By Darla McCammon
Fred Olds met his wife Flo in New York. He worked in Long Island after graduating from Columbia University. It wasn’t long before he and Flo decided they would like to raise their family in a better place than New York, so they packed up and moved to a farm they called “Fertile Acres” in Indiana, where the art, physical education and horses were all a part of their life. He taught art in Warsaw at all of the schools and endeared himself to many of the local citizens.
Stories about his “happy go lucky” attitude are many. It seemed he was always optimistic. I was told on one occasion he took the family down to Indianapolis in their somewhat disreputable automobile and after enjoying the day realized they had no gas and no money. Olds nonchalantly set out his art paraphernalia, sold a painting or two, bought the gas they needed with his proceeds, and calmly made his way back home.
A thrill for the school children of Kosciusko County was to be had when Fred, in one of his whimsical moods to inspire the kids, put on full Western regalia or full Native American war paint gear and rode up to the flagpole at each school on his horse for that day’s art lesson. Like I said, he was a colorful character.
Ervin Bolt and his wife purchased the Olds home when the Fred Olds family decided to move to Oklahoma in 1962 with their four children. In negotiating the sale, it seems they missed a bargaining chip. It wasn’t until much later that Bolt, a construction specialist, began to remodel the place. In making a connection to the outside so they did not need to go through a bedroom, the Bolts discovered a Fred Olds mural on the wall that had been covered with wallpaper. Unfortunately, this was after Bolt had already made a cut through the work, making it unusable. But did Flo or Fred apply the wallpaper? I wonder.
Dave Taylor tells a similar story about the old Humpty Dumpty Restaurant in downtown Warsaw. After his move to Oklahoma, Olds had won a special award that increased the value of his work tremendously. Two women from Oklahoma had been told about some of his Indiana work and came to see it. Little did they know the restaurant had become Dig’s Diner and the mural had been covered up and painted over. Dave swears that was a million dollar mistake.
The Olds family made their permanent home in the town of Guthrie in 1973. As the artist in residence for the Oklahoma Historical Society, Olds continued creating paintings, murals and sculpted pieces. His work was popular both locally and nationwide, with some even becoming collected overseas by fans of his work. Olds has passed away, but he left behind many good memories. His wife still lives in their home in Guthrie and stays in touch with Wes. Please go visit this exhibit. You will be blessed by it.
If enough offers come in with other Olds original art held by local collectors, we will consider another exhibit of Olds’ work in a year or two.
Upcoming And Current Events
- The Fred Olds Nostalgic collection is now on display at Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery through the end of September. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except holidays.
- The Wagon Wheel Theatre is hosting an art exhibit titled “Bridges of Madison County” in its lobby featuring well-known local artists and a theme of bridges. Free admission is for the lobby only.
- John Streeter pastels are currently on display at Lakeland Art Association Gallery.