The story of the three bears

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, March 25, 2014

by Linda List

Do you know Landrum’s three bears, Max, Caroline, and Jake?  These three wooden bears stand ready to welcome passersby to downtown Landrum.  Meet Maximus at Amish Furniture, Caroline at Carolina Antiques and Jake in the State Farm Insurance window. Wanting to know about these charming greeters, I duck into Carolina Antiques and ask Linda Howard to tell me their story.
Linda and Chris Howard went on a quest to find just the right bear to greet people at the door of their antique shop. Linda explains, “I inherited both my Grandmother’s and my Mother’s teddy bears, which were then introduced to my own collection. So now I wanted one big bear to represent my shop.”
Driving down Highway 176 one afternoon, she made a sudden U-Turn. She had caught a glimpse of that perfect bear.  Before thinking twice, Linda arranged for 700 pound Carly to be transported to her shop by truck in time for Christmas.  Linda’s aunt went to work taking the big bear’s measurements and sewing a Christmas outfit. Next came a tu tu for Easter, a cook’s apron for the (Bar B Que) Festival, a Halloween costume, and a yellow polka dot bikini for summer.
Carly was dressed in her bikini when a customer approached Linda, wanting to purchase the wonderful bear. Linda inquired, “Where would Carly be living?”  They explained that their house on Glassy Mountain was going to be in a “Southern Living” photo shoot and Carly would be a feature. Linda sighs, “So I gave in and off went Carly to her new mountain home.”  But the town was dismayed.  Linda started receiving phone calls. “Where’s Carly?” everyone wanted to know.  So what else could she do?  Linda headed down the road to Boiling Springs and found Carly’s sister, Caroline, waiting for a new home.
Inspired by Carly and Caroline, Matt at Amish Furniture began contemplating his own bear. He envisioned a bigger, papa-size bear.  “One day I was driving down Rt 176.  A very large bear caught my eye,” he remembers. Like Linda, he did a quick u-turn, driving back to investigate.  “And there was Maximus.  I bought him on the spot!” he chuckles.  Matt is from Ohio Amish Country and since Max is solid wood, Matt says, “He’s a good Amish Bear. He weighs over a ton and it took a crane to unload him.”  Pretty soon, little Jake took up residence in the State Farm Insurance window.  Jake, Caroline and Maximus might be tourists’ most popular Landrum photographs.
Ted Travers at Adventures In Art Woodcarving is the “bear creator”. “I started sculpting at three years of age, playing with modeling clay,” he relates. They lived near Silver Dollar City and Branson, Missouri where he was able to learn wood carving from masters. “I lived in Florida, carved pelicans and manatees.  Now I’m in the mountains and it’s bears.  I’ve carved totem poles and have a request for a horse,” he continues. “Maybe I’ll try a fox. My biggest challenge now is turning 55.  Sometimes my back hurts, my shoulders ache, my wrist and knees are sore.”  Ted teaches wood carving with hopes of passing down the art. “My other love is my church,” he confides. “I grew up wanting to be a priest and a woodcarver.  I gave up on the priest idea, but I’m a Christian youth leader.” Back in Landrum, I stopped for another visit with the bears. Ted’s personality is evident in his creations.  These warm, friendly, solid wood bears were created by a warm, friendly, solid woodcarver.

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