Stan Drescher was beaming tonight.
“Isn’t it exciting?” he said. “You know, I’m so excited because I was afraid that it wouldn’t happen. We’d given the money several months ago. I don’t know why there were delays. But we came home and there it was.”
The water tower. The Flagler Beach water tower, at the south end of town—“this stubby water tank,” that “seamless monolith,” as Drescher put it in a couple of his many poems, so blank all these years, no longer faceless. Drescher’s year-long quest to get his adoptive home town’s name on the tower that shadows his home was over. Two painters—whose job description falls among the top five most dangerous in the country, and who’ve painted water towers from Florida to New Mexico and every state in between without a single misspelling—started the job Friday and finished it today (Oct. 17).
“I’m very proud, but I’m a little bittersweet, because we worked so hard to do that. It was like a job—we left eight in the morning and didn’t come back until five at night,” he said.
Drescher, who owned an insurance agency and was president of a credit union back in Rockland County, N.Y., is 79. He moved to his home in Flagler Beach with his wife, Mary, barely a year ago, to be near his son next door (and their daughter in law, who happens to be Colleen Conklin, the school board member). The sight of the nameless tower struck him as nearly indecent, to hear him speak of it, this “beautiful woman/with style, panache and grace,” as he put it (again, in a poem), but with no identity. The thing had been there since 1985, an alien in its hometown.
So Drescher decided to remedy the matter. He appeared before the Flagler Beach City Commission in January, proposing to take charge of the fund-raising to get the job done. The commission was resistant. Commissioners worried about liability. They worried about the fate of the money if it was raised but the job wasn’t done. They wanted Drescher to channel the money through a non-profit. It was as if Drescher’s idea was getting doused with a few hundred thousand gallons of cold water from the tank. (Old news in Flagler Beach: In 1983, commissioners managed to forbid the local volunteer firefighter association from raising money to put a Christmas tree on the water tank on 3rd Street. Talk about grinches.)
Drescher pressed on, and with help from the local chamber’s Kim Carney, got the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce to lend its non-profit foundation’s designation to the fund-raising. Then it was pavement time as the Dreschers went door to door, avoiding some doors slamming in their faces and walking through many others. An attempt to sell vanity license plates for $20 fell flat. An attempt to sell $50 commemorative plaques didn’t. In May, Carney presented a $5,500 check to the city.
The Dreschers were coming back from their grandchildren’s baseball game when they saw the first letters. Safe to say, it was Stan Drescher’s most exciting case of watching paint dry. Ever.
“I saw lagler without the F,” he said, “and I took a picture I was going to have some fun with it—I was really exited—so I figured I’d mail it to my friends and say look, they made a mistake, because everybody’s been following this with me, all my New York friend, and everybody down here, you know, I made a million friends just by going around. In one year I probably know more people than people who’ve lived here 20 years.” (Cindy Dalecki’s Marketing 2 Go page has great shots of the job progression.)
On Saturday, Drescher took the painters out to lunch. He wanted to thank them. “I tried that new restaurant on Main Street, and little did I know you had to pay cash, so I had $24 in my pocket, and it was $23.90, I couldn’t even give the guy a tip.” But he did what he apparently does often when something fascinates him. He took notes about the guys. Learned that they’ve never had an accident on the job. That the tallest tank they ever painted was in Macon, Ga. (205 feet high), and the most elaborate and difficult was in Wahoo, Tennessee, because of 12-feet letters intertwined with the Stars and Stripes.
He’s not done. Not this Drescher. His next project is to get the other water tank, the chubby one next to the fire house uptown, as he calls it, decorated with art and a poem. The children at Old Kings Elementary are in charge of that one, with the city commissioners—likely reassured that Drescher is a doer—judging the results. The winning poem and the winning design will each get its author a $100 savings bond.
It’ll all be documented in Drescher style, which is to say through poetry. A full trilogy tells the tale of the first tower project. He’s already penned a poem about the second. It’s his way of getting things done: policy by iambic pentameter. Only in Flagler Beach.