I did some painting this weekend here at the Grass Ranch. Whenever I open a new can of paint, I think of Harold Bissett. He was the head of custodians at MSAD 5, Rockland’s School District. Schoolmate Tim Fogg helped get me a summer job painting inside the Rockland schools one year.

We used oil-base paint.

The first thing Harold taught me was when a new can of paint was opened you were to take a common nail and a hammer and make holes in the rim where the lid fit down into the can, so that the paint drained back down into the bottom. The end result is the lid stays clean and the paint can seals completely. The lid also comes off easily and cleanly when the can is re-opened.

Harold took pains to teach us how to clean our paint brushes at the end of the day. We used a rag and mineral spirits to make our brushes like new. I believe that water-based paint was available back then, but my guess is Harold may not have been sold on it yet. But more than that he likely had lots of oil-base paint to use up.

Harold Bissett would have loved latex paint.

Walker Hutchins takes the care of a paint can lid to another level. He has a grooved plastic ring he snaps over the rim of the can when he opens it for the first time. This clever bit of kit comes with a plastic lid that snaps down into the ring. When he is done painting, his can and lid are pristine. You should know, the seal on Walker’s paint can is as tight as his handshake.

My workbench in the basement has a drawer full of paint brushes. I almost never throw any away because I clean them thoroughly. It is so easily done these days with soap and water.

The little things I have learned along the way have in some cases sat on the shelf for many years, perhaps forgotten until I had need of them. Typing is one of them. I took typing class from Herbie Hillgrove at Rockland High School. In his class I learned to type correctly, with my fingers on the right keys. It would be more than twenty years before I would again encounter a keyboard, this time attached to a computer. Amazingly, it all came back.

This evening, as I write this story, Joanne shared an old photo of Gary Davis from a Facebook Alumni Memorial Page. Davis was my high school history and social studies teacher. He taught me a life lesson, too. Gary was big on having us read newspapers. He wanted us to read them critically and not take what we read in them at face value. He wanted us to go further to evaluate the reporter’s “frame of reference.” Always think for yourself.

Good Rockland sauce.

Glenn Billington is a lifelong resident of Rockland and has worked for The Courier-Gazette and The Free Press since 1989.

Paint can Illustrated by Glenn Billington