Visitors to the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem are being welcomed by two new greeters with familiar faces.
Since late August, two life-size fiberglass statues of Stan Laurel and Harlem's Oliver Hardy have been greeting fans as they enter the museum on North Louisville Street. The statues and many other Laurel and Hardy collectibles are among the newest items added to the museum's display in time for the city's annual Oliver Hardy Festival on Saturday.
"The statues are doing wonderful, people love to get their pictures (taken with Laurel and Hardy)," said Linda Caldwell, lead volunteer for the museum.
The statues were donated by Kathy Levin, of Lancaster County, Pa., who is a regular visitor to the festival. She couldn't make it this year, Caldwell said, so she sent the statues instead.
Other items new to visitors this year include Laurel and Hardy cookie jars and snow globes bearing the likenesses of the Hollywood comic duo. Those items, and an autographed dining car menu, were donated to the museum by Eloise Elkington, of Onoway, Mich.
Elkington, 82, said she met Laurel and Hardy during a train ride in December 1941. Elkington, other passengers and Laurel and Hardy were stranded for hours aboard a Chicago-bound train because of snow.
"They were both the most wonderful people. They just went up and down talking to everybody," Elkington said. She said she played cards and shared a meal with Laurel, with whom she corresponded for many years.
"I wish I had saved the letters," she said. "They'd be priceless now, because he was advising me the different courses to take in college, and what he had taken and what he liked to learn about."
Elkington learned of the museum and festival through friends and museum volunteer Nancy Mulherin, who traveled to Michigan this summer to collect the items. Elkington said she hopes to attend the festival next year.
"I think that museum is the most amazing thing for a town of that size, and the enthusiasm of those people is just wonderful," she said.
Caldwell said the number of visitors is increasing. Between 350 and 500 patrons per month make the trip to the museum. Guests from each state in the nation, and most of Europe, have signed the visitor log at the front desk, she said.
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