Lamont Alfred „Old Ironsides“ Pry

 

Pry painted lively works that feature aircraft and the circus, though it is not clear that he was ever personally involved with circuses. From about 1968, when he entered the Carbon County Home for the Aged (Laurytown, Pennsylvania) until his health began to decline in the late 1970s, he completed about 150 works.Pry, who had previously carved wooden airplanes and circus wagons, now used flat house paint, enamel, metallic radiator paint, and poster paint on cardboard.Many of his works are segmented vignettes interspersed with text. For example, he executed Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus (1970–1975) using bright, unmixed colors in a flat compartmentalized style that reflects the circus’s three separate rings. “Susy”—his real or imagined ideal woman—appears in the zebraact and as a tightrope walker, a human cannonball, and a magician’s assistant who is sawn in half.Pry was part of the artist and collector Sterling Strauser’s circle, which included artists such as Justin McCarthy, Jack Savitsky, Victor Joseph Gatto, and CharlieDieter. In 1974, Peter Pfeiffer, the custodian of the Carbon County Home, which was about to be razed, asked Strauser to evaluate some paintings by Pry in the boiler room. Strauser bought some of them; then, over the years, he bought more and helped Pry enter local county fairs.Pry was born in Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe), Pennsylvania, the son of a coal miner. In 1941 he enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps. He was injured ina crash on a reconnaissance mission and was nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during his recovery at a hospital in Bolling, Pensylvania. In 1943 he returned to MauchChunk, working first in the civil service and then as an orderly at a hospital in Gettysburg. He said that there he met the head nurse, Susan Maury, who appears in manyof his pictures, sometimes as Mrs. Susan Pry; but no Susan Maury has ever been found. Pry married his first wife, Virginia Logan, in the early 1940s. They weredivorced, and he married Myrtle Binder in 1947; after her death he lived in two county homes: first the one in Laurytown, and then one in Weatherly. Pry wasremembered (by Betty Smith, an administrator at the time of this writing) as alert and well dressed; he wore a large cross on a long chain and frequently used the chapelto preach, whether or not listeners were present.