Telling the Story of a Picture

February 15, 2017

Telling the Story of a Picture


img_1334My Dad is an amazing person.  Faithful, honest, smart, steadfast, loving, fair, funny, interesting, loyal, hardworking, generous, talented, a true “servant leader” – there just aren’t enough superlatives for me to describe him.

I know how blessed I am to be able to say that about a parent when so many others have not been so fortunate.  I am thankful. Every day.

Dad with Fancy CameraNot one to sit still, Dad worked as a consultant part-time well into his 70s.  Since he finally retired, he has had a little more time for his hobbies, including travel, woodworking (see my cutting boards), vegetable gardening, reading and photography.  But mostly, he and my Aunt-Mom have been super-busy volunteers, serving on the boards of various churches and charitable organizations.    Over the past few years, when they weren’t organizing food drives, or community repair days for shut-ins and the elderly, or fundraisers, they were spending nearly 40 hours a week revitalizing and relaunching a charity resale shop and food pantry. This drive to serve wasn’t new – both of them have been active in church leadership and taught Sunday school for almost all of their adult lives, and Dad was on the school board where I grew up for 15 years.

Dad and my Aunt-Mom didn’t just focus on the organizing and planning of these charity endeavors – they rolled up their sleeves and got dirty.  I called Dad once last year on his cell phone and after speaking with me for a moment, he said, “Well, I’ve gotta cut this short, I’m at the top of a ladder with my cell phone in one hand and a 2 x 4 in the other.”  He was repairing a roof for an “elderly” person during a community work day they’d organized.  At 77.  That’s my Dad.

But Dad has had a kick in the pants lately with some unique health issues that are proving challenging to resolve, and has a little more time on his hands to do inside things.  He’s making a beautiful table / kitchen island with various types of wood that my Aunt-Mom has designed – you can count on seeing photos of it here.  And he has documented this wonderful story for me about an original piece of art that has been in the family as long as I can remember.  I never knew about its origin and asked about it one day recently when I was visiting.  Here’s what he told me.

Fred Olds in 1957

In 1964, I was attending North Texas State University (now North Texas University) and working my way through college at KDNT radio station, selling ads and doing the voiceovers.  You were less than a year old.  Your mother was working as an RN, the head nurse on a medical floor at Flow Hospital.  One of my clients was The Nation Bank of Texas.

One day,  the bank representative called and wanted to buy a 30-minute on-site live interview of the artist Fred Olds to draw customers into the bank.  Evidently Mr. Olds was all set up in the lobby with his brushes, paint, paper and easel and I was going to interview him while he was painting.

As I started to interview Mr. Olds, he said,”Can I paint you a picture?” I said yes, and he got out a box of crayons. I really did not know where this was headed, but in no time at all he painted a beautiful picture of an Indian using only crayons, all while doing the interview.  

I took picture home, had it framed and put under glass to protect it. We still have it 53 years later.

The crayon Indian drawn in less than 30 minutes by Fred Olds in 1964

The American Indian in the drawing is proud, noble and free; you are drawn into the image and can sense his dignity.  It’s a remarkable piece of art, even more so because it was done so quickly and informally.  Dad didn’t realize Mr. Olds was a renowned Oklahoma artist until we Googled him after talking about the drawing.  What a cool story.  Dad has lots more stories to tell, and hopefully will share many of them here.

Fred Olds died in 2005.  Here’s an excerpt from his obituary:

Born to Dr. Frederick C. and Rena Olds on April 27, 1916 in Fremont, Ohio, Fred grew up in Warsaw, Indiana. He served as a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps in North Africa and Europe for four years in World War II. He was educated to teach and coach at Ohio Wesleyan University and received his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Columbia University.In 1949 Fred married Flora Anne Conner in Port Washington, New York where he was teaching art and coaching football and track. In 1950 the young couple established a home in Warsaw where Fred taught art and coached in the public schools.

Fred painted every day. His artwork depicted his love of horses, cowboys, Indians and the West. Achieving success in art shows in the Midwest and Southwest, he moved his family to Wynnewood where he fell in love with Oklahoma when he taught Oklahoma History and art in the Wynnewood public schools. He taught art in the Yukon public schools. The family moved to Weatherford where Fred taught various art classes to student-teachers at Southwestern State (College) University to teach art. He helped to set up the College Rodeo program. Fred was a foundation breeder of Longhorn Cattle and won four national championships with his Appaloosa horses.

In 1972 the family moved to Edmond then Guthrie where Fred was engaged to rehabilitate the Oklahoma Territorial Museum and Carnegie Library. He served as director there for fourteen years and his paintings and sculptures are exhibited worldwide, in museums, churches, universities, on public grounds and in private collections of neighbors, statesmen and celebrities. He painted more than one hundred pictures of the Oklahoma Land Runs. In 1996 his “Horses from the Sea” was unveiled in the Red Earth Indian Center. Fred wrote poems describing most of his paintings and in 1999 he earned the Westerners International Poet’s Award for his volume, “A Drop in the Bucket.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Fred Olds, check out this article about him from 1957 (it is warm, wry and amusing), or this one from 2013.

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