Toys are are not only fun to play with but also offer windows into their time period.
The Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) has gathered some of those relics from community members for its “Toys, Dolls and All Things Christmas” exhibit. It was installed on Nov. 24 and will remain on display through the end of January, Interim Director Gerald Holman said.
The exhibit “carries you back to some old times,” he said. It includes a few toys you don’t see much of anymore, such as sleds.
The exhibit is a welcome addition to the museum because “African-Americans put a lot of emphasis into the Christmas” celebrations, Holman said.
However, everyone can relate to the assembled artifacts, Gloria Hylton said. “All children are the same,” she added.
Hylton, Jean Wilson and Ann K. Hairston formed the committee which organized the exhibit. They were approached by the museum to develop seasonal exhibits.
“It’s not that much, but it’s something that some of us moms wanted to share,” Hylton said.
One interesting toy is a doll with three faces. Her daughter, 48-year-old Andrea Hylton of Charlotte, N.C., is an only child and thus enjoyed playing with dolls as a girl, Hylton said. She found and fell in love with the doll at a Mrs. Dupee’s kindergarten class on High Street.
A small knob on top of its bonnet-covered head rotates to reveal just one face at a time. The three choices are a smiling baby face, a sleeping baby and a baby with chicken pox. The doll is at least 50 years old.
One handmade doll playfully told the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood,” Hylton said. Little Red Riding Hood’s dress can be flipped over to reveal Grandma on the other side; remove Grandma’s bonnet, and the Wolf’s face is exposed.
Many items date back at least 50 to 60 years, such as toy trucks formerly used by Michael Morrison and a hobby horse contributed by Floretta Cahill. Cahill also contributed her mother’s miniature doll chair that is at least 100 years old, Hylton said.
“We wanted things you just don’t see anymore,” Hylton said. Among those more unfamiliar Christmas toys are an old-style metal bike and a metal train set. The bike was lent by former Martinsville teacher Jean Wilson, and the train was contributed by local NAACP chapter president Naomi Hodge-Muse.
More contemporary items are featured, too. Ann Hairston, a formed Henry County teacher, contributed several black Santas and black dolls that are hard to find, Hylton said.
Hylton said she hopes more people will lend their families’ toys, dolls and other Christmas-related items for future exhibits.
The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
FAHI will close Saturday, Dec. 21 for the holidays and reopen Wednesday, Jan. 1. Appointments for group tours can be arranged during and outside of museum hours, including over the holiday closing, by calling 638-7042.