June 17 • 09:50 PM

Poster's like the 'Where's Waldo' of Imlay City

Vintage 1991 caricature draws interest

Crystal Campagne, community manager at Sanctuary at Maple Vista (left) listens as visitor points out Imlay City landmark in 1991 promotional poster she purchased on the Imlay City Swap site. photo by Catherine Minolli.

January 11, 2017
IMLAY CITY — There's chiropractor Clif Clendenan holding a skeleton. And Steve Robbins and Steve Teets, both with black hair—the first Steve pictured standing outside of his State Farm Insurance office, the second near his photography business then called Focus Studio.

Kitty Schuster, looking a little surprised is nearby, too, as is dentist Hank Nichols, getting ready to do some mean fishing. And there's Jim Crandall and his wife Roberta perched above their Chrysler Dealership.

Louie and Sandy Parsch and the gang are all there as well—showing the customary big smiles they greet patrons with at the gas station and auto repair shop.

There are less familiar faces and names, too. Names that represent businesses past. Locri's Pizza, Rainbow Cleaners, South Cedar Steel Works and The Look Bridal Salon.

It's sort of like a vintage 'Where's Waldo' poster of Imlay City, except there are dozens of people to find.

The colorful classic resurfaced in the area when Crystal Campagne spotted it on the Imlay City Swap site.

Campagne, the longtime community manager at Sanctuary at Maple Vista, was intrigued when she saw the framed object online, and thrilled when she found out the price was right. For twenty bucks, she could take possession.

The seller, Leonard Shimmons, told Crystal it had been in storage for years, and figured it was time to let it go. Campagne snapped it up. And she posted it on a easel at Sanctuary. She included an arrow that points to Sanctuary—which was called Casa Maria back then—that says 'We Are Here' to help give viewers some perspective.

"We have all enjoyed going over it to see what is the same and what has changed in Imlay City," Campagne says. "There was some artistic license taken with distances, but this is a pretty accurate depiction of our town."

As the piece drew interest from passersby, the history behind it began to reveal itself.

Created by artist Mark Wren in 1991, the poster was part of a promotion that the Imlay City Chamber of Commerce signed onto. A copy is also on file at the Imlay City Historical Museum.

Wren did the work for a company called Mid-America Promotions, which operated out of Jackson, Michigan. There's no indication that the company is still in business. A Google search comes up dry, and the phone number on the poster renders a fast busy signal.

A person who appears on the poster—but prefers to be part of the puzzle—says businesses could opt to pay to be included in the drawing, and could chip in quite a bit more for the personalized caricatures.

"I am very interested in history and the businesses of Imlay City, so this caught my eye right away," Campagne says of her purchase. "I knew it would bring back a lot of memories for people here, and added the 'We Are Here' arrow to help people find our building."

She says the poster has drawn quite a crowd, with folks peering at it to find their favorite landmarks.

"I am amazed at the detail and the number of businesses included," Campagne says. "All the way from Roma's at Clear Lake to Hyponex in Capac to downtown and where 53 runs to I-69. The roads and properties in the drawing aren't to scale, but by using artistic license Mr. Wren fit so many more places in, so it's totally excusable!"

Campagne says she also enjoys seeing the familiar faces and businesses that remain active today.

"I also love the inside jokes," she says. "Residents point to different caricatures and can tell me who some of them are. I do wonder who the gentleman is that is about to trip over a rock. He is absorbed in a book marked with the initials 'SK...'"

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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