to house its new offices. Once the purchase had been completed, Atlas commissioned an engineering report to determine the best way of saving the mural. Dan Sawatzky was not worried. He commented, "The Credit Union knows the public doesn't want it destroyed and I am sure they will try to preserve it if they can."

The Festival of Arts founded a "Move The Mural" campaign with a goal of $20,000 to transport the 1000 square foot work from the empty Firestone building to a free-standing wall. The Credit Union put forward $16,000 and the wall itself so that the mural could be moved safely. In addition to moving the existing wall, it had to be anchored on a new foundation. Atlas delayed its building project in order to determine a satisfactory solution for saving the mural. A Welland Pirates baseball game at the end of August was a fundraiser for the campaign. The Pirates, the Seaway Mall and The Tribune all donated 50 cents for each ticket sold and challenged other companies to do the same.

The moving of the murals was described by the Festival's executive director as "a one-time engineering feat." It was lifted in two sections by a crane, put on a flatbed truck and moved west on East Main Street about 100 yards. The mural's new home was the back of a parking lot on property owned by the Shoalts Construction Company. This new location put Sawatzky's two murals in the same vicinity, adjacent to each other.

Construction crews took about a week to cut the block wall from the foundation and weld a steel frame around it to support the wall during the move. The weight of the wall was estimated at 80,000 pounds. The steel remained in place after the wall was relocated to provide structural support.

The engineering project was carried out by the Shoalts Company. There was a family link between Roy Shoalts and the second Sawatzky mural, "Little Helper." The old man on the right of the painting of Roy Shoalts' grandfather. Mr.Shoalts is also the owner of the Millstone Building, on which the mural is located. Police blocked Main Street traffic as the specially-designed truck carried the first half of the mural to its new home. The truck was made in Italy and designed for hauling concrete wall panels. Although he had never undertaken a job of this nature before, Mr. Shoalts remarked, "You do the engineering and do what you know how to."

Moving the first part of the wall presented no major problems. However, when the crane returned to the Firestone site to collect the second section of the wall, the engine overheated and started to leak coolant. The crane's water pump had broken, so the work crew added enough antifreeze and water into the engine to allow the moving process to continue. By the time the new site was reached, darkness had fallen and work ceased for the day. The next morning, the job was completed.

The whole process ended successfully and attracted a vast amount of media attention. Dan Sawatzky was delighted with the result and said, "I'm impressed the city of Welland cares enough that they would want to move my mural." As Dan was not able to be in Welland at the time of the move, Ross Beard took on the minor task of touching up the paint where the two halves of the mural joined.

Anyone viewing the mural as it exists today in its new location would never know that it had not always been there. The Festival of Arts had once again shown a determination not to be defeated, which was typical of the spirit and attitude of the citizens involved.

This material is intended to act as a helpful background to the murals project. For motor coach guided tours, portable maps and mural information, contact the Welland Festival of Arts office at (905) 714-0922.

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