Coming home to Milton

August 15, 2021

Many of you may know me as an artist, or even further back, as The Purple Painter Lady. I am that rarity, a true native of Milton, growing up here and attending Milton Consolidated School. Yes, all 12 years in the same building where my mother held court as a second-grade teacher. My parents had moved to Milton from Laurel, since female teachers could not be married there at that time, and my father became farm manager at the Draper King Cole Cannery, now the location of Dogfish Head Brewery.

The principal asked me who I wanted for a teacher in second grade. My mother was standing right there! So I had to say Mrs. Bounds, even though I secretly wanted the warm, motherly Mrs. Black.

That's when it all started, my master plan to move to a more exotic place. I thought I was too exotic for Milton. I had spent my second-grade year usually behind my mother's piano (her showcase), for talking back or not conforming, although as the class artist I was being called out, often thankfully, to paint props for her plays.

Also, my mother personally drew great chalkboard creations. I remember one of a witch with a wart on her nose, stirring a cauldron for Halloween. It inspired me for later creations of my own, such as my first illustrated pamphlet, titled My Life with Old Women. It was passed around at the end of Olive Avenue on Rehoboth Beach. One lady saw me recently, 60 years later, and still has it!  She found it on the sand, my message in a bottle, I guess.

Deciding to attend college in New Mexico, I left Milton for adventure in The Land of Enchantment. I loved every minute of it. My mother sent me there in the hippie Summer of Love with a wardrobe styled like her college days in the 1930s. High heels, suits – even white gloves! I staggered past astonished gophers and armadillos up the mountains to painting class. I sold my first painting and bought desert boots and a serape.

Not having the nerve to live off art then, I returned to Milton, watching the Southwest disappearing in the rear window. Teaching art for six and a half years in Southern Sussex was not for me. I quit, dyed my hair purple and started painting, living the ultimate bohemian experience in the back of a smokehouse on Pilottown Road in Lewes.

Then, surprisingly, I married and moved to Wilmington for 33 years, had three children (twin boys and a daughter), and even more surprisingly, still kept painting. And yet, the beach area was where my art and heart have always been.

Was I finally ready to move back to Milton? My mother, as usual, decided for me, leaving us her house in Milton two blocks away from where my father worked. I am back, and I feel at home here now, where "everybody knows your name."

Editor’s note - The Around Town column, transitioning from the passing of author Nancy Katz, will feature submissions from two different writers in alternating weeks, Pam Bounds and Peter Carter.
  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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