Carousel Animals Shown at Wonderland of Toys
One local collector recaptures the magic of carousels through her collection
Linda Walsh has restored hundreds of pieces of carousels since her husband bought her first horse for her in the '80s. She fell in love with the bright colors and cheery organ music when she was child.
Now she travels to auctions buying old horses, dragons, camels and any other animal she might find. Once they're bought and paid for, the hard work begins. The old horses were covered in layers of paint, some it toxic. They've been handled. Walsh pointed to a horse with no ears, "They've been loved off," she said.
Every year, the Anchorae Museum borrows a few for their Wonderland of Toys display, which shows generations of kids' toys.
Walsh said carousels weren't always for kids. They were once a place where young couples went courting. "There were band organs with no volume control. They were made to be heard a long ways. [A] gentleman could bring his lady, help her on the horse and put his arms around her because otherwise, she'd fall off." The carousel travels at about 26 miles per hour, a speed that would make lady's skirts flutter, "and the gentlmen could stand and see ankles."
They were a little scandalous. The Women's Temperance League attempted to shut them down. Walsh explained why, "Ladies were showing off. And in the chariots, they would steal kisses, because you could do that because they had very high backs."
Many of these horses and carousels were made when people didn't have electricity, so just seeing the lighted display was a special event.
Walsh said even now, the animals evoke a childlike excitement in adults. "You rarely see anybody who walks slowly to the animal."
Since they're each different, almost everyone has a favorite. They almost have personalities. Walsh pointed out a zebra who had an almost demure look. "She's not a plaything, she's a lady... elegant." Other horses almost snarled in intensity. Walsh said little boys gravitated toward those.
She said choosing a horse was sometimes an agonizing decision. That's why Disney horses are all white -- to make it so kids chose more quickly.
She said all those different animals and personalities are part of what made carousels so magical, "Here's this spinning machine in amongst the trees in the park. Romance... fun... the music... just the pleasure of riding around."
A pleasure she captured in every coat of paint.