St. Albert readers will say goodbye to the public library’s apple tree this Friday as the venerable landmark retires after 36 years.
The St. Albert Public Library will hold a retirement party for its Apple Tree Corner apple tree statue this Feb. 10. The smiling statue has been a popular landmark in the library’s downtown location since Feb. 7, 1987.
The library got $289,000 from the Canada Community Revitalization fund last August to replace its 1980s-era shelves, install wall-mounted magnetic marble runs, and bring in new seating, said children’s services co-ordinator Ashley King. Library staff plan to rearrange the library’s furniture in the coming weeks to create more reading spots for patrons.
King said staffers realized they did not have space for the old apple tree in the library’s new layout. The tree had also become a safety hazard as kids kept climbing on it — there used to be cushions around its base, but those proved too labour-intensive to clean.
“The more stuff you have, the less room for people there is, and the tree takes up quite a big footprint,” King said.
To give the tree a proper send-off, King said the library was encouraging guests to come to Apple Tree Corner next to the children’s services desk this Friday at 2 p.m. to write messages to the tree on heart-shaped pieces of paper. Guests will get to sample free juice and cookies and hear St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron read a story to kids.
From mascot to mainstay
King said the tree was donated to the library in 1987 when the downtown St. Albert McDonald's restaurant revamped its play area. The library held a party to welcome the tree, with Ronald McDonald himself as a guest.
Research by Mark Bellomo of the website Mental Floss suggests the tree was an Apple Pie Tree — one of the many strange creatures that lived in Ronald McDonald’s fictional home of McDonaldland.
King said the tree originally had apple pie boxes amongst its leaves, but artist Victoria Armstrong painted over them. Look carefully, and you can still spot some suspiciously box-like leaves in the tree’s canopy.
Retired St. Albert Public Library children’s librarian Arlene Kissau said the tree was initially placed near the library’s spiral staircase. The tree was a gathering place for readers who would lounge amongst the pillows around its trunk and try and pick its apples. The tree moved to several different spots over the years — it was near where the Rotary Club’s truck play-set stands today at one point — before arriving in its current spot by the children’s services desk.
King said the tree was a big part of people’s lives at the library. Children would sit upon its roots and sing to it, while grandparents would take pictures of children and grandchildren next to it.
Parent Jacob Bedard, who was playing with his two children by the tree Feb. 6, said he was speechless when he learned of the tree’s imminent retirement.
“It was a busy area with lots of kids playing,” he said, and was a favourite spot for many children.
“I’m kind of surprised it’s going to be gone now.”
Asked about the tree’s retirement, Kissau said it was amazing the tree had lasted as long as it had, and that it was certainly time for the library to try something new.
King said the library planned to remove the tree in around Feb. 16, and hoped to raffle it off later this year. Apple Tree Corner will become host to the library’s French collection.
“The tree is going to be missed, for sure,” she said.