When Martin Meissner signed a contract to purchase his residence on Louisiana St almost 50 years ago, he made a promise to the couple selling it to him that he would keep it painted pink for as long as he owned it, in memory of the sellers' daughter who made a dying request that it always be painted her favorite color. It's a great story, except for a couple of small details: It's not true. And it never happened.
But we like good stories about our landmark's and Mr. Meissner's pink (and green) house at the corner of Louisiana and A St. has undoubtedly become one of the most distinctive landmarks in Midland. According to Meissner's son, Ivan, there are a number of stories that have circulated in the 49 years his father has owned the house — but none of them are true.
"We've heard a variation on the story about the girl who had died of leukemia," Ivan Meissner said. "Another one we've heard is that it was written into the sales contract that it must be forever painted pink and dad couldn't buy the house unless he agreed to keep it pink forever … I've also heard that a Hispanic family had lived here and their house in the old country was that color so they painted it pink here. Another little boy was said to have died of cancer and made his parents promise they would always keep it pink for him."
Great stories all, but only one story about the origin of the color is true, the Meissners say: "The best I have ever been able to tell is that it was painted pink by the people who built it," Ivan Meissner said, "and that's the only story."
Dad Martin Meissner said when he was putting a fresh coat on in the 1960s, then 4-year-old Ivan said that the color pink was "absolutely delightful." That, too, is a good story, and a true story. But it's not the reason the family has kept the house pink all these years. The story is quite simply that there is not a story.
"Vickers Petroleum bought the house and their president lived in it, and they sold it to Walter M. Wilkinson and I bought it from Walter M. Wilkinson," Martin Meissner said.
The house's color has caught the attention of international visitors who have taken photos of it, another woman who photographed it and said she was going to paint a picture of it, and scores of people who repeatedly use it as a point of reference."
"People always say, "Turn right at the Pepto Bismol House," Ivan said.
The Meissner family has never been offended by the reference to the upset stomach medication, a statement that has served to only deepen the lore of the home. Many years ago, a mischievous adolescent painted in bright pink the words "Pepto Bismol House" on the property's equally bright green fence. Police never caught the perp, but years after the incident, Mr. Meissner said, a man came to him and admitted he was the one who had painted the fence when he was a boy.
Ivan Meissner said his first recollection of it being referred to as the Pepto Bismol House was when he was in first grade at Bowie Elementary School in the early 1960s.
The Meissner's also don't care whether people think it's ugly or not, especially not as much as other people, who complained recently when the house was briefly mentioned in a story on eyesores in Midland. The suggestion was never made that the house surely must be the ugliest things in Midland, although a couple of emailers said perhaps it should be. The Meissner's laugh at the attention.
"Why should we care whether people like it or not?" Mr. Meissner said. "If they think it's pretty, that's their privilege. If they think it's ugly, that's their privilege, too."
After all, the Meissners all agreed, if you're gonna live in a pink house, you're bound to get some comments over the years.
Meissner is a former insurance agent and real estate adjustor, also served as a satellite commander of the military reserve in Midland and holds the rank of retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. His only other child, Edward, is an independent physics consultant in Dallas. Meissner recently married his second wife, Jackie, who, when asked whether she likes the bright pink paint on the exterior, says calmly, "It's all right."
Ivan said the family has always purchased its paint from Sherwin Williams, a store that has even made a special shade and set it aside when it comes time to touch up the place. "They call it Meissner pink," Ivan said.
There is also a rumor circulating through the family that no one has been able to verify: the house was supposedly once featured in the magazine House Beautiful.
All the members of the family chuckle at the stories that have been handed down and agree that perhaps there is only one thing for certain: "People either love it or they hate it," Mr. Meissner said. "It's considered a landmark and there'd probably be quite an uproar if we ever decided to paint it another color."