Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, the now legendary Fairyland of Gettysburg eluded me. The park opened in 1959 and operated through its closure in 1980. Being born in 1978 a 4 hour’s drive away, it just slipped right through my little toddler fingers. I only learned of its existence years later online. In all the pictures and promotional materials, I continued to see a towering figure; 23 feet tall and somewhat sinister. Mother Goose welcomed all guests with a big bowl of salad and a pained expression of discomfort. Her face looked more like a real mother’s than it did a fairy tale. She appears tired, irritated, and has somewhat masculine features. Her knobby cane emphasizes her agony further. Next to her, a curious goose, looking up at her (maybe interested in what is in the bowl) The more I dug, the more she started showing up. I found her scowl on brochures, souvenirs, and postcards.
The statue’s face is strange and memorable. I recognized it immediately.
I had seen this face before at Storybook Land in Egg Harbor. I thought to myself “Huh-They actually made two of those!-Wonder what happened to the one that was in Gettysburg.”
The deeper I dug the more I found; and my initial assumption was wrong.
There were not two of these figures manufactured, there was just one, and she was made to be the focal point at the entrance of Fantasyland for Ken and Thelma Dick, who opened the park in 1959.
When it closed, most of the statues and figures were sold to other park owners. Many of them went to Indiana, but surely the largest, Mother Goose, presented a unique set of challenges. As it turns out, she made the nearly 200 mile trip east from Gettysburg to the Jersey Shore, where she has continued to greet visitors at the entrance of a new park.
Gettysburg lost a piece of its collective childhood when Fantasyland closed its castle doors, but thankfully, Mother Goose was not left to the bulldozers or the elements. She still greets the young visitors (and the young at heart). She is the first thing guests see when they walk through the gates of Story Book Land. She’s even got a spot for excited kids (like me) to pose with her…and her mysterious bowl of salad. The park has repainted her beautifully, even softening her face into a near Mona-Lisa smile. She’s blushing and has gotten her nails done. Her witchy-pointed hat has been shortened and flowers have been added. She seems happy to spend her old age here near the Atlantic Ocean. Her goose friend is here too, still trying desperately to get her attention.
Next time you are visiting Story Book Land take a look at a piece of history from a park that didn’t make it. Fantasyland was less fortunate than Story Book Land which still operates today, but even through uncertain times, mothers always seem to find their way back to their children.