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Old Jail Museum has fun with 2023 exhibit


Annie Wooden

Shirley Temple dolls sit on a shelf among other vintage dolls in the Old Jail Museum's exhibit featuring toys. The museum opens for the season on Sunday.

The Sanders County Historical Society is having some fun with its main exhibit at the Old Jail Museum in Thompson Falls this year.

The museum is featuring generations of toys in 2023. "Toys: Remembering Our Childhood" offers a look back at games, dolls, trucks and other toys through the early 1980s. "It just makes you smile," expressed museum director Vonn Briggs, noting that the exhibit will attract young and old alike.

Briggs said that she and Sherry Hagerman-Benton were cleaning the basement at the museum and found a variety of toys. Museum volunteer Charlotte Beaudry also was talking about the different toys she had. That gave them the idea for this year's exhibit. Most of the toys are on loan from local residents, Briggs stated. "We have toys from all ages and all times, with the Game Boy being the most recent." The Nintendo handheld gaming console was released in the spring of 1989.

As you walk through the exhibit, visitors will be taken back to their childhood as they view the selection of paper dolls, Shirley Temple and Barbie dolls, GI Joe figurines, tops, lincoln logs, erector sets, a doll house, Legos, Creepy Crawlers, and an original Easy Bake Oven. There is a Slinky, yo-yos, Tonka trucks, a Chatty Cathy and a selection of troll dolls. "We cover the whole gamut of ages. People had all sorts of things," Briggs said. Some of the toys were Briggs' or her sons' from when they were little.

The museum will open on Mother's Day for the season and be open noon-4 p.m. daily. While the museum normally closes after Labor Day weekend, Briggs said this year they are looking to stay open through September. "We are a real source of history," Briggs noted. "We have books, pictures and lots of human resources. Sherry is a wonderful historian." Rocheleau added that the museum is "a history of you," referring to the people of Sanders County. Briggs said she learns something new every time she comes in the museum, even from guests who will share their stories of Sanders County history. "You learn so much from the people," Rocheleau added.

The historical society has been working on upgrades to the building, which was the original sheriff's office for Sanders County.

The museum volunteers also are working on electronic archiving of photos and documents. "We want to make this a resource stop for the county," Briggs noted, "and people can come in and search archives for an easy reference."

Annie Wooden

The Easy-Bake Oven was first released in 1963. This olive green version is on display at the museum. Other toys include an assortment of games, building sets and trucks.

Along with the new exhibit, the off season was filled with some upgrades to the building. The historical society received ARPA funding to assist with upgrading the floors and windows, as well as the bathroom, in the museum.

The historical society is always looking to get more active members, the volunteers stated, which helps them get new ideas. They noted that the Thompson Falls Woman's Club has stepped up recently with funding, docents and other assistance. They also have a Facebook page that will feature updates and news.

Linda Rocheleau with the historical society praised Briggs for her efforts as director, a role she has occupied for three years. "Vonn is an amazing museum director. She is great at motivating people and getting projects done," Rocheleau said.

The Old Jail Museum is located at 109 Madison Street.


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