Behind the bland blue door of a warehouse in SE Portland, is perhaps one of the largest private toy collections out there. I took the kids recently (in February) to check out hundreds of toys dating mostly from the 1860's to the 1930's. Although, I saw some stuff from later years, as well. The lady behind the messy desk there told me that there's even more to the collection, but is currently in various warehouses. They simply don't have the money or space to have the entire Kidd's toy collection available to the public. But what is available to view is quite impressive.
A fascinating place. And better yet, it's free!
Oh, and I have to say this: visiting the museum offered the opportunity for me to talk to Ava about racism. Hadn't planned on it, but hey, no time like the present.
No frills: the museum's hours taped up on the door. Love the "by appointment or chance" line.
Everything's behind glass cases, so it's safe for the little ones to check out the toys. Just don't bump into them, of course.
A half-awake Ezra sits next to a case filled with various Disney-related toys.
A Mickey pull-toy from the 30's.
We Three Mickeys: Interesting to see the different ways Mickey was depicted back then.
Felix is a great character that pre-dates Mickey. While taking this shot, I noticed the rabbit in the background: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Disney's first cartoon character.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: Disney's first cartoon character, co-created by Walt and Ub Iwerks. I couldn't get any closer without blurry shots, but underneath Oswald's name, "Universal" is mentioned. That's Ferdinand The Bull from the Disney short film of the same name (1938).
Umm....not sure what to make of this. Kinda creeps me out. It's chalkware, that's for sure.
The place had tons of coin banks. TONS of 'em. Here's a few of the smaller ones.
Toy motorcycles. Check out Popeye in the middle there.
My Dad owned one of those orange metal cab cars on the lower shelf there. I think he still has it at home. Came from his dad when he was a kid.
Odd assortment of porcelain (I think) heads. Anyone know what these are for?
Various oddities. Your guess is as good as mine.
Old pulp comics. I remember my grandparents having one or two of these around for the kids.
Ezra trying out a coin bank at the entry. Never could get the thing to work right. Ezra, of course, got mad.
Since this is a historical collection of toys throughout the decades, mostly pre-1940's, there are several cases that have very un-PC depictions of African-Americans, mostly coin banks in blackface. These depictions are ugly to see, yet important not to forget. I've chosen not to show any photos of these items mainly because I don't feel that it's up to me to do so. I wasn't aware of the items when we visited the museum, but upon seeing the cases, I figured that I couldn't just hide them from Ava. (Ezra was asleep in my arms at the time.) I decided to sit down with her before we entered the room and talk to her about what she was about to see: about the past and how certain races of people were depicted back then. It was wrong then, as it is wrong now, but I told her that it's important to see these items and talk openly about who we are as a human race. I wanted her to see it for what it was: something ugly from our past and hopefully we've learned from it. To see blacks shown as lesser human beings on children's toys to having an African-American in charge of one of the most powerful countries on earth shows that we've definitely made some progress. But, I told her, it doesn't mean that others still won't make fun of and have hatred toward other races. And that is wrong.
Ava listened intently. "Why did they make them look like that? It looks ugly."
"I know," I sighed. "I guess that was their point back then."
So, if you want some racial education to go along with your children's entertainment one fine day in Portland, then Kidd's Toy Museum is for you.
Some more photos can be found in my Kidd's Toy Museum Flickr set.