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Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem, Georgia
Posted October 27, 2008

One of our frequent contributors, Anne Dawson, told us about the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Georgia. Even though our web site is about the movie theaters of South Carolina, we felt a strong attraction to the idea of visiting the museum. After all, it’s only 20 miles west of the state line between South Carolina and Georgia.

We headed for Harlem, Georgia, on U.S. Highway 78, through cypress swamps, small towns and vast farmlands. We are never rushed when we travel. It was late afternoon when we arrived in Augusta, Georgia. We settled into our room at the motel and decided to drive the ten miles to Harlem, just to check out the museum’s location. The museum, located in a former post office, had closed for the day.

Friday morning, we drove confidently to Harlem, and parked beside the museum. It was raining. Inside, we were greeted by two museum volunteers, Linda Caldwell and Nancy Mulheron. Their enthusiasm was contagious. Nancy offered us fresh homemade cookies and a tour of the museum. All thoughts of the rain vanished.

The Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem, Georgia
250 North Louisville Street
Harlem, Georgia 30814
Phone: 706-556-0401 - Toll Free: 888-288-9108

Nancy pointed out early photographs of native-born Oliver Hardy and told us about his family history. Joanne, another museum volunteer. arrived. This cheerful trio were preparing for the arrival of a tour bus full of Laurel and Hardy fans.

Nancy walked from one display to another, pointing out photographs of Oliver Hardy, notebooks containing correspondence related to “Ollie” and binders containing Hardy family genealogy.

Tall cabinets lined the walls and contained an indescribable variety of Laurel and Hardy memorabilia. Cookie jars, plates, dolls, ornaments, posters, books, and toys filled the shelves. In a trunk was a quilt honoring Laurel and Hardy. The quilt was hand-made by local school children.

Nancy, Joanne, and Linda - Enthusiastic Volunteers

Among the hundreds of items, two hats caught our attention. One was a helmet worn by Oliver Hardy in the movie “Bonnie Scotland” (1935, Hal Roach Studios) and a Fez worn in the movie “Sons of the Desert” (1933, Hal Roach Studios.)

Nancy left us to enjoy the exhibits. After awhile, she returned and escorted us into the small screening room, called “Babe’s Bijou.” At the front of the small theater, were more exhibits. These displays showed photographs from the annual Oliver Hardy Festival. This event, held in early October, has been going on since 1989, and now draws over 350 craft vendors and 32,000 visitors.

Just as I was reaching for another one of Nancy’s chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, the tour bus arrived. The visitors were from many places, including England and Singapore.

The group from the bus clustered in twos and threes around various exhibits. They pointed and talked about the items in the cabinets. Occasionally, they would all laugh. After awhile, the group entered "Babe's Bijou" for a screening of a Laurel and Hardy classic film.

After the film, the group returned to the displays. They sipped coffee and ate Nancy's delicious cookies. They sat with likenesses of Laurel and Hardy in a "tin Lizzy" for photographs. They posed beside life-size statues of "the boys" for more photographs.

I offered to take photographs of some of the group. I noticed Mark had volunteered to help Nancy give out buttons that said, “I toured the Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlem, Georgia.”

After the tour bus left, we had a chance to talk more with the three volunteers. We heard about the annual festival. They told us about patrons who donated memorabilia. They shared stories about the beginnings of the museum and the many people who come to visit.

It was late in the afternoon and we were getting hungry. Linda suggested we eat at the Acorn Restaurant. It was just down the street. We had delicious smoked chicken sandwiches and topped it off with homemade pecan pie.

Laurel and Hardy are everywhere in Harlem, Georgia. They are painted on the side of a local car dealership, on the side of the old Columbia Theater, and Ollie is looking down from the local water tower.

We didn’t get a chance to visit the local antique car museum or the pecan store. But, we agree, there is much to see and do in Harlem, Georgia. The museum volunteers, Linda, Nancy and Joanne, made us feel welcome. They are warm and generous and very positive about Harlem and its future. We look forward to our next trip there.

Check out The Laurel and Hardy Museum of Harlan, Georgia at: http://www.laurelandhardymuseum.org/

We had a great trip and enjoyed our "Perfect Day" with Laurel and Hardy. Their films span the silent and sound eras. They include feature and short films. You won't find their joyous comedies at the local megaplex. But, with a little effort, you can bring their delightful humor into your life through videotape and DVD. It's worth the effort.

Many individual films and boxed collections are available for rent from NetFlix and for purchase from Amazon.com. Do yourself a favor. Get your hands on some Laurel and Hardy classic comedy films. Turn off the phone, throw some popcorn in the microwave, and travel back to a simpler time with "the boys."

In the front seat: Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
In the back seat: Mark Tiedje and John Coles.

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