02/10/05 — Seymour wings get a facelift, courtesy of airmen

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Seymour wings get a facelift, courtesy of airmen

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on February 10, 2005 2:01 PM

For 46 years, the sculpted Air Force wings off the traffic circle at the intersection of Center and Ash s have proudly welcomed people to "Goldsboro, N.C., Home of Seymour Johnson A.F.B."

Today, residents can be a little prouder -- the wings have gotten a makeover.

In January, airmen from the base cleaned and sanded rust, dirt and exhaust particles off the metal sculpture.

Five other airmen came Tuesday afternoon and began painting. The majority of the work was completed by day's end, although they will need to return to finish up.

The materials were provided by the Downtown Goldsboro Development Center, but the workers were all volunteers from the base's first term airmen center.

Staff Sgt. Scott Gleason said that the airmen took on the project as part of Seymour Pride Day, when base personnel volunteer their time to the Wayne County community.

The sculpture was built in 1959 by Metalcrafters of Goldsboro. The business's owners, Louis Marriner Sr. and Louis Marriner Jr., came out Tuesday afternoon to tell the airmen about its history and to show them a picture of how it originally looked.

Scott Berkeley, then the mayor of Goldsboro, wanted something to pay tribute to the air field's reactivation, Marriner Sr. said. The company was given a U.S. Air Force pilot's pin and told to duplicate it on a much larger scale in time for a planned public celebration.

"We only had 18 days to make it and put it in place," he said.

Dewey Brothers helped the Marriners get a then-new material from Bethlehem Steel Co. That company was just starting to market a "rust-proof" carbon-less steel to billboard and other companies, Marriner Sr. said.

Berkeley had asked the company to keep the sculpture a secret, "so we curtained off part of our plant so that no one could see what we were working on," he said.

The Marriners had to customize equipment to be able to cut the curves of the design, particularly the feathers in the wings.

To prevent rust, the interior was painted with an oil-based paint that was reputed to never dry.

"We had to look inside 15 years later and that paint was still wet," Marriner Jr. said.

Around 10,000 people were in downtown Goldsboro the day the wings were unveiled, Marriner Sr. said. Originally, the sculpture was atop poles 30 feet high and the lettering was mounted over the wings.

The job cost the city $1,800, Marriner said. "That was big money then."