A little known toy and doll museum
April 6, 2012
Editor’s note: Ron Walker’s friend, Margaret, has opened a toy and doll museum in Wellington.
“Pain is for old people, Margaret says disdainfully. Margaret is five-foot nothing, walks with a cane and has fleecy white hair. She is 87. Frank, her husband of 47 years, is 89. Every anniversary, Frank says, “Well, I’ll give her one more year.”
When they met, Margaret was a single mother with four children. Frank’s sense of whimsy prompted him to put an engagement ring in the toe of Margaret’s Christmas stocking. “I thought he must be crazy for taking on four kids or else he’s a wonderful man. One night we were over at Frank’s house, and my daughter Robin said, for heaven sakes mom, marry this man.” He’s eating his dinner out of a tin can, and Margaret breaks into laughter. Her voice softens. “Both of Frank’s folks died of cancer in their 60s and I’ve got him into his 90s, almost. Someday we’ll fly off together,” she says.
I make the mistake of asking how long they have lived in Smith Valley. “My family has been in Smith Valley for six generations. I was born in the house right down the street. My great-grandfather arrived in Smith Valley just before that golden spike was driven up in Utah. My grandfather was a whaler and came across the Isthmus of Panama. Indians carried him in a chair on their backs,” she announces. Information flies out of Margaret like a Roman candle. I realize there is no way I can lead the conversation around to the doll museum she’s created. I put my foot down.
“Margaret, the purpose of this article is to tell people about your museum. J. Paul Getty and you are the only people I know of who do that sort of thing. What got you started collecting dolls?” I ask. Her eyes narrow, she gets very quiet. When this happens, I dare not move. “Well, Ron,” she says with great confidentiality. “When I left home, I envisioned my room staying just the way I left it but mother had other ideas. She was a school teacher and she allowed kids to go up to my room and play. When I came home, the only thing left was a head from a Dionne Quintuplet doll. I was interested in sewing and got started collecting dolls. When we moved back here, Frank built a barn. One side was for animals and the other side was my studio. In time it wasn’t big enough,” she explains. Her voice becomes conspiratorial. “I kept driving past a little cottage down in Wellington. I told the owner I wanted to make it into a toy and doll museum and he was so pleased he cut the rent. That was four years ago,” she says. “How many dolls do you have in it?” I ask. “Oh my, I have no idea. I do know I have eight doll houses and we have all kinds of toys as well,” she says. Two hours have passed. I’m withered. Margaret is blossoming.
Next day, I visit My Nanna’s Dollhouse. Inside, a group of ladies from Gardnerville are huddled together. Margaret is giving a dissertation. “Laura, help me take the roof off this doll house,” she beckons. Laura is her daughter and part time caretaker. “This is a replica of our home. Each item of furniture is placed exactly where it was when we lived there,” she says.
I slip into the kitchen, which is also crammed with dolls. There are dolls on shelves, attached to the walls, even dangling from the ceiling. Thousands of dolls, puppets, miniature tea sets, clowns, teddy bears, even Pinocchio. Many of the really excellent dolls are crafted by Margaret.
Margaret joins me. “My mother lived until 96, my dad until 98. Ron, I just have to keep going,” she whispers and vanishes to become curator once more.
What a dynamo. Margaret has the determination of Moses, and boy can that gal talk. For more information about the doll museum, call, (775) 901-3161.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at email@example.com.