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Restoring the Hinsdale cartoons

Video | Allen Freshler and some friends are restoring the cartoons on the railroad underpass in Hinsdale.

HINSDALE — More than 60 years ago, a 12-year-old boy named Allen Freshler decided to spruce up the cement walls of a railroad overpass with colorful cartoon characters.

This weekend, Freshler was back — with a team of assistants — to freshen up his work and add some new characters.

"In 1952 in Hinsdale nobody knew what graffiti was," said his friend, John LaFalce. "[Freshler] just did it and people became so enthralled he became a celebrity. Four newspapers carried stories about it. It was very attractive. People loved it and they still do."

Freshler, LaFalce and a group of about 20 town residents Friday and Saturday at the overpass bridge located on Old Dalton Road 100 yards south of Route 8 and a half-mile east of the Dalton line to touch up the paintings of the characters, including Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and Snoopy.

The Hinsdale native had not touched up the paintings in 15 years.

"People remember the cartoons from their childhoods," LaFalce said. "Now they're adults and they're bringing their kids and grandkids there. It's one of those things that has a lot of history in the town."

People didn't come only to watch, though. They were given brushes and trays of acrylic paint and asked to participate. One woman came from as far as Baltimore to participate, while the majority were town residents.

"I called this a cartoon raising," Freshler said Saturday. "Similar to a barn raising out west where the community gets together for some fun. We had a good crowd."

Four new cartoons were added to the masterpiece, including a minion from the current Disney feature "Minions" holding a sign that reads "Summer 2015" and Dug, the dog from the 2009 Disney film "Up."

"They're very popular with local residents, particularly the children," Freshler said.

Now a professional artist, Freshler, 75, said he hopes to return in fall to paint a new graphic.

"It's going to be Bugs Bunny attempting to thumb a ride north being admonished by his friend Daffy Duck not to do so," Freshler said.

Freshler lives part-time in both Hartford, Conn., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is a "traditional painter of landscapes and still-lifes."

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.