Rowan Museum kicks off summer series with historical toys

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 11, 2021

SALISBURY — Rowan Museum on Saturday turned clocks back on toys a few hundred years during the first in a series of summer events at the Utzman-Chambers House.

Rowan Museum took a look at some of the toys kids played with in the early days of the nation’s history. There were familiar games such as like tic-tac-toe and cup and ball games that have spanned cultures and millennia. Other toys on display such as barrel rings and the helicoptering gee-haw whammy diddle are alien to modern kids.

Museum volunteer Theresa Pierce was demonstrating toys for attendees. Pierce, a retired educator who was twice named teacher of the year, still learns something new every time she volunteers with the museum.

She said period toys were intended to have more benefits than just being fun for kids. Jacob’s ladder, for example, was used as a wrist exerciser intended to help children with handwriting. The ball and cup game was used to improve hand-eye coordination.

“Toys were not for just for fun, they had a purpose,” Pierce said.

Pierce said her own grandchildren enjoy the historical toys because many of them are unique.

To play with a barrel ring, a child takes a tapered stick and attempts to both keep it upright and propel it as it rolls along the ground. Doing this is tricky, but a few of the kids at the house had a knack for it.

Sophia Holt, a third-grader, said she was having fun on Saturday morning. The barrel ring was her favorite.

“It takes practice and I like that it rolls, it looks satisfying,” Holt said.

Holt said she has never played with a toy like that before or thought about what kids would have played with long ago.

Museum Education Coordinator Tricia Creel said a goal with every educational event is to make it fun and interactive. The museum uses a lot of the toys with kids during its history camp. For Saturday’s event, the toys were intended to be fun to pick up if someone stopped by for a few minutes.

“A lot of times when people hear the word history, they think boring,” Creel said.

Kids on Saturday also learned about how wool clothing was made at the time and got to card some wool themselves.

Creel said the summer series is a good chance to get people to the Utzman-Chambers House, which is in shouting distance of the Bell Tower Green Park. She said the house does not get as many visitors as the museum’s other sites even though it housed the museum until it moved to its Main Street location in 2001. The series, which has three other events on Saturdays in August and several Sunday concerts, is a chance for people to connect with local history.

“A lot of times you go on vacation and try to see what sites are out there, but where you live you go about your day-to-day life,” Creel said.

Saturday events, all of which will be 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., are as follows:

• Aug. 7: “A Walk on the Not So Wild Side” presented by Dan Nicholas Park

Love animals? Here is your chance to see a variety of wildlife from the Dan Nicholas Park up close and personal.

• Aug. 14: “Extending Summer” by the Rowan County Agricultural Extension

How can you make those summer fruits and vegetables last longer? Come learn about herbs, nutrition and food preservation.

• Aug. 21: “Art on the Lawn” presented by Waterworks Art Gallery

Are you a budding artist? Try your hand at plein air painting, drawing or pastels with guidance from Waterworks. All materials will be provided, all are welcome.

In addition to the Saturday events, there will be a “Sunday Serenade” from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Utzman-Chambers House on the following dates:

• July 11: “Broadway’s Best” by Jonathan E.C. Wallace

• July 25: “Sweet Summer Sounds” by Mia Mason

• Aug. 8: “Old Porch Rockers” by John Stafford and Archie Tucker

• Aug. 22: “Cruisin’ On the Utzman-Chambers House Porch” by Andrew Hodges and Jeff Martinez

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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