Stunning mural depicts bygone era

Photos by Darlene Hornung
Photos by Darlene Hornung

   In downtown Baker, you can now take a step back in time looking at the new mural painted on the south side of Prairie Rose Classics.  Brilliant colors depict a scene resonating from the bygone era when Route 66 was a definition of America.

By Lori Kesinger

   A classic stainless steel diner sits in the background with a parking lot full of classic cars and a Texaco station off to the left masking a glass doorway to the building.

  The mural was an idea Prairie Rose Classics owners, Ken and Karen Griffith, longed to have come to fruition locally after seeing so many murals in their travels.

   “It’s something we always wanted to do but we had a terrible time trying to find someone to come and do it.  Most people don’t want to come to Baker,” Ken said.

  Their dream finally came true when they met Raine Clotfelter, a retired US Navy Officer and Illustrator Draftsman, from Branson, Missouri.

   Clotfelter joined the Navy in 1983 and continued his career in the Navy by joining the Navy Reserves in 1988.  He was recalled to active duty in 2003 and served on the front lines in Iraq for Naval Security in the Middle East. Though his main line of duty was security to protect Central Command, he was the only draftsman there.  So during that time Clotfelter created artwork and technical illustrations to support the Naval Criminal Investigation Service.

   Clotfelter has completed over 100 large murals nationwide.  His wife, Trisha, often assists him in his work.

   Ken and Karen met Clotfelter in person at a museum in Branson.  They exchanged pictures and ideas for several months before making a decision on the mural they wanted done.

   “It took us awhile to figure out what we wanted to put on there,” Karen said.

   Two weeks before Clotfelter arrived in Baker, Ken, Karen and members of the local car club lined up their cars, which are portrayed in the mural, for a photo.

   Clotfelter used the photo and other images to create the scene.  He used a projector at night to trace the images onto the side of the building, often working late into the night.

   Using a water based paint, Clotfelter and his wife worked meticulously for about a month before completing the mural.  They stayed in Baker the entire time despite rain hindering their painting some of the time.

   The diner and its name have no special significance to Ken and Karen but simply is reminiscent of diners of that time.  They do have a diner picture on the wall inside the building similar to the diner in the mural.

   Baker used to have a Texaco Station where the Sagebrush Inn is today and Ken worked there, so the Texaco became part of the design.

  “Where the Sagebrush office is now is where the car wash bay used to be.  They didn’t tear it down they just built around it,” Ken said.

   A few months ago, Ken and Karen drove their 56 Chevy, the one depicted in the mural, the entire Route 66 from Illinois to California.  It was an unforgettable experience as people inquired about their car and took pictures everywhere they stopped.     

   Prairie Rose Classics was started about eight years ago by Ken and Karen.  People from all over the nation and other countries have stopped in.   

   “We really started this to get people to stop in town and maybe if they’d stop they would look at some other things too,” Ken said.

   Clotfelter left Baker headed to Oklahoma to paint a mural there.  Ken and Karen plan to have him come back to do some painting on the east side of the building.  They hope people traveling from the east will see it and stop.