Tag Archives: wax

Old Man Made Of Wax (Local Legend from Orinda, CA)

Original Text: “So at my local pool…Orinda Park Pool it was called, OPP. At the pool we would have ghost story night and we would tell the lore of the pool and ghost stories about it and the surrounding area and stuff. And so it used to be a big swimming hole, the pool, like a big lake and then they turned it into like a big pool for swimming and stuff. So there was like this red house within the closed community, right next to the pool and up the hill. People said there was an old man that lived there that was made of wax. And then they told the story of a kid who went in and the old man made of wax like yelled at him and told him to leave and never come back. So one time we went to the house to see if there was anyone there after swim practice when I was like 8 or something with my brothers friends, and we couldn’t get in cuz it was locked, but we looked through the window, but we couldn’t find anything. But we still told all our friends back at the pool we saw the man when we didn’t cuz it was funny.” 

Context: The informant would take lessons and swim at this pool every summer when he was a kid. He said it was super easy to walk from his house to the pool, and he even saw the red house the wax man lived in every day when going to school. He saw with his brother’s friends, and they were the first to introduce him to the story of the wax man around 8 years old. The informant said that the quest to find the wax man made the legendary to the younger kids at the pool, and was a fun bonding experience for their friend group.

Analysis: In this legend, we can see that because children are so removed from old age and dying, they might fear and associate old people with the unknown of death and the supernatural. Here, the informant and his friends have applied the supernatural trait of being made of wax to the scary old man. I would like to point out an interesting connection between the man being made of wax and this story circulating the hot summer at a pool. Perhaps there was a sense that the man had to stay in his red house because he would melt in the sun. The fact that this is a legend and a memorate allowed the informants friend group to form a bond around this particular version of the story. This becomes part of the groups folklore and distinguishes them from the younger kids at the pool.

Ukrainian Eggs

Description of Informant

NM (49) is a Massachusetts native living in California. He commits to a regular exercise routine and owns/operates a metal decking supply firm. NM enjoys strategy games, world news/current events, and participates in a weekly chess match with friends.


Context of Interview

The informant, NM, is met in his garden by the collector, BK, his nephew. They speak poolside.


BK: How about folk objects? Often these are handmade crafts, with a long tradition.

NM: Well, my mother is almost a professional Ukrainian egg [maker]. You’ve seen her eggs?

BK: Can you speak to those a little bit?

NM: I think she picked that up completely on her own. It was not something her family did. I think one of her friends introduced her to it. But yeah, I mean, the way it works is you’ve got these small little, little scooping tools that you heat up in a candle, scoop up a little bit of wax. And then if the metal of the scooper is heated up there’s a small pin for coal at the other end of the scoop. So then you’re drawing on an egg with that melted wax in a pattern, and then you’d dye-in a particular column. Let’s say you wanted to dye it blue, and then you wanted to heat up your little tool, the wax melts, and color in the triangle [with wax] that you wanted to remain blue. Then you’re dipping again in another color, so you’re losing whatever didn’t get covered in wax. 

NM: So you’re starting off, you know, there’s some planning obviously going on if you’re– if the base color, the whole thing is red, you started with the red egg, and then you’ll have to cover the whole egg with wax and leave a couple [sections open to be re-dyed]. Yeah, like I know [my mother] has one that’s like red, white, and black. So she would have needed to make parts that she wanted to stay white. Make that design. Dip the whole thing in red. Then color all that in, in, in wax to keep the red and then leave little strips if she wanted those black and then dip that last bit in black. 

NM: That’s my basic understanding but she’d do it with a full egg, not hard-boiled. And then after it was the way you wanted it, you would take this little contraption that would poke a hole in the bottom and suck out the goop, and put a shellac on it. And then hope the cat doesn’t jump up on the table and knock the basket onto the ground and break them all. Because it happened a couple times.

BK: Oh my gosh, how long would one take to make?

NM: Yeah, I mean, it depends on the time she had. But I think if you were dedicated to it on just the weekends. Yeah, weeks. Yeah, cuz it’s, I think, yeah, because it’s slow. It’s kind of slow work getting the wax. And they would actually, my sister would know, too, because they both did it. But my mom was, you know, [my sister is] pretty good at it, too. But my mom was really good at it. And I was little, so I wasn’t really ever paying attention to how long it took. But I think it would take a while. And maybe she’d have a couple going at once, where you’d get a basic pattern going. And what made it easier, were a lot of thick, elastic, rubber bands, so that you could create, you know, you put a thick elastic rubber band around, then you would have a guide that you could follow with your wax. So I think that helped a lot in some of the patterns. But it’s still very time-consuming. I don’t know if that’s big in New England or if she just took a little class on Ukrainian egg making.

Collector’s Reflection

The process of Ukrainian egg making is laborious and time-consuming, but the end result is more than beautiful. Their traditional nature adds to their value, but NM’s mother’s involvement calls the value into question. As NM mentions, his mother “picked up” Ukrainian egg making. Their family is mostly Irish; this was not a tradition that was “theirs” or passed down. So, are her Ukrainian eggs still “valid”? 

In the case study of the New Mexican Natives selling traditional jewelry at the portal, the courts decided that such “appropriation” would not be supported or protected. But in that case, non-natives were looking to sell native-passing works. NM’s mother does not sell her eggs, though she may gift them. Though I, a non-Ukrainian, take no issue with her hobbyist involvement, I am curious to hear a Ukrainian perspective.

Pictured Below: Two of NM’s Mother’s Ukrainian Eggs