Gift from Salem Class of ’63 makes a grand entrance

Morning Journal/Larry Shields The Salem High School Class of 1963 renovated the two large signs it gifted to the school 55 years ago. Those making major contributions include, from left, Tom Bailey, Elaine Reiter, Polly Yarnell, Judy Theiss Beam, Duane McCaslin of DMC Masonry in Salem, Don Kendrick, Rich Sweitzer, Jerry Capel, Ken Gross, and Mel Lippiatt. Work began late last year. The class wanted the sign ready for its 55th class reunion last month and with their effort just made it.

SALEM — Quaker Sam was missing an eyebrow.

That little piece of history went overlooked until members of the Salem High School Class of 1963 — in the midst of renovating its class gift — were advised about it.

The Sign Committee, as they referred to themselves, was working on bringing back to life the two large brick marquees at the high school entrance.

Just off North Lincoln Avenue., the dual brick marquees have stood watch over the corner of F.E. Cope Drive, for 55 Northeast Ohio weather-worn years. According to committee chairman Elaine Reiter, classmate Judy Theiss Beam drove by and noticed their worn, ragged condition.

Reiter recalled her words.

“She said the signs ‘looked as dead as the tombstones in the cemetery’ referring to Hope Cemetery just up the street. They looked dead,” Reiter said.

As one of the first graduating classes — and having spent their junior through senior years in the new high school building — the marquee entrance is near and dear to the Class of 1963.

It was brainchild of senior class vice president Ray Rogers.

So Beam brought the marquees’ condition up at a class luncheon last December when anywhere from 10 to 20 classmates might attend.

Before making a big move, Reiter got a mason, Beam’s son, Duane McCaslin, and permission from the school district to go on the property. A master stone mason, McCaslin owns DMC Masonry in Salem.

They inspected the marquees and reported back at the next class “lunch-bunch” meeting.

“They said it was structurally sound, the bricks, foundation, the whole thing,” Reiter said. But the lights didn’t work.

McCaslin outlined the work, and Reiter explained, “Once we knew it was worth doing the project, then the group said they would go forward” and they formed a “sign committee” to do it.

“We needed smart guys,” Reiter said and got the class roster out.

They got Don Kendrick, Rich Sweitzer, Jerry Capel, Mel Lippiatt, Tom Bailey, Ray Rogers in absentia, along with Beam and Reiter to form the official Sign Committee.

She said Polly Yarnell, while not on the committee, helped out a lot.

Kendrick and Sweitzer got hold of electrician Ken Gross who checked out the lighting and wiring and obtained parts donated by Hickey Metal Fabrication. He disconnected, helped purchase the new wiring and installed it, Reiter said, noting that along with Kendrick and Sweitzer they each had an estimated 21 hours of work in the project.

“Gross also handled detail work,” Reiter said. “Like where to put the Quaker heads.”

The marquees have red, white and black renditions of Quaker Sam on the upper left and The Quaker Lady — who predates Sam by the better part of 50 years — on the upper right.

The heads are hard-fixed into the bricks between the light fixtures. The large steel signs announcing “Salem High School” with “Class of 1963,” are all set off with a touch of landscaping at the base by Sweitzer.

Reiter explained the front sand was peeling and thought to cover it over. McCaslin said he pressure-washed it, ground it out and re-pointed some of the joints and sealed it up.

The steel signs and images of the Quaker Lady and Quaker Sam came from Reiter’s daughter, Celeste, and son-in-law, Nick Yust, who owns a metal sign company in Cincinnati called Nicholas Yust Fine Metal Art.

They needed high resolution images of the Quaker heads to recreate them exactly as they were. Dr. Peter Apicella found what they needed.

And that’s when they realized Quaker Sam was missing his left eyebrow.

It was a small item that retired English teacher Jean Esposito noticed before, but not a big deal was made of it.

“We’re not sure when it came off,” Reiter said, adding the alumni association and the board of education are mystified too. Over the years, copies made and copies of copies. Who knows?

Quaker Sam came along sometime in the 1950s, when Salem’s legendary basketball coach John Cabas wanted a strong male image to complement the Quaker Lady which dated back to the 1898 yearbook.

But about the eyebrow, they’re still wondering.

At any rate, the Class of 1963 had its 55th class reunion set for the July 20 weekend and the committee wanted the marquees finished by Friday, the night of their mixer.

But there was a problem, now in crates the two signs were to be dropped shipped at Kendrick’s residence on Tuesday, but instead were held up in transit and sitting in an Akron terminal days before.

Genuinely worried, Kendrick called and was told they didn’t ship to Salem on Tuesday. To get it dropped-shipped to a residence meant making specific arrangements. That meant Thursday.

They were delivered and uncrated but they had to mount the signs on Friday, the day of the class mixer.

The “smart guys” that Reiter mentioned all assembled at the entranceway at about 3:45 p.m. Friday and with sweat flying, wound up the job at 7 p.m. Just in time.

“A lot of people donated their time,” Reiter said, adding it was a long time from idea to the finished product which was done at a cost of $2,537.

“It was very time consuming, but we did it,” she said with the help of the school and the Salem Alumni Association, which also offered encouragement.

The issue about the one eyebrow was corrected. Reiter said and they’re trying to stop those online without the eyebrow.