‘Frosty’ figurines still library attractions
Her name was Faustina S. Bianco, but she was better known as “Frosty.”
She worked at The Hub Department Store helping with windows and store decorating after graduating from Steubenville High School.
In the 1950s, the library system was guided by Dave Griffith as director, and he always was looking for ways to enhance the library and its services and make “things more exciting.” That included developing a newspaper column written by “Skimmer the Library Bookworm.”
To add a face to the author, he contracted with Frosty, who also was working with George Creegan, who had worked at the library as a high school student, to make “Skimmer.”
The papier-mache critter that emerged started a series of figurines that continues to enhance the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County 60 years later.
In 1956, Skimmer made his debut, followed quickly by Jack and the Beanstalk and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and a continuing array of literary characters that extended for the next 25 years.
The oldest figurines were developed on a wire frame and involved applying paper soaked in wheat paste and a long drying process. Newspaper torn into strips was added with more paste to form the creature desired followed by appropriate paints.
Figurines were often recycled and reconstructed into different creatures, and in the 1960s hot glue and fur covering were added to the format.
A few figurines remained as is, others were discarded, as new paint jobs were common on the original papier-mache. Dave Griffith left the library in 1964 to be replaced by Martin S. Howard, who continued the contractual agreement with Frosty.
Howard retired in 1975, replaced by Mary Ellen Kovalan who hired Frosty as a staff member.
When I arrived in 1983, Frosty had retired from making new papier-mache other than making repairs to existing figurines and used more modern products to make displays. Frosty resigned from the library system in 1984, working full-time for Creegan & Co.
The “Frostys” remained as memorable parts of the library system and its branches, and when planning was under way to renovate the 1902 Main Library, concern was expressed about what to do with the figurines and how to incorporate them into the new design which would allow full access to the building.
“Jack and the Beanstalk” seemed to be of major concern as it had been part of the children’s library for 60 years, and that department was moving into the new building.
Nelson Fine Arts came to the rescue as they agreed to restore five of the featured figurines to be placed in new locations within the newly renovated and enlarged Main Library building.
Jack and his Beanstalk had another problem — the monster at the top of the beanstalk scared younger children, so a compromise was to relocate it to the atrium on the back wall of the Carnegie building and revise the monster’s red eyes with LED white eyes to make everyone happy.
Four other Frostys were restored, being careful to retain color and style, and try to restore more of them each year.
The Main Library is contained in James A. Willis’s 2015 book “Ohio’s Historic Haunts.”
Even though he found no ghosts in the library, he was fascinated by the figurines and covered them in a chapter of the book. Unfortunately, his publisher expressed concern about trademark issues with the figurines, so the coverage is only in text.
During my 36 years as director, I heard many tales of which figurine was people’s favorite — whether it was Snow White and the Dwarfs, or Jack, or the flying Goose or Duck.
Yet the one that seemed to be even more of an interest was one described as the “Witches stirring a pot” which didn’t seem to be around anymore.
Even the photos the library has of all the figurines don’t seem to show such a figurine.
Finally a former staff member remembered that “it” was placed in storage because people complained that “witches” shouldn’t be such a feature in the public library.
Bob Dibenedetto overheard the conversation, and said “pot” and “witches?” “I think I know where that is” and sure enough, it has been found and is being restored.
The new Main Library has a different layout, so the witches can now be returned to everyone’s satisfaction. Actually, the missing figurine is based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the statement is made, “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble, The three witches spell.”
Better yet, you can now see all of the library’s historic photo collection of all the years of Frosty’s work on the Digital Shoebox, an online system with digitized images of local history. There are 200 photos of Frosty’s over the years at www.digitalshoebox.org in the PLSJ Image File sorting by “Frosty.”
And don’t forget, the Main Library also has a cousin of the Frosty’s –George Creegan donated “Crow” and his house that were used on his TV Show, “Creegan & Crow.”