Idaho Falls Public Library
457 W. Broadway
Idaho Falls, ID 83402
fax: (208) 612-8467
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Reprint of article in the Post-Register, October 4,
"Dreams Can Come True," Rawls statue
By Paul Holland
One boy was so thrilled with Jack London's Call of the Wild
that he dreamed of writing a book like it. He stated, "This was
quite an ambitious dream for me. I didn't have an education, and my
parents were too poor to buy paper and pencils for me."
That dream became a reality in 1961 when Wilson Rawls, with help
from his wife, Sophie, published Where the Red Fern Grows.
That book was written while Wilson Rawls lived in Idaho Falls (1958
to 1975) in a house on 11th Street. The book has become a
children's classic and is used throughout the United States to
teach reading. Where the Red Fern Grows was also made into a
A second dream began when Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud
Handbook, came to Idaho Falls for a speaking engagement. A
standard part of his talk related to Wilson Rawls and Where the
Red Fern Grows. Many people who had never heard the story of
Wilson Rawls, were amazed. Dave Schjeldahl, Principal at Temple
View Elementary, thought a statue commemorating Wilson Rawls' life
and book would be invaluable to the community. He approached Mayor
Linda Milam with his conception, and she thought it was a wonderful
idea. He also spoke with local artist Marilyn Hansen about creating
a statue based on Where the Red Fern Grows.
To help make this second dream into a reality has taken more than a
year of fund raising. The grant that put us "over the top" was
recently awarded by the Idaho Commission on the Arts and National
Endowment for the Arts. The grant check was presented to the
library by State Senator Melvin Richardson. Paul Holland, Library
Director says, on behalf of the Library Board and staff, "Thanks to
all who contributed to provide the money to build the statue. A
special thanks goes to all of the schools which sponsored
money-raising projects for the statue."
The dream is now in the hands of Marilyn Hansen who will design and
sculpt the statue. Her work on the statue will be funded by the
Idaho Commission on the Arts. The fulfillment of this dream will be
celebrated at the statue's dedication.
Along the way, the Idaho Falls Public Library was helped by another
project funded, in part, by the Idaho Humanities Council. This
project allowed us to collect information about Wilson Rawls,
develop a display about his life, and convey his story to the
public through storyteller Madelaine Love. Photos and interviews
are now available to the public and are housed in the Idaho Room at
the library. This project, while not directly related to the
statue, officially helped to create interest in making the dream
become a reality. Holland credits Love's efforts on the project and
fund-raising events with much of the success in the progress of the
Wilson Rawls once said in an interview, "When speaking in the
schools, I tell youngsters to keep reaching our for whatever goals
they set for themselves. As long as they are honest and truthful
and don't hurt anyone along the way, they will have help in
reaching their goals. I know I did."
The statue which Marilyn Hansen is creating has the working title
"Dreams Can Come True." We want children to know Wilson
Rawls' story, to dream ambitious dreams, and with the help of
schools, libraries, and friends, have these dreams come true.
"I hope when you drive by the statue on Broadway a year from now,
it will serve as a symbol to you that your dreams, and more
importantly, the dreams of your children, can come true," remarks
Holland. "The statue was born out of a dream to recognize a dream
that came true."
This information was drawn from the materials collected by Madelaine
Love in 1997 as a part of the "Woodrow Wilson Rawls: Dreams Can Come
True" research project funded by a grant from the Idaho Humanities
Council and the Idaho Falls Public Library. The original interview
tapes and transcripts, photographs and other materials are housed in
the Idaho Room of the Idaho Falls Public Library and used with
permission. Any use without permission is expressly forbidden.