This curtain hangs in the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum, Maryville, MO.


This curtain hangs in the Brownville, NE, Community Building.


This curtain hangs in the College Springs, IA, Community Building and is in their museum.

By Beverly Clinkingbeard, Westboro, Mo.

Exactly how many advertising curtains were hung in area schools is unknown. The curtains are absent an author signature or a company logo to identify who the creator or creators were. Though made with the same basic theme, each curtain was designed and tailored to a community. The curtains seem to be made of a canvas [art] material, painted a bright color and feature area businesses. Probably the businesses paid to have their name painted on the curtain. Unknown is whether the school also had to pay for the curtain. The curtains were generally hung in the gymnasium of schools on the stage area, and are approximately 21’ x 12’ in size. They could be rolled up or down as needed for plays or programs.
The first place I met the unique curtain was at the College Springs, Iowa, Community Center. It forms a backdrop and is a centerpiece for their small wall museum. Surrounding the curtain are various pieces of local history. In this case, it is Amity School on one side and the town memorabilia on the other. Esther Runyon thought the curtain was still hanging at the school in 1938, otherwise, memory is foggy as to when the curtain was at the school, or when it was removed. However, it was found and rescued from the city’s old quonset hut. No one seems to know how long it was rolled up and stored there. It does have a bit of damage on one end, probably from the storage era. When the town was in the midst of building their community building they knew it would be perfect to use in their museum. There are a couple businesses still viable on the curtain and others date the curtain to early or mid-1930’s. The curtain centerpiece features Crystal Lake. The lake was a special playground and recreation for not only the town, but the entire area. Perhaps the proprietor paid to have the lake featured. (Thanks, Elaine Christensen, and Wednesday morning coffee drinkers, for your comments regarding the curtain.)
A like curtain hangs in the entry to the Nodaway County Historical Society Museum in Maryville, Missouri. It is on the wall at the divided staircase on the main floor. Margaret Kelley, curator at the museum, said the late Wayne Wilson of Parnell purchased the curtain at the Parnell School sale. He had it in storage for a while and brought it to the museum. The curtain hung in the stage area of the gymnasium of the Parnell School. The last high school class to graduate from the school was 1953. Elementary school continued and the stage area was revamped into a music room. But when the curtain was hung and when it vanished from the school, no one quite remembers. It too has ads from area businesses (Hopkins folk always notice the Hopkins ad is minus the ‘s and the center piece picture features a farm in a hilly or mountain scene. (Thanks to Joan Farquher, Kathy Gabbert and Joan Smith for their help and remembrances of Parnell School and the curtain.)
“Hello” to another curtain of the same format. This one hangs in the Brownville, Nebraska, community center. There is a stage and it fits perfectly as a backdrop for any programs or activities. It first hung in the Locust Grove country school four miles west of Brownville. As to whether the country school was its first home, no one quite remembers. It too is created on canvas and painted. One might think the Brownville Bridge or the Missouri River would be featured as the centerpiece, but instead it has a snow capped mountain and a lake scene. When Nebraska closed their country schools, Allison Hayes was teaching at Locust Grove, and along with her husband, Marty, the Hayes boys and Phil Walker, the curtain found its way into Brownville. Students of the country school remember it being raised and lowered for their programs.
It seems strange there is no logo, company or artist’s name, nor date on the curtains. How many were not preserved and found their way into the trash? Was the salesman the painter, or were there traveling salesmen who collected business names and sent them to a headquarters where the curtain was created? Are there any of you readers who remember or know the creator of these curtains? One can imagine as businesses ceased and the advertising became obsolete, the schools thought it was time for a change and the curtains were removed. But it’s neat that a few of the curtains have survived to continue being a part of our times today.