Jim's most excellent adventure...
Growing up on the Gulf Coast, Jim had more than his fair share of opportunities to sail on boats of many types. From our little dinghy, the Boston Whaler Squall "Rinky Dink", to the two man Star Class racers, to beautiful day sailing vessels like he is pictured on board here, Jim found a special joy in the salt air.
It is not surprising that when the time came to include a nautical image that brought back some of his greatest memories ever, the USCGC Eagle, America's Tall Ship, was the one vessel that made the cut. Also, as discussed previously, the real estate available to paint on a single canvas, that would eventually feature more than twenty different memorable images from Jim's lifetime, would require he puzzle out how to represent a ship that is nearly the length of a football field, in the remaining space that people and buildings did not occupy. Placing the ship in the background allowed Jim to utilize the small section of open sky to show the masts, spars, and rigging, rising up above the skyline of the city.
This small section of sky would also showcase the Wedell - Williams Model 44 champion air racer which was piloted by Ropscoe Turner, who at times flew with his pet lion, Gilmore! In researching for this blog post, I found the Roscoe Turner story to be fascinating, and highly commend readers here to check out the link: http://airportjournals.com/roscoe-the-lionhearted/ in order to learn more about one of Jim's early heroes. Co-incidentally, it seems that Jim and Roscoe's paths were destined to cross at both ends. Those early years in Corinth, and eighty years later when Jim and Fran moved to Indiana. The last flight that Roscoe Turner made was into the Indy Airport. In September of 2017, I had the opportunity to take my folks back to Maine with me for a visit. The return trip saw us touch down at Indianapolis International Airport, on what will likely be the last flight Jim ever takes. Perhaps these two adventurers will meet again in the sweet by and by. Won't there be some great tales to hear on that day!
When he was still a teenager, Jim worked for George Criminale, who built many of the fantastic Mardi Gras floats that paraded in Mobile, Alabama in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's. George was also a sailor, and he raced Star boats with great enthusiasm. In this painting, called Star Boar Regatta, Jim captures a memory he held for many years, of crewing for George in a race on Lake Ponchatrain, just outside the city of New Orleans. The joy and adventure of coaxing speed out of the wind, and sailing hiked-out far over the weather rail, in order to counterbalance the boat, was more fantastic. With George Criminale as his boss, working on grand floats, Jim had the opportunity continue to grow creatively. Serving as crew on
his sail boat, Jim realized the challenges faced by an experienced Captain who is teaching a novice sailor while ardently trying to win a race. Communication is a key. Keeping one's frustration in check is another. But most important of all is knowing well just what it is that you are trying to impart. These lessons, that were passed along to Jim, would serve him well in future years, while teaching art classes, serving as Scout Master to dozens of boys, and as a father. The impression that George Criminale made on Jim earned him a place in the Joy of Life Parade!
The hand written key, with the names of all the people included on each canvas, served to raise a question that has yet to be answered. I mention it here, in hopes that someone will know why Jim listed this man, not simply by his name, but as Mr Hudgins/George Criminale. Dad has not been able to help me decipher who Mr Hudgins was. So, I am hoping one of you reading this may, just as Dad's old friend Charlie Hadden did, when he enlightened us to his heritage going back to Sehoy, mother of Red Eagle, of Wind Clan of the Creek Nation.
This explained perfectly, why Jim used a single red feather to identify the Hadden brothers in his painting. No doubt, as boys, there had likely been stories shared of the mighty warrior these boys descended from, and those memories remained with Jim over the years. By the way, if you should know any of the folks on board the sailboat that the young dark bearded Jim Gray is standing at the top of this post, I would be thrilled to make those connections too.