Last July, Times-News photographer Sam Roberts and I got up extremely early and headed out to the parking lot of Southland Electrical Supply on North Main Street so we would be there before sunrise.
We both wanted to be in exactly the right spot facing the east wall of the building so we could see what Rob Robinson saw every morning.
He had called the Times-News a few days before and explained that he often got to work early so he’d sit in his truck and meditate. He prayed a lot, too. About three weeks before he called, he looked up at the east wall of Southland Electrical and saw an image on the brick on top of a faded hardware store sign.
Robinson was convinced that the image in the center was the face of Jesus. He saw other images as well. He assumed it was Christ’s disciples.
I’m in no position to judge whether a person saw the face of Jesus on a brick wall, but I did want to see it for myself. I guess Sam did, too, otherwise it’s doubtful he would have agreed to get up that early.
Sam and I sat in the parking lot for awhile waiting for the sun to rise. We distracted ourselves with a group of kittens playing nearby until about 6:17 a.m. when we did in fact see what looked like two faces when the light at dawn combined with the soft glow from a nearby street lamp.
Was it Jesus? I sure couldn’t say. Robinson just wanted to know that someone else saw an image on that wall.
It wasn’t until about a week after I wrote a story about it that I found out that there was in fact an identifiable face on that wall. It just wasn’t the face of Jesus. It was what is sometimes referred to as a “ghost sign.”
It seems that back when the building was a hardware store, there was an advertisement for Coca-Cola painted on the wall as well. The advertisement included an image of a man with a hat made from a Coke cap. I forgot about that until I did a story last week about two old Coca-Cola signs restored in downtown Mebane.
Jill Auditori, owner of Solgarden, contacted Coca-Cola in the spring to see if there was interest in restoring one on the wall of the building where her business is located. Joy Albright, who is also Auditori’s mother, owns that building and the one where Dick & Jane Martini and Tapas Bar is housed. There was a fading Coca-Cola sign on the side of that building, too.
After Auditori did some research and legwork, such as making sure the signage was approved by the city, Coke agreed to have longtime Coca-Cola sign artist, Andy Thompson, restore both. Coke foot the bill, and downtown Mebane benefitted from the building spruce. There’s a ribbon cutting for all that this Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on West Clay Street.
Before I wrote the story, I went to Mebane last week to interview Thompson. It was my first ladder-to-ground interview. Thompson, 71, remained on his ladder painting the wall while he talked to me. Every once in awhile, he would stop, remove his glasses and look at me. But a good portion of the time, he was on that ladder — clearly a place where he is quite comfortable. I’ll have to admit. I enjoyed watching him work.
At one point, he did get off the ladder so he could show me his pattern book. That’s when I saw the ad with the man with the Coke cap hat and remembered that Burlington has a faded Coca-Cola sign, too. I wonder if any of the other old buildings in Burlington have Coca-Cola ghost signs.
Let me be clear. I’m not touting one soft drink or another. But it seems to me that if there are faded signs in downtown, it would be nice to see some of Thompson’s work here, too. It’s a great facelift for what might otherwise be a very drab building and if Coca-Cola is willing to make the investment, it makes sense to me.
Besides, I wouldn’t mind interviewing Thompson again.