Day 2: December 24, 2013
Toys & a Touch of Wild

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My room opened onto a shared balcony which I'm sure I would have appreciated more if the temperature had been a few dozen degrees higher. I did, however, open the door long enough to snap a shot of the freshly fallen snow. Then I walked past a few of the lodge's many Christmas trees to a made to order omelet from the included breakfast buffet and another snowy view from the dining room.

By coincidence, a newsletter, sent just a week before Christmas, announced the RA Field Review of the Marx Toy Museum in Moundsville, West Virginia. I knew of the museum and it is certainly the sort of place I like to visit but, prior to that newsletter, it had not occurred to me to include it on this trip. My planned path missed the museum by mere blocks and there are signs pointing to it so I may have made a spontaneous visit but that's not necessarily the case. The RA newsletter put it firmly on my itinerary and it turned out to be a perfect place to stop on Christmas eve.

The former grocery store contains just a portion of Francis Turner's collection but just a portion is a lot. Toys from every period of the Marx Company's history are on display. Some are fairly common while many are quite rare or even unique. Other unique items include molds, original art work, and handmade prototypes. Printed but uncut and unstamped part sheets are among the various of wall decorations. There's Amos & Andy standing behind Blondie's Jalopy. Marx started, in 1919, with stamped metal toys. The first plastic toy was a yellow taxi made in 1948 or '49 as the payload for a metal truck. One of the many plastic figures subsequently made by Marx was never sold or advertised. It was, however, frequently handed out by Louis Marx and his salesmen. It's usually hidden behind other figures at the museum but it's there. She's a beauty. The storefronts and signs that mark the entrance to the western section are copied from Marx play sets though they never appeared in that exact combination. Turner picked his favorites and had them duplicated. Marx toys were once manufactured just up the road in Glen Dale, West Virginia. Singer Brad Paisley was born in Glen Dale. I suspected the latter when I crossed Brad Paisley Avenue on the way to Moundsville. Brad had quite a few Marx toys in his youth and many of them, including his Big Wheel, are in the museum.

I remember Marx toys as both a kid and an adult. The number of plastic soldiers, Indians, and cowboys I lost or destroyed is unknowable. I had a Marx electric train. It was a simple oval with just a few cars but it was pure excitement for a boy of ten or so. One of my early memories as a parent is hiding those Rock'em Sock'em Robots until Christmas morning. I vividly remember an afternoon a few years later when I was working on something behind the house. The driveway ran beside the house and sloped down to a paved area which is where I was. My oldest son had his Big Wheel on the driveway and would repeatedly tow it up the slope so he could come racing down it. At the bottom, he would turn the wheel and laugh his way though a big slide. At some point, after he had gone grinning and spinning past me several times, he looked up at me with something he must have been thinking about for awhile. "Dad, I bet you wish you could ride this", he said. He was right. I did. Still do.

From Moundsville, I moved to Ohio and drove OH-7 along the river. Near Newport, I crossed back to West Virginia. I guess this is the "wild" portion of my trip as I got to enjoy some narrow unpaved road and, even after I returned to pavement, the roadside was decidedly unurban.

My home for the next couple of days is the lodge at North Bend State Park. The lobby is extra inviting with a real fireplace and a real fire. My room has a real wood ceiling and a great view.

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