You may not think much about it at first.
The old cars of various conditions sitting on the lawn of his banana-colored cinder block building may not look like much of a tourist attraction, but when you look closer and see the advertisements for the toy museum, see the little old-time village built next door; you just might end up pulling in.
Fair warning, chances are great you'll laugh, cry, tell a story or all three. Memories of the past are on full display.
Robert Wyatt and his wife, Carol, started the Remember When Toy Museum in 1987 on the inside of an old Canton, Mo. antique shop. It all began as a nice hobby, a collection of toys made by the popular Marx Toy Company. He started out by advertising for classic toys in comic books and things just took off from there.
"Everybody that grew up in the '50s and '60s had a Marx toy. Trains, dollhouses, play sets. As a kid, I had quite a few of these things," Wyatt said. "Next thing you know, the collection started to grow. Then we started doing garage sales at Hannibal, Quincy — and it just so happened this was during the time period where everybody was cleaning out their attics and the kids were grown up — and that was the toys that were coming out. They were taking out the toys that I was interested in and I'd go out with a station wagon and come back with a whole station wagon full of toys every weekend."
Eventually there was no space, so when the old antique shop building along Route B became available, the Wyatt's jumped at the opportunity.
"I wasn't that interested in toys, but I found out you could bring them out, set them up and kind of relax and forget the troubles of the world. I said this is pretty neat. If I remember having good times with toys, the rest of the world might too, so we got the idea, let's start a toy museum. And lo and behold it was a big hit because when we advertised people just came," Wyatt said. "We've added a lot to it. When we first did the museum, it was pretty empty. We had a lot of toys, but a lot less (than what we have now) and people started bringing, donating toys. I'd buy them at garage sales, flea markets, and finally the internet came along — I could do all that on the internet. And we ended up with the toys you see in here now."
If it was a popular toy, board game or significant memorabilia from the last 60 years, and in some cases later than that, there's a good chance it's in Wyatt's museum. An early Fred Flintstone doll, a Daniel Boone play set, a Captain Kangaroo board game, even the early '90s multi-purpose toy My Pal 2, and much more, is on display in several large rooms.
Page 2 of 2 - "Practically every toy we have in here, somebody has had and they remember it when they go through the toy museum. Doesn't matter what it is, they'll find something and they remember and that phrase comes out of almost every tourist," Wyatt said. "There's always that story that goes with the toy and then you'll get a very interesting story about how they had one, how somebody gave it to them and moved away."
But toys aren't the only blasts from the past tourists stop in and see. Cars from almost every era are parked on the lawn for folks to see and an old time village Wyatt's that includes a school where Wyatt, a retired teacher, conducts classes for kindergarten through 12th grade students at Cedar Falls School, a private institution in an old school house.
It may be the classic cars, the old toys or even something in the village, but Wyatt says there's always someone, if not everyone at some point during there visit, who blinks away a tear.
"I like to help people, that why we have the private school and everything that we do. Life's pretty hard, pretty tough, economic times aren't good, everything looks rough," Wyatt said. "So if they can come in here for a few minutes, and then come in and relax and see these toys, and they leave in a happier mood, then that makes me feel good that I've actually helped them forget the problems of the world for a change. They get in here and they forget their troubles, for just a little bit anyway, remember when they were kids, get to talking about stuff, and no matter what problems they got, they almost always leave happier."