, Muskogee, OK

December 12, 2013

Museum’s toys charm visitors

By Leilani Roberts Ott
Phoenix Correspondent

— Marion and Kathryn Lynch were 9 when their father, John Lynch, built the twins a doll house in the walls of the attic of their big two-story house at 421 N. 14th St. That was in 1940.

Kathryn Burke is happy that children today can share her love of the doll house during Christmastime at the Three Rivers Museum. The doll house, along with other toys, is on display at the museum for its Holiday Open House from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Homemade cookies and punch will be served.

Museum coordinator Faye Waits said she hears a lot of remarks about the doll house.

“People are enchanted by it,” Waits said.

She hopes people will come to see the museum all decked out for the holidays with lighted trees and an old-fashioned Christmas tree with handmade ornaments. Under the tree are old toys such as a German doll used as a mannequin at the old Singer sewing store in downtown Muskogee in the 1950s and ’60s, a G.I. Joe jeep, and a blue dolphin riding toy that belonged to Roger Bell when he was a child.

Museum director Sue Tolbert said the museum welcomes old toys as a loan or gift. That’s how they acquired Burke’s doll house about six years ago.

“I wanted to find a home for it,” Burke said. “It is very heavy.”

Burke said her parents, the late John and Marion Lynch, moved to Muskogee in the area known as Founder’s Place just before World War II. The third floor or attic was a play place for her, her sister and their brother.

“It was warm in the attic,” she said. “There was a little railroad my father set up. My brother had a stage and would do shows.”

Her father brought the tiny furnishings from his travels for the twins to put in the doll house, which is an apartment building. It has businesses on the bottom floor and three floors of apartments above.

“We played in it longer than girls would have,” Burke said. “We especially like the stores.”

They had fun naming them: Mini A Tures Groceries, The Fairies Gift Shop, Tiny’s Furniture and Lilliputian Drug Store. She and her sister, the late Marion Webber, continued to add and change things even as adults. Burke brought wallpaper from England, where she lived with her husband, the late P.E. Burke.

“The furniture is from the ’20s and ’30s,” Burke said. “Some is metal and some wood. The linoleum is from the 1930s and 1940s.”

She’s so glad her apartment house is “living happily” at the museum.

“The children like it,” she said. “You can look in and imagine living in it.”

Waits said the apartment house is one of many things that “fire up your imagination” in the museum.

“The toys help us remember Christmases past,” Waits said.

Around the museum toys have been added — such as a tiny wooden school desk with the bigger wooden desks from other eras in the school display. Glass-fronted cases hold Santas showing the cultural differences of Santa’s portrayal.

Tolbert hopes people who attend the Holiday Open House will shop in the museum’s gift shop for “Okie from Muskogee” T-shirts and keychains, a Christmas children’s book titled “Santa Comes to Oklahoma” or a book called “Muskogee,” which Bell put together using pictures from the museum’s collection. She also suggests buying a memorial brick; those are being sold to build a pathway to the one-room school that has been given to the museum.

Burke will stop by the museum after she attends the Holiday Candlelight Tour at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame down the street. Tolbert and Waits said the tour being rescheduled because of the weather should help attendance at the museum.

“The museum is the story of Muskogee and the area,” Waits said. “The more time you spend here, the more stories you’ll hear.”

If you go

WHAT: Holiday Open House.

WHEN: 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Three Rivers Museum, 220 Elgin.


COMING UP: Singing Santas, 7 p.m. Dec. 20, and 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 21 and 22. Tickets are $10.

INFORMATION: (918) 686-6624 or