Folsom museum's holiday exhibit adds bygone-era cheer to Sutter Street

By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
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FOLSOM, CA - If you’ve been waiting for Santa, your wait is over. Folsom History Museum’s annual holiday exhibit is open and ready to get you in to the holiday spirit.

Historic Sutter Street is the perfect place to pump up your yuletide vibe this year. With an ice-skating rink and a Christmas ornament shop nearby, “Waiting for Santa” is just the tinsel on the tree when it comes to holiday delights.

“We do a Christmas themed exhibit every year,” said Mary Mast, the museum’s curator. “As the director, it’s my job to come up with this (a unique exhibit). This year I was inspired by ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas – the entire room reflects different elements of dreaming about all the toys Santa will bring.”

If you remember roller skates that required a key; if you remember toboggans made of wood and had shiny blue runners, this exhibit is perfect for you. And if you don’t know anything about vintage toys, but love to have fun, this exhibit is for you, too.

From 1850s dolls to Depression era Tinkertoys – the kind that came in the Quaker-Oats-shaped box, the collection contains visions of sugarplums and so much more.

But it’s not easy putting together an exhibit of this stature each year.

“It takes months to put something of this caliber together,” Mast said. “You need to think of where to get the components.”

With inspiration from Clement Clarke Moore, the author of the perennial children’s favorite that includes St. Nick and eight tiny reindeer, Mast has been gathering her resources since last spring.

“Many of the dolls are from our archives, as are the wooden trains,” she said.

But some of the most memorable pieces in the exhibit are pieces that Dennis Williams, a local Master of Miniatures, put together for the show.
A lively replica of Sutter Street sits front and center – a re-creation that visitors are drawn to immediately. Williams creates his mini masterpieces from foam board and bass and balsa wood, and works painstakingly until he gets it just right.

“I see old buildings and take pictures of them, then I build them,” Williams said. “I make a new Christmas village for my home each year, and this year, a third of my pieces are on loan to the museum for this exhibit.”

Williams originally created villages to please his granddaughters – now his granddaughters are his little helpers and paint the buildings with him.

Kid-friendly is an apt description for the show.

“I wanted the exhibit to be themed for children this year,” Mast said. “Something having to do with toys.”

From old tricycles and toy villages, to vintage Lincoln Logs and luminous bisque dolls, you can easily imagine St. Nicholas’ arrival – his cheeks like roses, his nose like a cherry.

At a recent reception for Folsom History Museum members, visitors were thrilled with Mast’s creation.

“Mary really did a great job,” said Bev Tanner, a museum volunteer and former Mrs. Santa. “Just going in to the exhibit feels so good – those are the toys and items from my era.”

With toys, trains, dolls and quilts – some more than a century old, the exhibit leaves visitors with one final sentiment.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night,” as the family favorite tale goes.