61 YEARS A MERCHANT
Denison Man Operates Unique Establishment
Tex., March 20 (Special) - J.A. Tarve, 79, of Rosebud did not reckon
with the career of W.M. Esler of Esler Paint and Paper Company of
Denison, when he laid claim recently to being the state's oldest active
who has been a Texas businessman for fifty-six years, is a newcomer in
the estimation of Esler, who opened here in 1887 and carries on with
the enterprise sixty-one years later. Esler's son, Clifford, has
been manager for the past decade, but Esler at eighty-four and one-half
years still maintains regular office hours and keeps a close watch on
as the oldest retail paint and paper firm in Texas, Esler's store is in
its fifth or sixth Denison location now after having been opened in the
400 block of West Main. Nothing remains of the original store
which Esler opened in partnership with Albert Clifford and for whom his
son is named but Esler still prizes two pieces of office equipment that
date back more than fifty years.
One is a handsome sign that
used to hang on the door of the Esler store. Now in Esler's
upstairs office, the sign reads, "House, Sign and Carriage Painters."
That according to Esler recalls the days when he specialized in
painting and there were forty-eight colors of house paint from which
chose. "Now almost everybody uses white to paint a house," he
The other fifty year old reminder is the
desk from which Esler continues to conduct his business affairs.
Given to him by his wife as a birthday present, the desk was
ordered from afar and given to a rival business house here to be
finished before Esler's birthday. His present attitude indicates
that he he still a trifle picqued that his wife, the former Miss Maud
Taylor, would have given another Denison firm the job of finishing the
piece of furniture.
Most prized of all his keepsakes is a
70-year-old putty knife which used to belong to George Metcalf, a
Denison paperhanger for whom Esler worked as a paste boy. The
knife, with the remaining half of its blade worn to razor thinness, was
given to Esler about twenty-years ago by Metcalf's son as a remembrance
of his father.
Denison was a town of from 5,000 to 6,000
persons, with fifty saloons on Main street, when Esler came here in
1879 from Petrolia, Kan. Then a boy of sixteen, he came to Texas
"because everybody else was," and settled in Denison his aunt's
husband, Jim Leslie, was living here. After serving as a
painter's apprentice for three years and as a paste boy, he got around
to opening his own store.
Admiting that it's natural for him to
long for the "good old days," Esler still thinks he knows whereof he
speaks when he says Denison was a better town in 1879 than it is now.
seemed happier then," he remembers sadly. "The womenfold were
more friendly and used to talk over the back fences to each other.
I know I'd rather start my own business in 1879 than in 1948."
his hobby of wallpaper is concerned, however, Esler admits to a great
deal of progress in the quality and varieties, but it was easier to
receive a shipment of wallpaper in the old days than it is now, he
Wall sign in loft
W Main (second floor)
"Esler Wall Paper, Painters" sign, east interior wall, in lofts on second floor of 430 West Main Street.
The lofts incorporate advertisement painted on exterior walls before the current buidling was constructed.
Note : Main Street scene outside the winfdow.
Photos by Mavis Anne Bryans, ca. 2000