Oct 11, 2010

The Toy and Action Figure Museum

Lacey and I recently took a trip to the Toy and Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley. This is a place that strikes a strong emotional chord with me for reasons that hearken way back to another time and place.

I spent my grade school days growing up in central Florida (my family relocated to Oklahoma in '93 when I was in the 5th grade). At the time my parents were very young, and very poor, a state of being that was further compounded by having two kids and my dad being a full time college student. To make ends meet, my parents would frequent garage sales looking for clothes, kitchen gear, furniture, and anything else you could think of to survive on a meager budget.

It didn't take long for the both of them to realize that people were practically giving away things that were actually worth tons of money - or at least tons of money for two young struggling parents. Pretty soon they were grabbing the local "Penny Saver" news paper every week, charting garage sales by location with maps and time tables (keep in mind this is well before the days of the internet). They'd wake me and my brother up at 5:00 AM and off we'd go for hours and hours hitting every garage sale listed in the paper until the the back seat was full of antiques that could be resold at the local flea market for an impressive mark up (once again, this was in the days that existed before Ebay).

The benefit for my brother and I was that we got to take home tons of comic books and toys, most of which were strangely obscure and random (as is the case with things bought second hand in that manner). Likewise the back seat of the car was always full of collectors guides that my parents could use to cross reference the value of whatever discarded junk people had sitting in their yards. Aaron and I practicly memorized those books, skimming repeatedly over the pictures of rare forgotten Star Wars toys and Spider-Man merchandise produced well before we were even born.

I spent pretty much the entirety of my childhood in a house stacked to the ceiling with World War II paraphernalia, old back issues of Playboy, and other things a little boy might find interesting, but I was solely obsessed with Marvel comic books and any of the infinite merchandising that went along with them.

The garage sale era of my life ended around the time my dad got a degree, and my comic book obsession died out around high school, but to this day I can't look at anything "collectible" without being completely transported back to that very special time in my life.

Which brings us back to the Toy and Action Figure Museum.

The Toy and Action Figure Museum was opened in 2005 by toy designer Kevin Stark. Its since become a nationally recognized museum attracting thousands of visitors each year who stop in to take a peek at the massive toy collection. Inside you'll find plenty of memorable classics from years past, as well as a few unexpected action figure obscurities.

"Uh oh, he's been using brand xxxxxxxxx..."

There are a few themed sections of the museum, but the Batman room is the one I can most relate to. My garage sale days took place smack dab in the middle of the merchandising blitz of the first two 90's Batman movies. Walking into this room literally puts me face to face with an astonishing amount of stuff that was in my room growing up as a kid.

While the Toy and Action Figure museum is one of the biggest attractions in Pauls Valley, it certainly isn't the only one...

Ballard's Drive In is an old timey drive in restaurant that makes the best cherry limeades I've ever tasted. While drive ins with a nostalgic feel are a dime a dozen, Ballard's stands ahead of the crowd by being truly authentic. Built in the fifties, and most likely unchanged since, this place is unavoidably one of the coolest pieces of Americana tucked away in our great state.

And while the ambiance is enough to get me in the door, the food and drinks are honestly better than any fast food I can think of. The coolest part is that Mr. Ballard still takes your order and helps cook the food.

Ballard's is the jam!!!

Pauls Valley definitely wins out as my nostalgia headquarters. I can spend a day in the museum reliving my actual childhood, and then stop over to Ballard's to live out nostalgia that I wasn't yet born for.


1 comment:

  1. Ahh this place is so cool! It is a very transcendent place, kids of course love it, man-children such as myself love it, and for anyone else that doesn't have a fixation with toys, there is at least a lot of bright and shiny plastic underneath lights. Great photographs, btw!