Since January, the Plum City American Legion and the Pierce County Historical Association have been shaking their heads at a mysterious hand-painted curtain found tucked away in the Legion's ceiling.
Electricians who were working on the Legion on Pine Avenue near the ceiling discovered the 18-foot-wide art: A large curtain of canvas fabric intricately painted with many advertisements for local businesses in Plum City, Durand and Arkansaw, which border a landscape painting of a lake, some trees and wildlife.
The curtain was rolled up and set atop old corrugated downspout, seemingly put there for storage.
"This is pretty impressive," Pierce County Historical Association volunteer and board member Julie Huebel said. "We've seen wood painted signs but this is pretty special, it's in really good shape. It could have been touched up over the years, if it was hung up over a long time. It's not very heavy."
Legion Commandeer Paul Fetzer, a lifetime Plum City-area resident, agreed and said the curtain's paint shows no signs of chipping or warping.
"I want to know what kind of paint they used," he said.
Huebel said her 88-year-old neighbor from Elmwood, Harold Tschumperline, claims to recall the curtain hanging in the old Plum City school gymnasium as the backdrop on a stage when he attended school there.
The Legion kept the curtain hanging during fish fry season this year, hoping someone would come through, recognize the masterpiece and have a name for the painter. Fetzer said no one came forward with more information, and the artwork gives no clues revealing its creator or creation date.
The curtain can at least be dated back to the era of switchboard telephones, as some phone numbers for the businesses have the letters associated with the old fashioned numbers.
A few of the businesses featured on the curtain are still around, Fetzer said, albeit with new owners. Contacting old businesses may be one way to investigate the purpose of the curtain's thorough advertising, but Fetzer and Huebel said it would be incredible if the painter were young enough at the curtain's creation to still be alive.
For now, the curtain remains rolled up in the Legion's ceiling again, waiting for someone to come along and tell more of its story.
"We don't know what we're gonna do with it," Fetzer said.
Readers who may recognize the curtain and has more information about it can contact the Pierce County Historical Association at 715-594-3118 or Legion Commander Paul Fetzer at 715-495-0059.