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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: November 23, 2015

Hundreds of toys from the ’30s, ’40s and beyond at Fawcett’s Art, Antiques and Toy Museum in Waldoboro

Written by: Ray Routhier

People who say history can’t be fun have never gone to Fawcett’s Art, Antiques and Toy Museum in Waldoboro.

It would be nearly impossible for anyone to browse the 1930s and 40s toy trains, stuffed Mickey Mouses or the Snow White aluminum kitchen set and not smile. The images on the toys of Donald Duck, Little Orphan Annie, the Lone Ranger or Superman are at once nostalgic, whimsical and aesthetically fascinating.

Housed in a former tavern building, the museum is in four large rooms, each crammed with toys collected over the last 50 years by John Fawcett, an artist who taught graphic design at the University of Connecticut for 32 years. He and his wife, Jacqueline, opened the museum to in 1997. In the same building as the museum is an art gallery and a shop selling antique toys.

Since Fawcett is an artist, what draws him to collect the toys he does is the way they look. Not what was popular or what sells now, but what has some visual style and pop to it.

“It’s really about the aesthetics,” said Jacqueline Fawcett of the collection. “It’s more of a museum for grown-ups. Children don’t relate” because the toys are before their time.

 John Fawcett stands among the many items at his namesake toy museum. His sprawling collection features toys spanning nearly a century from the 1920s to today. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

John Fawcett stands among the many items at his namesake toy museum. His sprawling collection features toys spanning nearly a century from the 1920s to today. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

That may be so, but a toy is a toy in any era. Think of all the toys that were popular 50 years ago – Lincoln Logs and Lionel trains, for instance – and think of all the similar toys that are still around today.

But certainly a lot of the toys in the museum are based on characters that kids today might not know, like The Lone Ranger, the masked hero of the Old West and the basis of a radio show in the 1930s and 40s and a TV show in the 1950s. There are several items in the museum from the collection of Brace Beemer, who played The Lone Ranger on radio, including his boots, his mask and his hat.

Another highlight is the large amount of Disney-related products, going back to a 1930s stuffed Mickey Mouse made by Steiff, a company known for teddy bears. But there are more contemporary toys too, including “Star Wars” pieces, some dating to the first three movies in the 1970s and 80s, and some newer. There is also a collection of Beatle-related toys and merchandise from the 1960s, including figures, pictures and lunch boxes.

Fans of the 1983 holiday classic film “A Christmas Story” will want to check out the museum’s Red Ryder collection, including comics, art, books and guns. In “A Christmas Story,” set in the late 1930s, young Ralphie is obsessed with getting a Red Ryder BB gun, made by Daisy, for Christmas. Red Ryder was the hero of a Western-themed comic strip, and the museum has a large collection, including more than 40 pieces of art drawn for the strip.

A sign on U.S. Route 1 beckons travelers into Fawcett's Art, Antiques and Toy Museum. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

A sign on U.S. Route 1 beckons travelers into Fawcett’s Art, Antiques and Toy Museum. (Photo by Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer)

The museum closes “promptly at 4 p.m.” according to the web site, so the Fawcetts recommend that people arrive before 3 p.m. While there is a $6.50 admission for the museum, the adjacent art gallery and an area with toys and collectibles for sale can be browsed for free.

The museum is about three miles north of Moody’s Diner, so a museum trip can easily be combined with a late breakfast before the museum opens, or an early dinner after the museum closes.

Moody’s, established in 1927, is a Maine landmark steeped in history, which makes it a perfect companion to a museum full of antique toys.

You can satiate your appetite for childhood nostalgia and whimsy, then top it all off with a slice of custard pie.

Fawcett’s Art, Antiques and Toy Museum

WHERE: 3506 Atlantic Highway (Route 1), Waldoboro
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 20. The museum will re-open Memorial Day Weekend, 2016.
HOW MUCH: $6.50 admission to the museum, $7 on a card; Free to browse the art gallery and antique toys and other items for sale.
INFO: home.gwi.net/~fawcetoy

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