A Touch of Whimsy in Wausaukee, Wisconsin

I lived in Wisconsin for 39 years before I heard about this gem up north. 

Northern Wisconsin to me is farmlands, woods, lakes, and rivers. Cabins and cottages. Nature and wildlife. Devil’s lake, Door County, and Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua. Interspersed with touristy places like the Dells and House on the Rock. The Dupont Cheese Factory, too. But mostly farms, woods, rivers, and lakes.

When I visit my cousin Carol and her husband Dan, this is the view from their property:

Not an area where you’d expect to see this:

The witch talks, too! When you least expect it.

Last spring, when I learned about The Land of Oz Museum in Wausaukee, Wisconsin, I added it to my 2019 list—my final Oz stop of the year. It’s closer to home than others, and not far from my cousin Carol. I made an appointment to drop by.

Jane Albright stopped by the museum two weeks prior to visiting me in August, and thoroughly enjoyed it as a collector. (See her blog post about it here and her other post about our time together in Oconomowoc.

On August 26, Carol and I drove nearly two hours from Clintonville to Wausaukee—almost to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Garry Parrett, the friendly curator, greeted us at the former grocery store/American Legion Hall turned museum. Its small size belied the amount of Oz memorabilia packed inside—Garry guestimates 14,000 to 15,000 items, wall to wall, ceiling to floor.

As Carol and I sat on the porch, Garry gave us an introduction to the museum.

My cousin Carol & me
Garry Parrett & me

Garry has been collecting Oz stuff since 1989. He is a Wausaukee staple, having taught 34 years of elementary school there, in 4th, 5th, and/or 6th grades. Now he is starting his twelfth year volunteering for class activities, once a week.

At age 67 (he doesn’t mind telling you his age!), he is a martial artist, active in tae kwon do and jiujitsu. He plans on teaching one more year of tae kwon do before retiring.  

Garry loves to see people smile when they walk into the museum. And he loves talking about his wife Barb who passed away nearly two years ago (November, 2017). Many museum items are gifts from her. 

Barb didn’t share his love of Oz, but inadvertently ignited the collector’s fire. Garry had always been a fan of the MGM Wizard of Oz movie and watched it yearly while growing up. In 1989, she bought him an Oz plate for Christmas. As a result, he joined the International Wizard of Oz Club, then attended a convention. 

Seeing the Oz collections there whetted his appetite for a collection of his own. Though initially dismayed at what she’d started, Barb became supportive and added to it over the years.

He finds numerous items on eBay, particularly when he has to complete a set of something old.

After explaining how he came to own the museum, Garry prepared us for what to expect: nine rooms bulging with Oz stuff, including the basement, stairway, bathroom, hallways, and closets. Some rooms are themed: Christmas, Halloween, kitchenware;  toys, puzzles, and games.

The collection includes hundreds of dolls and figurines, 130 records, movie posters, Oz tins, clocks, a garden center, pre-school items, and a few artifacts from the MGM movie and Wicked.

Then Garry let us loose to explore on our own.

Inside, we found ourselves immediately immersed in Oz!

This Oz flag rug greets us when we step in.
L. Frank Baum books—the core of any Oz collection,
without which there’d be no collection to have

Some genuine MGM & Broadway artifacts . . . 

Above is a page from Tin Man Jack Haley’s script; Margaret Hamilton’s autograph and a piece of fabric from the Witch’s hat; and Bert Lahr autograph with a piece of fur from his lion suit.

These boots were worn by Carol Kane in the role of Madame Morrible in Wicked on Broadway
at the Gershwin Theatre in NYC (2005 – 2009).
A display of various Munchkin photos and items.
Meinhardt Raabe, the Munchkin coroner in the MGM film, was also “Little Oscar.” 
He promoted Oscar Mayer products around the country in the Weinermobile for 30 years.

Variations on a theme: figures of the Fabulous Four (not the Beatles). The first few are based on the MGM movie characters, and the others are unique artistic interpretations.

Some whimsical varieties . . .

Figures by Jim Shore
Love these whimsical characters! Created by Lori Mitchell

Must be hundreds of Dorothys! Barbie dolls, baby dolls, figurines . . .

Dolls, dolls, and more dolls . . . Barbie dolls, baby dolls, dolls from Marie Osmond’s line, Mego dolls (1970s). See the slideshow . . .

Part of a cool set but my other pictures are even blurrier.

Also featuring the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Lion, Witch, or Glinda . . .

Below, the set of eight sculptures by Ron Lee (seven here–all but Toto) has a special story that Garry enjoys telling. (Unfortunately, my pictures blurred and don’t do justice to this beautiful set.)

