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Wooden Toys of Yesteryear

So Te Papa has a new exhibition of animated characters from the film world? A current rival exhibition has just opened right here in Feilding and is much closer, more convenient and an attraction to kids of all ages. Visitors over the summer holidays to the Coach House Museum in Feilding can view a “Wooden Toys of Yesteryear” exhibition. Visitors can see what entertained children before there was TV or internet. The oldest toy on display belonged to Ford Rowe who was born in Ireland and came as a boy to New Zealand in the early 1900s. His building blocks are still in their original wooden case.

Most of the exhibits are battered and worn which is to be expected as they were much loved and used items. Packaging came basically in wood up until the late 20th century when plastic wrapping and corrugated cardboard were manufactured. Before then everything was packed in wood. Tea, butter, soap, beer and apple boxes to name a few were commonly used by backyard builders to create all sorts of wooden toys. When the last baby in the family arrived the four wheels and axles were removed and with a few boards and a 20lb apple box got converted into the trolley. Sadly, not one survives that can be on show in the exhibition.

What are apparent though are all the ingenious toys that did get made. This is evidenced in the photos that accompany the display. Volunteers of the Coach House Museum have dusted off the albums and come up with photographs of themselves and siblings posing on, in or pushing lots of wooden toys.  Sporting equipment back in those days was often made of wood. Tennis & badminton racquets, hockey sticks, bowls, skittles and Bobs sets are on display. Puzzles and board games were wooden, not plastic, and many children learned to play wooden musical instrument such as recorders, ukuleles, violins and piano.

Alongside the exhibit is another area that encourages visitors to ‘have a go’. Penny arcade games (they no longer require the penny), ping pong, draughts, pick-up sticks and several modern wooden games that have been built especially for this display can be tried.

Marilyn Wightman – Archivist


Click here for more information
about the display



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