John Douglas has put many hours into handcrafting wooden toys during the past 18 years, but he’s never sold any of them.
“I enjoy it, and I enjoy the children coming by to see them. I have never sold any, but I have given a lot away,” said Douglas, a
North Augusta resident who will once again take on the role of toymaker during the Colonial Times: A Day To Remember event Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 20-21, at North Augusta’s Living History Park.
Douglas has participated in the history event since it began. In the first few years, he provided volunteer labor to help clear and develop the Living History Park. He and his brother split cedar to create rails and built fencing along the property, the former site of the city’s waterworks.
One day, a friend gave him a climbing bear toy; and over the years, people have given him books about toymaking. Douglas isn’t a carpenter and never had formal training. He’s retired from Savannah River Site.
“The first toy I ever made was a dancing man,” he said.
In 1995, he went to Russia, where he purchased a wooden pecking chickens toy.
“I didn’t do anything with it until a year and a half ago,” he said.
The toy has a lot of moving parts and is more complex than others he makes. It is comprised of five wooden chickens on a circular wooden piece; a ball is suspended through the bottom of the toy on strings.
The movement of the ball causes the chickens to peck the circular piece.
“The building of the toys is relaxing,” he said. “The painting is not. My wife was the artist.”
Douglas’ wife, Virginia, painted porcelain and fine china. She painted many of his toys until she died four years ago.
While many children visit the toymaker’s tent next to the blacksmith’s shop, adults also stop to take a look.
“It’s for children of all ages,” he said. “A lot of older people remember having toys like this when they were children.”
Colonial Times: A Day To Remember turns the Living History Park into a working colonial village for two days. It’s free to attend, and the two days include a “Call to Arms” with the newly formed Olde Towne militia, a demonstration and skirmish, a colonial dance demonstration and an 18th century Anglican worship service.
David, Renee and James Gillespie will demonstrate tombstone carving; Faire Wynds, an act based on traveling performers of early America, will perform.
Special guests who might be found during the re-enactment include Charles Molenda as Benjamin Franklin and Kitty
Wilson-Evans as Kessie, a slave.