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Hats off to a mystery



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August 14, 2013 - Groveland Twp.- Farmer Nick Nichols fell in love with a statue of "Little Lulu" when he was shopping with wife Pam at an antiques mall a few years ago.

The antiques dealer didn't have any information on the 8-foot tall sculpture of the comic strip character, but was anxious to sell her as she was taking up a lot of space. The Nichols were happy to give her a home in front of Grandma's Ice Cream Parlour, located at their Oak Haven Farm, 7515 Grange Hall Road. "I'm a dreamer," says Farmer Nick. "We are limited with signs and I just thought this would be something people would notice when they're driving down Dixie Highway at 55-60 miles per hour."

He was right. In the three years since "Little Lulu" has taken up residence, she has attracted a lot of attention from visitors to the ice cream shop and farm, who often stop to have their photo taken with her. She has also prompted a lot of questions about where she came from.

Until recently, Nick and Pam couldn't really say, other than they purchased the statue from Water Tower Antiques in Holly. They didn't know where she'd been before then. Now, they have a hint and are hoping to uncover the roots of their statue, based on the comic strip character who made her debut in a 1935 edition of The Saturday Evening Post and gained fame in the ensuing years, particularly as a syndicated comic in the 1950s and '60s.

Nick uncovered a clue when he was giving Little Lulu a makeover in June.

"She was fine when we bought her, but she needed sprucing up," said Pam. "She has a chicken wire frame and she's made of fiberglass and papier-mache. The elements have taken a toll on her."

Nick scraped off loose paint and mixed paint colors to get the raspberry color of Lulu's dress. New white paint was used for the dress collar and buttons, as well as her socks. Her shoes were shined brown, and her bloomers are cream-colored. Her black curls were refreshed, and skin tone evened out. The ice cream cone she holds in her right hand is bright now with three scoops—chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

But Nick decided the orange hat on Lulu's head needed to go. As he sawed it off, he found a surprise inside. The hat was full of 20-year-old The Joplin Globe newspapers from Joplin, Mo. with front page headlines including "Iraq media steps up attacks" and "Military delivers food to hurricane victims."

"If it had been newspapers from Flint or Detroit, I wouldn't have thought much about it, but I thought—that was the town that got blown away by a tornado," said Nick, referring to the May 2011 Joplin disaster that killed more than 150 people and injured more than 1,100 others. "We wondered how (Lulu) made her way here."

Toward that end, Pam and Nick contacted The Joplin Globe, which recently ran a story on the Nichols' find. More than 60 responses have been made regarding Lulu on the newspaper's Facebook page, but with no definitive answers.

"We just want to know who made her and what the purpose was," said Nick. "Life is a mystery every day. This is a piece of the puzzle. You lose sight of what you've got some times. One man's trash is another man's treasure."

Anyone with information on the possible origins of the Little Lulu statue owned by the Nichols is asked to email them at pamnnick@tir.com or call Oak Haven Farm at 248-328-5437.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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