Sunday, January 15, 2012
from the Autorama brochure extolling the mural and its artist
Just a bit more about the Autorama and the America the Beautiful mural:
While on concert tour, my father had discovered the artist, Bernard Thomas, in Montana and commissioned him to paint a cycloramic three dimensional mural, to be housed in its own circular room, depicting the history of the United States. Recorded narration was provided by Daddy’s good friend, radio commentator and explorer Lowell Thomas, and musical accompaniment was supplied, of course, by James Melton. As the brochure enthused, “Picture yourself in the soft-lighted Mural Room...America the Beautiful being sung by the nation’s favorite tenor...America’s most renowned commentator is telling the story of America the Beautiful, unfolding scene after scene, until song and story have completely swept you through 300 years of our nation’s history.”
My father invested not just his money but his heart in the Autorama. He welcomed people to it as if it were his home. While researching the book about my father, I received a letter from George Roberts of Middletown, New York, which tells such a story: “As my family and I were walking around the museum, we came upon Mr. Melton's office. The door was open. We waited until he got off the phone. He was very cordial. I said how enjoyed his singing. He was surprised that someone so young knew of his music. I started to sing one of the songs from a record I had, and he sang along with me. Then he arranged for us to be taken for a ride around the grounds in an old Dodge touring car. After our ride, he recommended a friend’s restaurant to us for dinner. We went there and were given a warm welcome and great service at the mention of James Melton’s name. We were so impressed with the warmth your father showed us that day that after forty years I can still remember him with fond memories.”
Saturday, January 7, 2012
The article(s) in the Palm Beach Post on the Autorama have led me to some information about Bernard Thomas, who painted the America the Beautiful mural there.
As you know, the Autorama closed in October 1961. Someone bought the 153-foot mural to decorate a bar, but when they were unable to obtain a liquor license, the mural vanished. It was found in 1979 behind a real estate office in Boynton Beach, Florida. Gene Moore, the attorney who discovered it, contacted Bernard Thomas, then living in Boynton Beach, and asked him to restore it. Thomas restored it over the following six months. He and the Boynton Beach Rotary Club donated the mural to the Boynton Beach Womens Club, to be housed in their Addison Mizner-designed clubhouse.
Thomas, born in Sheridan, Wyoming in 1918, became a camouflage technician at the outbreak of WWII. Later he served in the US Army in Europe. At the recommendation of General George S. Patton, Thomas studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Upon his return to the USA, he became known for his Western art and documentary murals. Thomas died in 1992.