Sarah Oltrogge, (515)
98 years old, Mildred Heiring of Marshalltown can still recall the painstaking
process her father, Fred Stice, used to create more than 50 miniature wooden dioramas.
called (the collection) ‘The Good Old Days,’" Heiring says. "It
was a method of recording the past. He kept them under the bed and the collection
kept growing and growing."
donation of Stice’s life work by Mildred’s son George Heiring is the
subject of a new exhibit at the State Historical Museum of Iowa entitled, "The
Good Old Days": Folk Carvings of Fred W. Stice. The exhibit will be open
through September 2005.
woodcarving while recovering from a broken leg in the 1930s, and continued carving
up until his death in 1977. Around the time of World War II, Mildred, then in
her 30s, started collecting and making dolls. Eventually a close collaboration
grew between father and daughter.
was at first merely a hobby rapidly became all-consuming. The carvings cried out
to be displayed. A few years later, outside Montour, Fred and Mildred set up some
of the carvings in a small gift shop they dubbed the Trading Post. In 1954, they
moved the shop to just outside Le Grand on the Lincoln Highway, and renamed it
the Doll Museum and Trading Post to acknowledge Mildred’s collection of
dolls. The enterprise attracted thousands of curious passersby for more than three
visitors were more than 50 scenes, ranging from everyday social work traditions
of the past (like ice skating and blacksmithing) to biblical themes (Flight into
Egypt, Last Supper), from popular Americana (minstrels, cowboys and Indians, covered
wagons) to historical figures and events (Abraham Lincoln, Will Rogers, Iwo Jima,
President Kennedy’s funeral). As Mildred explained, "We just never
ran out of ideas."
with Fred’s second wife, Gladys, continued to operate the museum after Fred’s
death and up until 1988, when it became apparent the family could no longer care
for the collection. In 1995, they donated the entire collection – 53 scenes
comprising more than 1,200 pieces (people, animals, wagons, furniture, tools,
and so forth) – to the State Historical Society of Iowa.
people, the thought of carving may seem a little silly, but it takes a lot of
hard work. I was always interested in history and this is one way to preserve
it. The scenes are interesting for the children who haven’t seen them, and
for the older folks who remember them." – Fred W. Stice
"The Good Old Days": Folk Carvings of Fred W. Stice
The State Historical Museum of Iowa
600 E. Locust, Des Moines
Hours: Tues. – Sat. 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sun. Noon-4:30 p.m.
Call (515) 281-5111 for more information.
*** There will be a special reception and photo opportunity with Mildred
and George Heiring on Friday, Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. in the exhibit at the State
Historical Museum. ***
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