Written by: Don Frost
The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
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9/26/06 Always-Popular Wooden Folk Toys
Most of our ďfolk toysĒ were produced at home for several good reasons, toys were not available in stores and they were expensive in a population that had limited incomes, the materials for the toys was available, and farm families had time in off-seasons to make them. The machine age changed a lot of that with mass production and lowered cost and new technology. The toy industry now is a multi billionaire industry. However, making a toy with limited tools which is gladly accepted by your children who derive a great of pleasure playing with it and keep it over the years because mom or dad made it is a wonderful accomplishment. Made from good sturdy materials they are designed to last so they become treasures for tomorrow.
The makers of folk toys realized a toy needed to be something simple but creative and there is much ingeniousness in designing something that delights children over the years. Many toys incorporate principles of physics that baffle a youngster (and adults too) such as the Whimmy Diddle, the Skyhook or the Flipperdinger For instance, the WhimmyDiddle is a simple stick of wood with notches cut in it and a small propeller on the end. When the stick is held in one hand and rubbed with a round stick in the other the propeller can be made to spin in one direction or the other. It takes a little practice to do it well which leads to satisfaction in doing it but also leads to others saying-How did you do that?
Museums are a place of learning as well as collecting items from the past and Gilfordís historical society does that. For many visitors itís a place to bring back memories from the past but for many young people itís a glimpse of a life they will never know Gilfordís Thompson-Ames Historical Society is in a unique position where it caters to both young and old. During our regular year we see older people but in May each year we become a class room for students from the elementary grades. Their teachers prepare them for what they will see and do and on days set aside for the different groups the teachers and aids walk down to one of the three buildings they will visit. Our president meets them and gives them an overview of what they will see and then the group is broken up into smaller groups who then spend a certain amount of time in each area of interest where they listen and learn and participate in the activities.
The students realize this is a special day and are always on their best behavior. For the docents it is a wonderful experience to see the great interest and the enthusiasm the students have. We also get some interesting comments from the aids who are usually parents of the kids who seem to learn a lot themselves. In most cases we all wish we had more time to spend. Itís a joy to work with kids to teach them how to have fun -- especially in the toy area. Since we donít get many folk-toys donated to the museum, several members have made toys based on the old designs and the men have as much fun making the toys as the kids do in playing with them. A win-win situation. For those who havenít visited our museums do try to come. Youíre always welcome.
For those who would like to make some toys for your children we have several books available.
Gilfordís Thompson-Ames Historical Society maintains displays in three historic buildings in Gilford Village, at 8, 24 and 88 Belknap Mountain Road. Also, the society has a website, www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org, which gives a wonderful introduction to its museum displays as well as its programs.
Why not plan a visit soon? Just call 527-9009 and leave your name and telephone number, and you will receive a return call. Or send an e-mail to the historical society at email@example.com. A warm welcome awaits all visitors!