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HOMEFRONT: Look what's under our wallpaper!

HOMEFRONT: Look what's under our wallpaper!

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It was time for the bathroom wallpaper and its charming ceiling border to go. So 1980s!

So last Friday my husband, Dave, pulled it off (that took about five minutes), and I spent the next two days with a spray bottle of water and vinegar and a putty knife scraping off the left-behind backing and glue.

Between the pulling and the scraping we made a delightful discovery. The soffits above the sink and the bathtub had been stenciled with four rows of symbols — a plus sign, minus sign, pound sign — and behind the toilet there was a mural of two mountains with cattails in the foreground.

I was so excited!

It was like we had an old house — 1800s as opposed to 1964 — and were discovering relics from the past. I took photos and sent them off to our son and daughter.

What is so odd about this is that I must have seen these stencils and mural previously. We bought this house in the late 1980s and we tore off the existing wallpaper to replace it with what we are tearing off now.

Why didn't these painted pieces of the past make an impression on me then? Both my best friend and my sisters remarked that I was "busy." While that is true, you'd think I'd at least have had an "oh, yes, that's right" memory of them, but I have nothing.

Maybe it was because I wasn't "into" houses so much then, or the decorating styles of different time periods.

SPEAKING OF RETRO BATHROOMS: After our story on July 19 about the 1949 architect-designed ranch house in Rock Island, I received an email from Ruhl & Ruhl Realtor Paula Firth who has a house for sale in the city's Watch Hill neighborhood.

In my story I had obliquely lamented the fact that the ranch home's previously pink and blue bathrooms had been obliterated by white. The Realtor wanted me to know that in her listing, the bathroom colors are largely intact. Not to mention the mid-century kitchen.

The pictures are pretty sweet. You'll find them inside, on Page D6. If you want more information about the house, contact Firth at 309-236-7603 or

And if you're wondering if I kept the stencils and murals I found in our bathroom — no, I did not. Yes, I see the contradiction in this. I lament a bathroom redo in someone else's home, but do the same thing in ours.

Our paintings are well documented with photos should anyone ever want to recreate them for historical value, but for now they are gone. Human beings can't help but want to put their own stamp on things. 

DEW POINT: If you watch the weather news on local television channels you've no doubt been introduced to the concept of "dew point."

It's like the summer equivalent of "wind chill" except much more difficult to understand. For me, anyway. And I would bet I'm not alone in this.

BIX RECORDING: Among the in-person events lost this year to the COVID-19 pandemic was the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, and the jazz liturgy that has become a tradition at First Presbyterian Church, Davenport, home church of the Beiderbeckes.

But you can still listen. While the service was virtual, it included pre-recorded music by Ivory & Gold, the husband-wife jazz duo of Jeff (piano/vocals) and Anne (flute/vocals) Barnhart.

The recording can be found on the First Presbyterian Facebook page (fpcdavenport) and its website,, Matt Bishop, director of music, said.

MORE APPRECIATION: Thanks to all who emailed in about your experience this summer with Japanese beetles and monarch butterflies. I hope to get cracking on that story for next week. Watch this space.

AND AGAIN: And thanks to Karen Nelson, of LeClaire, who sent in this online meme: "How old were you when you realized that "Damn it I'm mad" spelled backwards is "Damn it I'm mad"? This was in reference to an item in last week's column about palindromes, or words that read the same forwards and backwards, particularly names such as "Anna."

Perhaps I am the last person in the world to encounter this particular palindrome, but I thought it was cute, despite the mild profanity. 


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Walk through the front door of Barry and Beth Anne Smiley's house in west Davenport and you might feel as though you've stepped into a museum.

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