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Saturday, September 6, 1997

Ligonier, PA. -- There was an old woman who worked in a shoe. She saw a lot of tourists and knew exactly what to do.

After 25 years of playing the "old woman who lived in a shoe" at the nursery rhyme-themed Story Book Forest at Idlewild Park, Nellie Gindlesperger is retiring at the end of the summer at age 85.

She has spent her days crocheting in front of the park's massive brown and green boot, often putting down her sewing to talk to visitors.

"So many of the little ones ask me how many children I have," she said. "I tell them that all of the children who come through Story Book Forest are mine."

Gindlesperger, who in real life has five children and whose own mother played the role for 12 years before her, teaches nursery rhymes to her visitors.

"They aren't teaching the youngsters nursery rhymes today," she said. "Our fairy tales are going to be lost."

Her fairy tales come with a personal twist.

"She said that she really was the old lady in the shoe, and someone wrote a nasty old poem about her," said 8-year-old Gina Crivella.

Idlewild Park is about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh.

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