Reader treasures Story Land memories

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: Could you provide a brief history of the Story Land attraction in New Hampshire? How old is the mechanized spider that drops down at the little Miss Muffet story stop.

I had my picture taken with the spider when I was small, and I am almost 54 years old now.

I love history and don’t know how to find out about Story Land except through your column. — No Name via email

ANSWER: 54 is not too old to learn basic computing skills. You are younger than Sun Spots!

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Mastering the basics of websites and email will open up a whole new world for you. There are websites dedicated to just about every thing you can think of — history, television shows and movies, celebrities, gardening and cooking tips — as well as for Story Land. 

Being computer savvy may even save you money. Some businesses are starting to charge extra if you call rather than going online. Airlines are a good example.

As for getting started, there are adult education classes for beginners; some are even focused on seniors. Libraries are a great resource, too. If you can’t afford a computer, you can use one there, and larger libraries also often offer classes.

Now, back to Story Land, which you can find at storylandnh.com. Sun Spots did not see anything about the spider, but there are dozens of attractions, shows and rides, so it may still be there.

The following history of the attraction appears under the “about” tab. Sun Spots edited it down for space. 

“Once upon a time, in the far off land of Germany, Bob and Ruth Morrell were surprised by a knock at their door. Bob and Ruth, husband and wife from North Conway, N.H., who were living in Europe at the invitation of the U.S. Army, were not expecting visitors. …

“When they opened the door, they were greeted by an old woman who introduced herself as Frau Edith Von Arps. She was accompanied by several small characters who needed no introduction, dolls she had made based on classic children’s fairy tales. She was going door to door, selling the dolls.

“Frau Von Arps and the Morrells became friends, and the old woman sold them more than 25 dolls in the weeks before they returned home. She also planted a suggestion, … which blossomed into a life’s work and a legacy.

“Her suggestion was that Bob and Ruth build a small village around her dolls. The Morrells had the idea to create a village of more than just dolls, a village where storybook animals could live and where storybook characters could come to life. The idea grew into a business, as Bob and Ruth added plans for rides and play areas, to create a place where young families could play and have fun. …

“They bought some affordable land in Glen, acreage that the previous owner said wouldn’t even make a decent pasture. With some local help, they built a handful of colorful buildings and characters, and opened for business in 1954, the same year that the opening of Disneyland forever changed amusement parks.

“A few good years were followed by a few not-so-good years, as the economy slowed throughout the country. The fledgling park was truly a risky business venture, and local bankers shied away from holding a mortgage on the home of the three bears. Through perseverance, hard work, ingenuity and continuous reinvestment in the park, Story Land has survived and grown.

“Story Land … continues to be a family-oriented business, run by Morrell Family disciples, and geared to young families everywhere. … Ruth ran the gift shop and other things while Bob ran from place to place to make sure everyone was having fun. As a child, daughter Nancy portrayed Mistress Mary in her garden. As an adult, son Stoney carried on the family legacy until his unfortunate passing in 2006.

“As the business grew through the years, an unplanned evolution of sorts developed. Teenagers that visited when they were children took their first jobs at Story Land. Many of the grandparents and parents visiting today used to come here as children themselves. And currently, many of the people who make the park run from day to day and season to season are part of the aforementioned evolution. They worked here as teenagers and either stayed in the family to make careers here as adults, or came back later to be at a place where it’s OK to whistle and smile while they work and kids play.”

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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