By Reggie Ellis

Murals don't always capture the essence of the walls on which they are painted. Even more rare is to find a mural that captures both the past and present of the organization within those walls.

Five months after he started the mural on the north wall of the Exeter Boys & Girls Club, Bob Thompson has managed to do both. The mural depicts children in front of the original Lincoln Schoolhouse circa 1901. Lincoln School was located where the current school resides along Highway 65 between Chestnut and Clarence streets. Many long-time Exeter residents remember attending the school.

&#8220Everyone whose old enough remembers the one in the mural because many people were upset when they tore it down,” said Mural Committee President Seldon Kempton.

Lincoln Grammar School was constructed near Kaweah Avenue in 1897 after heated discussions on its location between residents on the east and west side of Exeter. Prior to construction, students living on the east side of town went to school at Rocky Point School east of town. West side students were sent to Good Templars hall which was located at what is now Orange Avenue and Visalia Road. After Good Templars burned down, the residents came together to pass a $5,000 bond in 1897 to build a new grammar school. In 1907, a $12,000 bond was passed to extend the brick of the schoolhouse and make repairs.

Another bond was passed in 1912 for $25,000 to build Woodrow Wilson School west of the railroad tracks. These two buildings met the demands until 1922 when a new Lincoln School was built at a cost of $88,000 on the same property as the brick building. The old building was razed upon completion of the new school. The current Lincoln School was again built on the same property in 1970 and the old building was razed.

Now many of the former students of the old schoolhouse have grandchildren attending school on the same piece of property. Afterschool, most of those children now head to the Exeter Boys & Girls Club, just a few blocks down on C Street.

&#8220We had several members at the club who were photographed at the park and used as models for children in the mural,” said Joe Engelbrecht, executive director of the club. &#8220The kids were really excited about it.” Some of them even walk by and try to guess which images in the painting the most resemble.”

Artist Bob Thompson said he enjoyed chatting with the children as they asked if they could be in the mural. &#8220A guy even stopped me and asked if he could be in the mural, but I told him he was too ugly to be a kid,” Thompson joked.

Thompson, who fell in love with art while attending grammar school more than 60 years ago, said it took several months to paint the mural because of the painstaking detail he put into the old schoolhouse, the historical focus of the mural.

&#8220I felt like I laid every darn brick myself,” he said. To get that kind of detail, Thompson used a quarter to and eighth of an inch brush, whereas most muralists paint with a one inch brush. &#8220It get kind of boring doing that all day and night. But I am satisfied with how the school and the mountains turned out.”

The 15-by-50-foot mural marks Exeter's 22nd mural and the second for the Boys & Girls Club at 360 E. Pine St. &#8220Now we have the best looking building on Pine Street,” Engelbrecht said. &#8220I think the club is more visible, colorful and a true landmark in the city.”

The dedication ceremony for the mural will be on Thursday, March 23 at the Boys & Girls Club. More details will be given as the date approaches.

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