By KATE LUDLOW
BERTRAM — From Highway 29 as you drive through Bertram, you reach Lampasas Street and a bright bit of color on the side of a building grabs your eye. If you stop, you will get an amazing glimpse of the town’s history, courtesy of a mural by local artist Guy Jeff Goble.
Commissioned by the Woodmen of the World, the mural stands tall, and depicts several important moments in Bertram’s history. Rather than try to depict one single scene, Goble decided to recreate event buttons and photographs that he had seen throughout the years.
“One of those is an old (75th) Jubilee button. My grandmother had some, and I would look at them a lot when I was a kid,” he said. “I liked the idea of it, you know, there’s a drawer of detritus of your parents and your grandparents history. You can look at the wall and say, ‘Yeah, I have one of those back home.’”
The Jubilee buttons were made in celebration of Bertram’s 75th year of existence. One button is for the Sisters of the Swish, which Goble says refers to the “swishing dresses” of the 1880’s style costumes that the ladies wore to the ceremony in 1957. Another button refers to the Brothers of the Brush, from the same celebration.
“For the ceremony, the men all had to grow beards. If you didn’t grow a beard, you had to pay $2 to get a shave permit,” Goble said.
The Woodmen organization contacted Goble in early 2007 to see if he would be interested in painting the mural. He agreed to do it, for no profit.
“It really didn’t take much convincing,” he added.
In winter 2007, the planning phase began. Goble began digging through old photographs, finding the old buttons, and was able to map out what would go on the wall. On paper, he arranged a pattern, figuring out which image would go where, and from that point, it was mostly freehanded.
The buttons nearly leap off the building in a mild 3-D kind of way, such is the shadow and shading of the images. After approximately hours of work, the mural was dedicated on March 14, 2009.
Goble’s family has been in the Bertram/Burnet area for four to five generations.
“It’s on my grandmother’s side. She is also an artist. We actually did a mural together once, on a building that was where the library now sits. It was to celebrate the centennial, but it was destroyed by fire,” he said.
Goble comes from an artistic family.
“We’re a big family and all the kids have artistic leanings,” he said. “From welding to hair styling, we have it all.”
His mother, Carole Goble, was the director of the Fort Croghan Museum in Burnet, before she retired this past year. His grandmother inspired him on a near daily basis.
“She was here, in the West, in a small town. In small towns, they tend to let people be who they are, there’s less pressure to conform. She was known as an artist, and certainly she had quirks, but I loved that fact. That’s part of it. It’s a nice way to do what is out of place,” he said.
Goble said his grandmother was “not a typical small-town artist. She made these puppets that can still scare you if you come across them in a drawer somewhere. She made these string doors, out of metal. She had a way of pulling things together. It was nice to see that, see creative as something fairly normal.”
Indeed it is that love for small-towns that make Bertram the ideal place for Goble, his wife Julie, and their two-year-old daughter, Emaline. By day, he works for the Burnet County Appraisal District, a job that may appear to be on the opposite end of the spectrum, but lends itself to Goble’s love of history.
“In my day job, I’m always dealing with local records. I work with deeds, and so I’m able to look through and see the names that I’ve grown up with,” he said. “I can find out, where was their homestead? It has meaning in my life. Nothing else that I did had bearing on anything else in my life.”
Goble received a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas in 1990. After some time in Austin, he said he decided it was time to get back to the small city.
“Artists, by necessity, need cheap rent,” he jokes. But for Goble, it was more than that which led him home.
“Sure, I enjoy going back to Austin, but living here…I really enjoy the hometowness. I have a two-year old daughter, and right now, while we’re talking, they’re walking over to the library. We walk over to the store. Everything is just right here. You know your neighbors,” he said.
For Goble, it’s easy to see the influence the small bits of history have on his life. Among the images depicted on the mural, are old farming tokens. The tokens made and represented different farms and ranches in the community, and the tokens were used in coin-like circulation when the stores were having a promotion or sale.
“One of them, Mr. Felan’s, he had sheep shearing. He’d have buckets of them, and give them out to the workers. At the end of the day, that was how they got paid. It was different earlier in the 20th century. Around the turn of the century, agriculture was very different. Cotton, sheep…these were massive operations,” Goble said.
In the middle of the mural, the Bertram School building, which was built in 1909, is shown. While the building still looks the same, the feature in the middle might not. The image shows a group of school children sitting on a merry-go-round like contraption, a thing called, “The Ocean Wave.
“It’s just crazy,” says Goble. “It was suspended from wires, and it’s really just a bench. It’d go back and forth and swing out of control. Mrs. Gimp from the Woodmen, told me the name, she said she used to have trouble when the bigger boys would come, and if they’d see a littler kid on it, they’d start pushing and get that thing really going.”
Bertram’s town founder, Rudolph Bertram, primary stockholder in the Austin and Northwestern Rail company, who established the town in 1882 is shown in a stately portrait setting, alongside a portrait of founding townsman Captain T.D. Vaughn and son Dr. T.D. Vaughn, another local hero.
The mural stands as a visual representation of the town that holds Goble’s heart.
“These are my neighbors. This is my neighborhood. I want this here,” he said.