Friday, January 1, 2016

My Father The Map Maker

While renovating the old homestead a few years ago, I found this magnetic sign behind the living room wall. My father most likely placed it there during an earlier renovation when he and my mom moved here in 1971. He did things like that.

When I was a kid I tried to impress friends by telling them my dad was a cartographer. But, truth be known, Richard Gaston was much more than that and, as far as I know, the only one - a traveling salesman and promoter who could also draw.

In Virginia and later Florida he created dozens of hand-drawn points of interest maps of off the beaten path towns. In a time before shopping malls and urban sprawl rendered town centers obsolete, dad's maps were a celebration of small owner-operated businesses.

On his maps you could usually find ads for barber shops, beauty salons, filling stations, diners and motor courts, all endangered species today. For only $39.50 those businesses got a one by two inch full color ad plus 50 maps to hand out to customers.

When dad came in off the road, he would toss a bunch of those checks on the bed for my sister and me to count. Sometimes there was as much as $474. We thought we must surely be rich, and now these many years later I realize that we were.