Lifelong Salem resident Bob Schuck is hoping to keep history alive through his paintings.
As a child, he remembers riding the town’s streetcar to the country club so he could swim. Now, that long-defunct streetcar is being memorialized by Schuck, an 88-year-old artist who wants to preserve memories of Salem’s earlier days.
Schuck had an Akron company make a 6-foot-by-18-foot vinyl mural based on three paintings he made of the streetcar. In the near future, the mural will be erected on the north side of the building that houses the Q. City Diner, 139 N. Ellsworth Ave. Schuck said the streetcar offered service from Salem to Canton and back between 1904 and 1939.
The streetcar paintings took about six weeks to complete, and Schuck said he would paint three hours at a time. He wanted to paint something that encompassed Salem’s rich history and said he decided the streetcar was perfect.
“I wanted to do something that was old-time Salem,” he said. “It’s history.”
David Stratton, director of the Salem Historical Society museum, said the electric railway system ran for 35 years in Salem, but the tracks were removed and the station eventually became a bus depot, and later, a restaurant.
Sue Pittman, who owns the Q City Diner, said she hasn’t seen the mural but was approached by Schuck and decided to trust in his vision for the building.
“I’ve never been a big historian like that, but when you own a building that’s a part of history, it’s important,” she said.
Schuck has been painting for 10 years but took time off to care for his wife, Mary Lou, who passed away 10 months ago. His work has been displayed at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, the Butler branch in Salem, the University of Mount Union and the Trumbull Art Gallery.
Schuck said he would like to pursue grants to make other murals that can be displayed throughout the city and wants to know if owners of other buildings would be interested in displaying them. He also hopes other local artists take his lead and create history-related art to preserve the past.
Stratton is anxious to see Schuck’s work and said historical murals are important because they add a draw to downtown areas that “creates interest for people coming into town.”
The Salem Bicentennial History mural was dismantled recently because of fading, but Stratton said it generated a lot of interest among people who lived in and outside of the area.
That mural was erected in 2006 on a building at the corner of Pershing Street and Broadway Avenue. It included 80 images of important people, places and events that were central to the city’s history.