LISBON, Ohio (WKBN) — You may have seen them on the sides of barns or buildings advertising to “Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco” — and there’s one in Columbiana County that’s being restored.
At the intersection of South Market and Washington streets in downtown Lisbon, on the side of a building that was built in the 1800s, Youngstown artist Bob Vrabel is working to restore a Chew Mail Pouch sign.
“Any one like this was done the same way, with the blue border, the white and yellow copy,” Vrabel said.
Every once in a while, the 67-year-old artist has to stop because people want to talk about it. People have pulled up in cars and have stopped on the sidewalk to talk with him about his work.
On Tuesday, Vrabel was working on the bottom half of the sign and the line that reads “Treat yourself to the best.”
The building was bought two years ago by the Columbiana County commissioners, and it now houses the county prosecutor.
At its worst, the sign was badly faded:
“I thought it was a great idea. Lisbon is a historical community, and it kind of bodes well with what we are as a county,” said Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck.
The commissioners approved paying Vrabel $2,000 to have it restored.
“See, I’m painting around the letters to form a letter, as opposed to painting the letter itself. And that’s called ‘cutting in,'” Vrabel said.
The Lisbon sign was done originally by the Harley Warrick and appeared in his book from 2000:
“He was the legendary Mail Pouch painter. He supposedly painted 20,000 barns,” Vrabel said.
Vrabel has restored a dozen Chew Mail Pouch signs. His first one was in Niles, and his most recently completed one was in Irwin, Pennsylvania.
“It actually got a tag from the Mail Pouch Barnstormers. It’s an organization that follows Mail Pouch barns,” Vrabel said.
Vrabel has been working on the sign for about a week. He expects to be finished on Wednesday.
“I think it’s going to be a great asset. We’ve had nothing but compliments from people that drive by. They honk. A few have called the courthouse,” Halleck said. “We’re really happy with it.”
About a month ago — also in Lisbon — Vrabel painted a sign on an old building two blocks away from his Chew Mail Pouch work. For 19 years — from 1927 to 1946 — the building housed the Orange Kist soda pop factory. When cans replaced bottles it was closed — and the formula sold to Pepsi which bottled it as Sunkist.
If anyone else has a Chew Mail Pouch sign that needs restored, Vrabel says he’d be happy to work on that one, too.