Thrift Item of the Moment Revisited #3

I’m revisiting some of my favorite “Thrift Item of the Moment” posts from my previous blog Bowling Trophy. The original text is reprinted with More! Bigger! photos and Updates!

Drumheller Dinosaurs (originally posted July 12, 2012)

Some thrift store items are a mystery, others tell you their entire life story.

DrumhellerDino01

This cute little guy was made with lots of love and green paint by Eugenia Lippolt, a lady wrestler from Drumheller, Alberta (“Dinosaur Capital of the World”), who supplemented her income by making ceramic novelties to sell to tourists. One summer, she sold an entire lot to the Waldorf Hotel who put them on their guests’ pillows instead of chocolate mints until the guests started to complain of broken teeth.

DrumhellerDino02

Uncle Ray, in town for the wedding of a second cousin, took his dinosaur home and gave it to his sister’s kid for her sixth birthday. Little Julie, hopped up on chiffon cake and pink lemonade, was furious that Uncle Ray would give her a present he so obviously got for free. She threw it against a cinder block wall causing the head and a few smaller pieces to break off.

DrumhellerDino03

Ashamed by her outburst, Julie glued the pieces back on with Elmer’s Glue-All. Little Julie grew up to be a world famous paleontologist. Coincidence? Probably.

Long story short: A bunch of years passed, I bought the dinosaur at the Salvation Army collectibles store for 99¢ and took it home to meet its new shelfmates:

DrumhellerDino04

Not marked, but it doesn’t take a handwriting expert to recognize Eugenia’s printing.

DrumhellerDino05

Not by Eugenia. You can tell by the raised lettering on the beautifully mottled base…

DrumhellerDino06

and by the label on the back. Elizabeth was Eugenia’s main competitor in the cutthroat multihundred dollar ceramic souvenir industry in Drumheller. They loathed each other and often lobbed overripe crab apples into each others’ yards (they were neighbours). Eventually, cheaper and more durable plastic dinosaurs from Japan put them both out of business.

Some parts of this story may not be true. I couldn’t find any info at all about Eugenia Lippolt on the internet. Odd, considering how unique that name is and how many of these figures must be out there (I’ve been coming across them long before I started my collection).

Eugenia Lippolt. Eugenia Lippolt. EUGENIA LIPPOLT. Now anyone googling Eugenia will find this page first. Maybe that’s how you got here. What do you know about Eugenia?

Elizabeth Simpson is also an enigma. A pity. These pieces have so much more character and charm than their modern equivalents. These two ladies should be documented and celebrated.

Update:

DrumhellerDino07a

In the past year-and-a-half I’ve added these two handsome airbrush-painted Drumheller dinos to the collection. I love the bright red gash of a mouth on the one on the left.

DrumhellerDino09

Rawrrrr

Neither is marked with a maker’s name. My guess is that they’re not by Eugenia or Elizabeth because they’re such a different style.

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4 thoughts on “Thrift Item of the Moment Revisited #3

  1. A charming and delightful story for charming and delightful dinosaur ceramics. A postscript to your story – it should be noted for the historical record that the one on the right in the second last photo was given to you by a thoughtful and beautiful friend who hopes you aren’t going to sell it in a garage sale or something.

  2. Nothing was ever heard from Eugenia Lippolt after she announced her engagement in a Calgary paper in 1959. Obviously her fiance (“Uncle” Ray???) wanted a traditional marriage in which his bride would give up her career as an artist, to become a domestic Goddess, and direct all her considerable talents and energies into the making of a happy home for him and the children. His gain is a sad loss for the world of art. And dinosaur appreciation.

    • Thanks for that bit of information. I hope someday we’ll know the true story of the ceramic dinosaur ladies of Drumheller.

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