‘Max and Mim’ exhibit spotlights two Brandon legends

BRANDON —The Brandon Museum at the Stephen A. Douglas House is sponsoring an exhibit about two Brandon legends, titled “Max & Mim” and featuring the art of Max and Mim Welton. The show features Max’s folk art and Mim’s  iconic photos from her weekly newspaper, Dateline Brandon. Those who attend are encouraged to share stories and memories. 
The exhibit opened Aug. 4 at The Compass Center in Park Village off Route 7 North in Brandon, and will run through September. 
Bill and Kathy Mathis of Goshen were good friends of the Weltons. Bill jotted down some of his thoughts on the couple to give some perspective on who they were:
“Mim’s reputation preceded her. When the shiny new superintendent of schools (me) first came to Brandon in 1982, he was advised (and warned) that he needed to provide Mim an interview in recognition of her towering influence over all things Brandon. No issue was considered of public interest nor decided unless Mim had had her say in Dateline Brandon. No other person could reach across all lines, groups, political parties or factions like Mim. 
“The time was scheduled and Mim strode into my office without announcement. There stood this woman with a camera in one hand, a motorcycle helmet in the other, a reporter’s pad in the back pocket of her blue jeans, flannel shirt, cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth, and hair in braids wound around the top of her head. Her dog ‘Pansy’ padded along behind her. This was Mim, and this was her uniform.
“The first thing I asked was, ‘Do you drive a motorcycle?’ She said ‘yes,’ and she proceeded to tell me about her beloved Honda Dream, which had bit the dust and she had to upgrade. I told her about my Indian motorcycles and there began a wonderful and unique friendship. I borrowed her motorcycle and she borrowed my convertible.
“She published the pictures of every newborn child, deer harvested, educational achievement, civic accomplishment, fire, wreck, baby shower, rare bird, errant moose, otter, obituary or other event of general interest. Particularly in the early years of the Dateline, her editorials had the punch of undiluted sulfuric acid.
“The Dateline started in June 1972 and cost 7 cents. It died with her on April 10, 1996. She would stay up until the wee hours on Thursday night, while listening to classical music, printing the paper on her cantankerous, tricky press and her husband, Max, would distribute it to the outlets on Friday morning.”
Max, as Bill Mathis tells it, was the yang to Mim’s yin.
“Max was a completely different person,” Mathis wrote. “He was much quieter — but that’s in contrast to Mim. Born on July 14, 1922, his parents operated Welton’s Cut-Rate store, which was located in the building next to the falls. They returned to Staten Island, where Max and Mim were neighbors, and came back to Brandon on their honeymoon. Max was an accomplished woodworker and carver. He made numerous customized birdhouses and was a solid carpenter. His intricately designed work has received critical acclaim. He was a living history resource and we spent many Saturday mornings visiting sites in Rutland and Addison counties chasing down old hotel sites, lime kilns, quarries, rail beds and abandoned quarries.
“Max was a World War II veteran and served as a Seabee in the Aleutian Islands repairing damaged ships. He was also an amazing gardener who was able to grow plants that are not supposed to survive in this climate. His plants can still be seen at their former house (and in our yard). 
Mim was born on Aug. 28, 1930, on Staten Island, the daughter of William Stoddard and Mildred Barden. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1951 from Wagner College and served as a lifeguard during the summers. In an appropriate job for her personality, she searched for lost cargo for the Alcoa Steamship Company in 1952 and 1953. 
She and Max married on Aug. 18, 1953. The newlyweds decided to make Brandon their home. Mim taught at Brandon Training School and the two-room Florence School. During the 1960s, they raised their four children: Kenna, Bernie, Wendy and Larry. 
“Mim and Max served Brandon and their contributions are incalculable,” Mathis wrote. “And they did so with color and panache. Communities and civilizations must have legends. Yet, in this increasingly complicated and stultified world, it is unlikely that we will see their equal in personality or accomplishments.”
The “Max & Mim” exhibit is on view at the Compass Music and Arts Center 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Exhibit organizers gave special thanks to The Brandon Reporter, Warren Kimble, Bill and Kathy Mathis, the staff at Compass, Wendy Welton and Mary Ann Sullivan, who has worked tirelessly and from a great distance to put the show together. 
When Mim Welton wasn’t riding a motorcycle she sometimes scooted around on a moped with her faithful dog “Pansy.”

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