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Painting the town red

Blaine Clements was the valedictorian for the Park City High School class of 1943. He was the captain of the basketball team and one of the quarterbacks of the football team.

More than 60 years later, he’s going back to school. Clements, now 83 and living in Sandy, Utah, downplays his success in high school. "When you go to a small high school like that and you’re alive and vertical you do pretty well," he said.

The gymnasium where Clements played basketball, attended prom and cheered at pep rallies is now the Park City Library and Education Center. His oil paintings are on display in the library from the second week in July through the middle of August.

Clements’ 37 oil paintings depict Park City landmarks such as the China Bridge, the Silver King smelter building and his boyhood home, a yellow Queen Anne Victorian at 305 Park Avenue, which is now a bed and breakfast. "I guess I paint Park City because it’s what I’m familiar with," he explained. "I have such pleasant memories of growing up there."

Clements didn’t take up painting until retiring from orthodontics in 1985. He credits his mom, Anna Clements, for encouraging him to express his love of nature through art. But it was his dad, Thomas Clements, who provided the template for Blaine Clements’ professional life.

When Thomas Clements moved his family to Park City in 1925, he was the only general dentist in town. He opened an office on Main Street and served most of the community, a feat that left an impression on Clements and inspired him to go into orthodontics. "The ripple effect has been quite unusual," he mused.

Clements remembers Park City as a blue-collar mining town. "Growing up in Park City is not an experience I would trade for anything," he said. "You could hear so many different foreign language and dialects on Main Street. It was really a microcosm for the outside world."

Unlike most of the state, the population in Park City during the 1930s was predominantly Irish Catholic, not Mormon, and Clements spent afternoons shoveling the path to the rectory of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

As a general dentist, Thomas Clements would often be paid in eggs, chickens and handiwork around the house, his son said. Clements senior did dental work for the nuns for free, Clements said, and was repaid in doilies and cake with frosting an inch thick. "It was so hard we had to break it with a hammer," Clements laughed. "I think it had rum in it. We were Mormon and teetotalers but it sure did taste good."

Clements remembers the nuns trudging down Park Avenue through the snow to deliver their gifts. "They wore the long black habits," he said. "They looked like they were floating."

Clements and his siblings spent their afternoons playing catch, but because his house sat on a hill, he spent most of his time chasing balls down the hill.

At the base of the hill, Clements recalled, was a shed with red garage doors where bootleggers distilled whiskey and planted hops.

"During prohibition, federal officials would sometimes come in and destroy distilleries," Clements said. "They dumped the whiskey into the gutters on Main Street so the liquor flowed down the street. People came out with their tin cups and drank from the gutters."

Clements’ dad did dental work for Tom Kearns, Jr., the son of mining magnate Tom Kearns. Clements recalled a time during the depression when Kearns, Jr. stood on Main Street and gave his clothes away to children.

After Kearns would leave his dad’s office, Clements and his brother would turn the couch cushions over to see if any coins had fallen from the heir’s pockets.

In his lifetime, Clements said he has seen Park City transform from a mining ghost town during the depression to a snow white ski town.

"Park City was one of the poorest communities in the state, and now it’s the wealthiest," Clements said. When Clements’ family sold the yellow Queen Anne in 1944, they did so for $1,600, fully furnished. "And the people defaulted," Clements said.

The home recently sold again, this time for $1.96 million.

Discovering art

Clements left Park City in 1944 to attend the University of Utah. He left college and volunteered for the Army Air Corps in the spring of 1944 for two years.

Clements attended the Pacific Dental School in San Francisco and once again graduated as valedictorian. Clements practiced orthodontics in Palo Alto, Calif. and Menlo Park, Calif., and moved back to Utah in 1993.

Painting became an important part of Clements’ life when he started studying with art teacher Bonnie Posselli, a local painter, more than four years ago. "He was an orthodontist and that means he was very precise," Posselli said. Clements is Posselli’s oldest student. "He has a great passion and enthusiasm for art," she said. "He’s always been a gentleman and a very good student."

Merry White is the director of adult programs for the Park City Library. She said she wanted the display Clements’ art work and share his history with patrons. "One of the things I found charming is that he went to school in the building," she said. "It takes us out of our busy detail-filled lives to remember that older people can teach us. There’s nothing like first-hand accounts."

The work of Blaine Clements will be on display from July8 to Aug. 31 at the Park City Library, 1255 Park Ave.


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