Smoky Mountain Toys

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Smoky Mountain Toys

Who knew that a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains could be an enlightening experience about toy making? Believe it or not, Appalachian toys have a history right here in the Great Smoky Mountains- bring down the family and stay in a Smoky Mountain cabin rental today, and become educated on the history of Appalachian toys.

Many people hand-made toys in the Appalachians for spare change- some of the toys they made are those that children still find entertaining today. Willard Watson has become one of the best known toy makers in the Appalachians. Watson began making toys in the 1960’s when he became unable to perform demanding physical labor he had done all his life. Toy making provided him with a steady income- as tourists and guided tours were constantly visiting him. What inspires him to make these toys? He claims that he imagined creations in his head first and was able to use his mental picture to create them. Watson’s array toys he made range from sling shots-to extravagant wagons, from dancing dolls to a bubble blower.

Many native Appalachians are revealing antique toys they have collected through-out the years. A simple ball and cup toy was made out of whittled pieces of mountain laurel or rhododendron. The handles and the cups are glued together and the balls were made out of pine wood. It’s also exciting to see how other unique toys were made, such as Watson’s bouncing pig. A rod runs through the front feet of the pig so that its hindquarters are free to rise up and down. When you see this toy in action, you can witness the movement as the crank at the back end of the toy is turned, the man’s right arm moves up and down to whop the pig, and each time the pig is whipped, its hindquarters rise off the platform. Dolls were made from a variety of materials, some toy makers liked to use apples while others used potatoes!

Come take a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains- you may get the chance to speak with a native Appalachian who still has unique hand-made mountain toys today. Stay in a Pigeon Forge cabin rental, and spend some time shopping in antique shops in order to see these unique toys for yourself!

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