Historic tiles undergoing restoration

Kenneth McMahan examines a tile bearing the insignia of his World War II cavalry regiment on Thursday morning at his home. He purchased the tile more than 20 years ago for placement on the Lyceum Theatre walkway. (Staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Leslie Radford: CNJ staff writer

History is being replaced one tile at a time in front of the Lyceum Theatre.

The city is restoring hundreds of 6-inch, personalized ceramic tiles imbedded into the cement sidewalk in front of the theater as part of a downtown project being conducted by the City of Clovis.

“We’re trying to fix up Main Street and make it look nice to attract businesses downtown again,” City Purchasing Agent David Boswell said. “Many of the tiles were damaged and we thought it would be a neat thing to have them restored or replaced. A lot of them have sentimental value to Clovis residents.”

Harold Kilmer, president of the Lyceum restoration project, said the tiles along with bronze plaques attached to theater seats and display in a case outside were sold to raise money in 1983 in an effort to bring the city-owned building up to code.

“It was just a way to make money,” he said. “I don’t think we’d do it again though. They are slick to walk on when they get wet.”

He said some of the tiles will have to be replicated due to heavy damage. The owners of those tiles will receive the original tile after a new one has been made and placed in its spot.

Kenneth McMahan is one of the recipients. His tile contains the named of his World War II outfit and his place of work after his service.

“I bought that tile a long time ago to show people that I was in the 112th Calvary and proud of it,” he said. “It says, ‘Raring to go’ — that was our motto. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it was a pretty neat deal.”

McMahan worked for the local railway after the war.

McMahan’s tile, like most of the one’s being replaced, was made out a clay-like material.

“They’re all different colors and some of them seem to be made out of different materials,” Boswell said.

Some of the tiles have missing letters or words that are not legible and will need to be translated for complete restoration of the ceramic squares, he said.

Boswell encourages anyone who may have a tile to contact him at 763-9633.

“We have located some owners, but are having a hard time trying to find others,” he said. “We’re not sure how long the project will take. It depends on how fast we find everyone and how long it takes to restore the tiles.”