A while ago, Garry had bought six figures and later learned there were actually eight in the set. Diane, his friend in Washington, had all eight but wanted to sell hers as a set, not sell pieces separately. But Barb indicated to her that she wanted to buy one for Garry. 

A year later, after Barb passed away, Jan (friend of Diane) bought Diane’s eight pieces. Diane told Jan to sell the Flying Monkey to Garry because Barb had asked for it. So Garry calls it his special gift from Barb. (See it in the slideshow below.)

More figurines . . .

Ever hear of this French bakery tradition?

Even something for the garden . . . mosaic stepping stones . . .

More fun knick-knacks . . . including glass globes, jack-in-the-boxes, and shoes . . . .

No collection is complete without ruby slippers . . .

Replica of the ruby slippers, by Jack Townsend

I love these miniature scenes . . .

The kitchen is packed full of goodies . . . including Oz peanut butter containers . . .

Near the kitchen are some bottled drinks made especially for an Oz convention . .

Ready for every season and holiday . . . Christmas & Halloween stuff and school supplies . . .

Garry popped in to check on us now and then, asking if we had questions—which we did. Carol and I loved being allowed to meander on our own, with attentive Garry not far away.

The toy, puzzle, and game room . . . Wheel puppets, board game, Legos, and Potato Heads . . .

Other toys were scattered throughout the building . . .

Tin dishes from the 1960s
A child’s easel

Promotions over the years . . . DQ meets Oz . . .

For awhile, McDonald’s gave away these Madame Alexander Oz figures with their Happy Meals—presumably for girls, with Batman figures for boys. I own several of these Oz figures myself.

Cardboard Emerald City and Witch’s castle scenes made for a Purina Dog Chow promotion when Purina sponsored the TV movie in 1989 for the 50th anniversary.

This puzzle caught my eye because it looked like the missing piece was gone on purpose—right on the Tin Woodman’s chest where his heart should be. But no—the piece had just fallen and is over the leg!

Garry’s sister-in-law, Renee Polomis, put at least four of the 1000-piece puzzles together for him. These two are based on Thomas Kincaid paintings (sorry about the glare) . . .

Other household items . . . afghans, lunch boxes, clocks, lamp, jewelry boxes . . .

I love this jewelry box!

Movie posters . . . .

Life-size ad for animated Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
Top shelf: Records encircle the whole room

When Garry took his 5th-6th graders on a field trip years ago, they stopped at a park in Iron Mountain, Michigan and saw these garbage can lids. Later, a friend called and told him that the antique store about eight miles from Iron Mountain had some Oz stuff in the window. Garry went to look — it was the same three garbage can lids! He purchased two of them from donations. Barb bought him one as a Christmas gift.

The museum has various donated items bought or made by others. Years ago, these quilt block squares were made by the Class of 2015 Wausaukee School District.

The replica Munchkin outfit on the left was donated by Becca Archambault.

I took other pictures that didn’t turn out well enough to share, unfortunately. Those included a 1960s puzzle (that I owned as a kid), 1960s puppets, Oz Valentines, and more. I really only touched the surface here. 

It took Garry 26 years to obtain the entire set of twelve Oz Valentines from the 1940s. That’s almost as long as he has been collecting Oz materials.

Time to say good-bye and head home.

A lovely sentiment, but not exactly true. We still had a two-hour drive to get back home to Carol’s. But we thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as our time with Garry in the Land of Oz!

Soon I’ll be featuring more Whimsy in Wisconsin (NOT Oz). Stay tuned . . .   

Resources:

Do you have a favorite museum piece, either here or from any museum?

I’d love to hear from you!

Ever musing,

Laura

10 thoughts on “A Touch of Whimsy in Wausaukee, Wisconsin

  1. I’ll never hear the term “fab four” again without thinking of Dorothy and her three pals. That is quite a collection!

  2. I love the tornado with the Wicked Witch and Miss Almira Gulch (No, I didn’t remember her name on my own. Thank you, Google 😉 ) riding around it. You mentioned a Jack-in-the-box. Is that one? with Dorothy and her house popping out of it?
    Amazing how one simple plate could be the domino for such a passion! Just proves you never know the effect a small gift will have one a person.

  3. Unbelievable! Just when I thought you’d shared everything about Oz that could be imagined, here comes a boatload (hot air balloon load?) more.
    What wonderful stuff! I’m almost glad I didn’t realize how much Oz stuff is out there, or I might have become a collector too, bankrupted my family, and had to have an addition built on the house!
    These Oz visits have been thoroughly enjoyable.
    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *