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Vandals strike subway with graffiti, but Lidle is undeterred

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/20/17

“Five minutes and a 99-cent can of spray paint” ruined months of work that Dave Lidle and his brother Chris have put into the subway that goes under the railroad tracks in …

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Vandals strike subway with graffiti, but Lidle is undeterred

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“Five minutes and a 99-cent can of spray paint” ruined months of work that Dave Lidle and his brother Chris have put into the subway that goes under the railroad tracks in Middletown.

But Lidle isn’t giving up. The only reason he isn’t painting over the graffiti now is because it’s way too cold, said Lidle, a 68-year-old Vietnam veteran who lives on West Main Street.

Since early April, Lidle has been taking care of the subway, an underground passage that runs from the Karns parking lot under the tracks to Catherine Street.

Lidle took on the project after seeing a front page article in the Press & Journal seeking volunteers to clean up the subway, which reeked of urine, was full of trash, and had lights that didn’t work.

The subway hardly resembles what it was like back then. Lidle cleaned up all the muck and debris and put in ink barrels donated by the Press & Journal so people have a place to put their trash.

He power-washed the floor and walls, and then spent four weeks scraping and grinding down the walls before putting on two coats of primer and latex enamel on top of that.

At first, “I wasn’t going to paint the inside because it would be a new canvass” to invite graffiti, Lidle said. But “I got carried away.”

Chris, an electrician who lives three doors down from Dave, rewired the four light fixtures in the subway and installed new LED bulbs to make it safer and brighter for people to walk through the passageway.

The brothers installed new electric for the outside security lighting, and put in a dusk to dawn sensor so the lights are only on when they need to be.

They dressed up the subway for the big state championship football game, decorating the ink barrels with “Raider Pride” and “Whatever It Takes” signs.

Lidle and Gene Bartlebaugh painted the big concrete barrier on the Catherine Street side with “Raider Pride” in gold and blue.

Then, Lidle got a text late Friday night, Dec. 8, with pictures showing that the subway had been vandalized.

Black graffiti had been spray painted on both sides of the walls and on the hand-rails on the Catherine Street side. The “Raider Pride” and “Whatever It Takes” signs were ripped off the barrels and thrown inside.

Fortunately, whoever did this left alone the quotations of Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa that adorn the Karns side of the subway.

“It’s disheartening,” Lidle said of the vandalism. “I spent six months working on the subway. It looked a lot different than it did in April, I tell you that. I don’t know what else I can do.”

This is the second time since Lidle got started that someone has defaced the walls of the subway with graffiti. Lidle didn’t report that incident to borough police, nor this one.

“What can they do?” He said of police. Video surveillance would be nice, but Lidle said he can’t afford that on his own dime.

Information about this most recent incident was passed on to borough Police Chief George Mouchette by the Press & Journal. Mouchette had not responded with any comment in time for this article.

Other than Bartlebaugh, Lidle said that he and his brother have not gotten any help or donations from anyone regarding cleaning up the subway. One man did give him some money to help pay for a can of paint.

Lidle won’t say how much of his own money he has spent.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to pay for it,” he said. “I’m not taking food off the table or dog food from the dog. This is my little slush fund.”

The hours are in “the hundreds.” Lidle continues to maintain the subway on an ongoing basis.

He goes down there two or three times a week, to empty the trash if necessary, clean up, and spray disinfectant to get rid of any nasty odor.

Amtrak has never confirmed ownership of the subway to the Press & Journal, but Amtrak pays the electric bill for the lights to the borough of Middletown.

Amtrak did some minor repair work to the stairs on the Karns side, about when Lidle was getting involved.

One day while Lidle was in the subway he was visited by a man from Amtrak who said he was in charge of “grounds and maintenance.”

“I more or less got his blessing to continue. He said he only has two or three electricians from here to Philadelphia,” Lidle said.

The man praised Lidle “from one end of the subway to the other,” but didn’t get out his checkbook.

“No one is reimbursing us. I’m not looking for that,” said Lidle.

He doesn’t seek publicity — only getting written up when the Press & Journal comes after him. He worries that putting pictures in the paper of the graffiti will encourage the person who did it to do it again.

A lot of people rely on the subway, especially as a shortcut back and forth to Karns. Karns lets him use its Dumpster to empty the trash, Lidle said.

Lidle knows that the efforts of himself and his brother are appreciated.

“I get so many comments from people who said they never allowed their kids to walk through the subway. Now it’s clean and bright,” he said. “It’s inviting. It’s just a subway but it’s more than just a subway to me. It’s my pet project.”

“A little bit of scribbling on the walls is not going to deter me from keeping it as nice as possible.”

Lidle may wait until spring to repaint the walls.

The woman who lives in Middletown who painted the quotes from Rosa Parks and Mother Theresa has reached out to Lidle. She told him she is interested in doing some more artwork in the subway, come spring.

“I was encouraged by that,” Lidle said.