BY JENNIFER AMY MYERS, Valley Dispatch Staff
WINCHENDON — When Dracut’s Debbie Scheetz earned her pilot’s license in 1988, she hoped her friends would buy her a plane. But given that she is not particularly close to Bill Gates or John Travolta, she had to settle for something . . . smaller.
“I ended up getting a whole lot of toy planes,” she laughed. “It got a little out of hand. We had to either move out of our home or find a place for all of these toys.”
Scheetz and her friend Rosalie Dunbar, also of Dracut, turned their collection of toys and love of aviation into the world’s first and only museum completely devoted to aviation related toys: Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum.
After a frustrating search for space that was both available and affordable in Lowell, and a deal that never materialized in Worcester, the team got wind of some prime available space in the Old Murdock School in Winchendon.
Five years after opening the museum’s doors in Winchendon, appropriately nicknamed “Toy Town” having once been the home of the Converse Toy Factory, once the largest toy factory in America, the museum boasts an inventory of 2,019 toys and at least 200 more waiting to be added to the collection.
Over the past five years, nearly 4,000 visitors have viewed the displays that include planes made of everything from tin, Legos, erector sets, plastic, rubber, die-cast metal, and even a helicopter and an airplane made out of Dutch milk tins by children in Burkina Faso. They also offer classes in how to make paper and model airplanes and kites, as well as holding talks about the Wright Brothers.
“I tell the kids that ours is the only classroom they’ll ever be in where they are encouraged to fly paper airplanes,” Scheetz laughed.
However, the fun screeched to a halt in Winchendon on Oct. 23, when the museum closed its doors in order to prepare for its move to downtown Fitchburg, expected sometime in early 2006.
The oldest piece in the museum’s collection is not an aircraft, but a aviation-themed card game, Lindy: The New Flying Game, based on the 1927 trans-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh.
The museum’s collection isn’t limited to flight on this planet. There is an entire display case full of space-themed toys, from models of the lunar lander, Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecrafts to Star Wars and Star Trek toys, complete with Chewbacca and Capt. Picard.
Scheetz and Dunbar are putting a lot of time these days into cataloguing and preparing to pack away their toys, a daunting project. They are currently seeking donations to help defray the cost of rent in their new Fitchburg space. Donations can be sent to: Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum P.O. Box 700 Dracut, Ma. 01826.
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