Another Great Charles Mulvey Story!

Aug 21, 2014 | 6 comments

Charles Mulvey

Charles Mulvey

I wouldn’t say that any of my blog posts have ‘gone viral,’ but there are several that have continued to prompt reader responses though years have gone by since they were written. “Remembering Charles Mulvey” is a case in point. I wrote it more than four years ago (August 7, 2010) and it continues to generate the most interesting feedback! Here is a story that I found in my mailbox just this morning from a gentleman named G.L. White. I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing it here:

I am so pleased to find that his work is appreciated, and very much regret that I didn’t get back to his house for another visit, and to pick up one of his great seascapes.

I was a very young Army PFC, on pass for the weekend at the beach, in the summer of 1965 with my first car — a ’53 Chevy convertible that had cost me a month’s pay, $65.00.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day as I got ready to leave, the convertible top wiring caught fire and the car self-destructed.  I still recall this “”old guy” (remember, I was barely 19 ) that came rushing down the beach to help.  There wasn’t much to do but stand there in horror and wonder how I was going to get back to Fort Lewis.

 

The Sea Chest by Charles Mulvey

The Sea Chest by Charles Mulvey

Anyway, this nice gentleman took me down the beach to his house, we had some dinner, looked over his paintings, and traded stories about our Army experiences, and living on the beach (I had been raised on a Oregon beach).  After he realized my situation, he mentioned that he had his “work car,” an old gray Cadillac (1951, I believe) that he would let me have for $75.  He explained that it was ugly and had no finish at all left from the salt air & wind, since every day he drove it on the beach with his painting kit, but it ran well.  I don’t think he had any real plan to sell it before, but was basically doing me a favor.  I told him that I had almost no money, and he said that if I liked the car I should take it and send him the money when I could afford it.  He had also been a poverty-stricken soldier & knew that Army pay hadn’t gone up a bit since WW2.   I happily agreed and left shortly afterward.

It took me many months to save up a bit of money, but I had mislaid his address, so I asked my mother, who lived in Raymond at the time,  to try to find an address.  She tried several times with no luck.  I believe he had no phone listed at the time, and I didn’t want to spend my little pile of money driving down to the beach to find him — and then having nothing to pay him.  And about that time I got assigned to a new sergeant whose mission in life was to make sure I never got weekend passes … and then I got transferred completely out of the area.

My mother eventually tracked Mr. Mulvey down years later through a lady who had once bought a watercolor from him.  By that time I was newly married, at the Pentagon, and the response passed on to me was that I didn’t owe him a thing — he was happy to help a fellow soldier who needed it.

Charles Mulvey

Charles Mulvey

I owned that car for several years and was quite attached to it, as I believe he was, too.  Its finish looked like gray sandpaper, rough to the touch, and the salt air had created some serious rust here and here … but that car never let me down.  As he had warned, parking that big tank built serious arm muscles because it had NO power steering — but I loved the thing, and not a day went by that I didn’t remember the kind, gracious man that passed it on to me, and who gave me some valuable hints about how to survive the U.S. Army.  I retired in 1985, still stationed in Washington D.C., and always regretted not having a chance to visit my friend at the beach again and thank him, while we sipped a warm drink & watched the tide roll in.  His art work was truly spectacular, and I much enjoyed those few memorable hours with a very special man who loved the beach as much as I did.

I’m sure none of this will come as any surprise to anyone who knew Charles Mulvey — a fine artist, a gentle & humble soul, and truly one of nature’s noblemen.  The world was a better place while he was with us.

6 Comments

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Wonderful story. Thank you so much for sharing it! My parents loved going to Mulvey’s studio. For a long time they contented themselves with small prints (as dis I later as a young adult), but finally in the mid1960s they were able to buy a painting which hangs in my mother’s apartment still.

    Reply
  2. Jenny

    Thank you for sharing this story, Sydney, it was absolutely heart-warming.

    Reply
  3. Marion

    Charles Mulvey was certainly a well known and well respected man and I loved the story in your blog about his generosity and caring feeling toward the soldier who ran into bad luck with his car on the beach. Larry and I were given a water color print painted by Charles Mulvey as a wedding gift and I always loved it as his colors were so soft & the subject matter so familiar.

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  4. Cate Gable

    What a fantastic story! And I love the Sea Chest print too. Brings back memories from our family vacations at Seaview’s Sea Rim Court on K Place in the 50s. We were only a couple blocks from Charles’ PeptoBismo pink studio and it was one of our favorite places to walk and poke around.

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  5. Mark Norseth

    My grandparents lived on the peninsula, and at around age 11 or 12 (this would be 1966 0r 7)my grandmother managed to secure me a spot in one of Charle’s outdoor painting classes. I was the only kid in the group, and I recall it as one of the great weeks of my life. Charles was unbelievably kind to me, and I’ve never forgotten it. As a young adult on my way to New York, now as a professional artist, I was able to stop by and see him and thank him. He remembered me, which was very nice, and somehow after so many decades I’m blessed to end up a mile from the ocean myself, and now teach watercolor as well. I hope I’m as generous and patient as Charles was with me.

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    • sydney

      What a great memory to have and such a nice tribute to Charles! His widow, Kaye Mulvey Cowan, still lives in Seaview and I will share your story with her. I know she’ll enjoy it.

      Reply

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