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Texas Historical Commission asks your help in restoring damaged markers

Mac McClennahan

KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune morning show host Mac McClennahan inspects Texas Historical Marker 9437 three years after he spent a hot July afternoon cleaning, painting, and sanding it so passersby can enjoy a local look at Texas history. Staff photo

Armed with a wire brush, soap and water, a sander, painter’s tape, and a few cans of black spray paint and clear lacquer, Highland Lakes resident Mac McClennahan set out to restore history on Texas 71. He followed a nine-step process recommended by the Texas Historical Commission to bring back the shine and legibility of marker 9437, about 20 miles west of the U.S. 281 and Texas 71 intersection in Marble Falls. 

“You don’t need permission to do this,” McClennahan said. “It’s all on the historical commission’s website (thc.texas.gov). They even say in the video, ‘Please, we’d love your help on this.’”

The more than 16,000 historical markers erected along highways and affixed to historic buildings are vetted and placed by the Texas Historical Commission. They then become the responsibility of the Texas Department of Transportation. Many have fallen victim to vandalism.

“This marker had been shot up,” said McClennahan, who is the morning show host on KBEY 103.9 FM Radio Picayune. (DailyTrib.com, KBEY, and The Picayune Magazine are all owned by Victory Media Marketing in Marble Falls.) “Some of the letters were all gone, and there was nothing I could do about that, but you can at least read it now.”  

After following the nine-step process, which took about 90 minutes total, McClennahan stepped back to read about the history he had been missing. 

“I’ve always loved to stop and read these signs,” he said. “You can get a book and look at what the sign says, but it really aggravated me to see that it had been defaced.” 

Three years later, the sign still shines, a present-day gateway to the past. 

Checklist of materials 

  • painter’s mask
  • stiff wire brush and soft bristle brush
  • spray bottle or bucket of water
  • soap and towel
  • can of clear lacquer spray paint
  • can of black lacquer high-temperature spray paint
  • lacquer thinner and cotton rags
  • 80-grit and 120-grit sandpaper
  • power sander or hand-sanding block
  • roll of 2-inch blue painter’s masking tape

Step-by-step instructions

A full view before its restoration of Texas Historical Marker 9437 on Texas 71 about 20 miles west of the U.S. 281 intersection. The marker was marred by bulletholes and white paint, which someone had attempted to wipe off. Step 1: Use a stiff wire brush in a side-to-side motion to remove debris. Step 2: Use a soft bristle brush to clear off the dust left behind. Step. 3. Clean with soap and water and let dry completely in the sun. Staff photos by Mac McClennahan

Step 4: Protect the silver metal border with 2-inch blue painter’s masking tape. Step 5: Don your painter’s mask and apply two coats of black high-temperature spray paint. Let the paint dry completely between coats. Step 6: Use lacquer thinner and cotton rags to remove the black paint from the medallion at the top and the title line just below.

Step 7: Take the tape off of the sides and use sandpaper to remove the paint from the raised letters. Step 8: Use the soft bristle brush again, this time to remove the dust left by sanding. 

Step 9: Cover the entire marker with clear lacquer spray paint. Now finished, anyone stopping at Texas Historical Marker 9437 can read about how, in 1756, the governor of Spanish Texas sent Bernardo de Miranda to explore a nearby hill in search of silver. The whole process of restoring the marker took about an hour and a half — a much more successful endeavor than de Miranda’s treasure hunt

suzanne@thepicayune.com