|Friday, 11 November 2011 13:23|
APPLE PARKS STATUES HAVE BEEN ROADSIDE ATTRACTION FOR NEARLY 100 YEARS
By Shawn Loughlin
Goderich has always been a very historic town with a rich and vibrant local history and an emphasis on its heritage. So it’s only fitting that for travellers coming into town from the east, a group of nearly 100-year-old statues would be there to greet people.
On the expansive lawn of Apple Park, the orchard on Hwy. 8 on the eastern outskirts of Goderich, sit several statues made by the late George Laithwaite. The statues were constructed over a 40-year period between 1912 and his death in 1956.
Apple Park is now operated by Laithwaite’s grandson Ed and his wife Pauline, who are both extremely proud of the examples of heritage and folk art that sit on the property they now occupy.
Looking back on the history behind the statues, Ed says, it’s easy to overlook just how special they are.
“They’ve been here so long,” he says, “it’s easy to take them for granted.”
There are several collections of the nearly life-sized statues that go by names like “The Three Fishermen” each with its own personal story to tell.
“The Three Fishermen” for instance, depicts the artist George and his two boyhood friends Jim and Harry on their way back from a fishing trip, lugging along with them a string of chubs.
George began crafting statues when he was 41 and he was in the process of building a stone addition to the farmhouse he shared with his wife Mary. Soon after completing the addition, he began making the concrete statues.
George’s first creation was a statue of the Queen of Sheba. That statue taught him a lot. It was after that statue he learned he had to make solid concrete statues, because if they were hollow, water would seep in and when frozen in the winter, would expand and crack the concrete.
Later in his life, George began crafting parts of the sculptures indoors during the winter months. In the spring, however, he would create his statues by creating a cement base and working his way up.
One of the Park’s more iconic statues was damaged in the summer of 2010 by a driver who lost control of his car and the car left Hwy. 8 and eventually came to rest on the lawn of the Apple Park. The damaged statue depicted two men driving an ox team, it was one of the Park’s most famous pieces.
Apple Park was featured in Ron Brown’s book Top 100 Unusual Things to See in Ontario, which was published in 2007. The book listed statues depicting stags fighting, nursery rhyme characters, a polar bear and a cub and plenty of other sculptures.
“A lot of the time people seek us out,” Ed says. “It’s folk art and that tends to attract people.”
Ed calls the collection of statues a roadside attraction, adding that the type of attraction Apple Park houses isn’t something seen very often in Ontario any longer.
“Times have changed,” he says, “but the statues haven’t.”
As the years have gone on, Ed says, it has been difficult to keep the statues up to par as they continue to age. He says that because the statues weren’t his original vision, it’s hard to patch them up if they need it.
“It’s very hard to repair someone else’s art,” he said.
Having said that though, Ed is very proud to be continuing on the tradition of the statues and hopes one day a younger member of his family will take over the Apple Park’s reins.
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