CREATING ED GALLOWAY'S TOTEM POLE PARK
After more than 20 years as a manual arts teacher at the Children’s Home orphanage in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, in 1937, Ed Galloway retired and moved his family to a small farm near Foyil, Oklahoma. Shortly afterward, he embarked on an ambitious folk-art project to create a three-dimensional totem pole using modern building materials.
Every day he rose at 5:00 a.m. and continued to work on his elaborate pieces until past sunset. After eleven years of work, Galloway’s large totem pole was completed in 1948, topping out at approximately 90 feet (27 m) in height. The totem pole’s construction took six tons of steel, 28 tons of cement, and 100 tons of sand and rock. The base is 30 feet (9 m) wide and rests on the back of a colorfully painted turtle. It is decorated with approximately 200 bas-relief images of brightly colored Native American portraits, symbols, and animal figures that cover the entire totem pole from the base to its pinnacle.
Working mostly by himself, the totem pole and other sculptures in the park kept Galloway busy during his retirement years all the way up until the time of his death due to cancer in 1962.
Some say that he hoped to use his work to educate young people about Native Americans, but others claim he thought it would be a good thing for youngsters, Boy Scouts, in particular, to visit.
The park also features Galloway’s eleven-sided “Fiddle House” which is supported inside and out by 25 concrete totem poles. It previously housed his hand-carved fiddles, handmade furniture, and bas-relief portraits of all of the US Presidents up to JF Kennedy.
The park also contains four smaller concrete totems, two ornate concrete picnic tables with animal-form seats, a barbecue, and four sets of animal-form gateposts.
After his death in 1962, the sculptures began to fall into disrepair from weather and neglect. Unfortunately, many of the fiddles were stolen from the Fiddle House in 1970 and were never recovered. However, in the 1990s, a restoration effort was undertaken by the Kansas Grassroots Art Association whose members live near Lawrence, Kansas. Members of the group painted the totems during Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends over a seven-year period.
The outdoor sculptures were restored and repainted, and the Fiddle House was brought back from the brink of collapse and transformed into the Fiddle House Museum and Gift Shop.
The park is now owned and operated by the Rogers County Historical Society. Yet, the words Mr. Galloway once said still remain true, and we are fortunate they do.
"All my life I did the best I knew; I built these things by the side of the road to be a friend to you."
SELF-GUIDED TOUR OF ED GALLOWAY'S TOTEM POLE PARK
Click on the links below to find out more about Ed Galloway's Totem Pole Park as you walk from structure to structure. Information comes from an early 1990s walking tour of the park, written by Tim Brown, and from the Totem Pole Park's National Register of Historic Places, application written by Dianna Everett, and status granted in 1999.