HERSCHELL CARROUSEL FACTORY MUSEUM
By Carol S. Wolf
June is the beginning of summer and so many fun activities. A couple of weeks ago I drove through North Tonawanda and noticed a sign I had never noticed before that proclaimed, “Allan Herschell Carousel Factory has been placed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1985 by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior.” I wondered if they had merry-go-rounds to ride so I called and talked to Megan Hahin, Executive Director, and made an appointment to meet with her at the museum, located at 180 Thompson Street, North Tonawanda. What a fun time I had there and I learned so much. I thought you would love to find out more about what they are doing.
Megan began by telling me she started with the museum three years ago as the Education Director. She said, “I was in charge of curriculum and field trips. Six months ago, I became the Executive Director when the former director retired.”
I asked her where she grew up and what her educational background was. She shared that she grew up in West Seneca and then went to Niagara University where she earned her undergraduate degree in History. She said, “I was very interested in museums put didn’t know what kind of a job I could get so I talked to my professors and they mentioned working for a museum. I did an internship at the Theodore Roosevelt site. I got to work in the basement and sort out all the artifacts such as letters from the Wilcox family. From there, I decided that was the career path I wanted to take. I then went to Buffalo State and earned my Master’s degree in Museum Studies, which was a relatively new program. I graduated in 2015.” I asked her what she learned in that kind of program. She said, “It is learning how to do a variety of tasks, for instance, from how to properly hang an exhibit to gathering all the information to put on display.”
Megan told me before coming here she had worked for the Steel Plant Museum of Western New York in Buffalo, close to where Republic Steel used to be, and they had a small collection of artifacts that steel workers had given them to preserve that history. When I asked how she wound up finding her current position, she said, “I had been to the Renaissance Festival as a child with my family and loved riding the carousel and thought it would be a very interesting place to work. I did a little bit of research and discovered they had a carousel over 100 years old, old artifacts, and that they did a variety of educational programs. So I called, was interviewed then, and hired.”
Megan then took me on a tour. The Wurlitzer Roll Shop introduces visitors to the Wurlitzer Company and its band organs. I saw and read about, “Who Was Herschell?” She told me the Carrousel Company was the last one of the original four factories in the country that Allan Herschell started in 1915. They had their 100th anniversary in 2016.
When the museum opened here in 1982, they brought the first carrousel here from London, Ontario, Canada. It has unique animals and even a “Lover’s Cup” that goes round and round from 1915.
Now they have “Kiddieland,” where the rides are $.50 and the Children’s Gallery, which even has a Kiddie Carrousel and children’s activities throughout the year. They also have a wood mill shop and a master carver’s shop where they carve the animals.
Megan introduced me to Nanette Carman, a trainee in a program (Associates for Training and Development) for seniors to go back to work or update skills. She said she is really enjoying her time and has been there since August. She told me she has worked in the admission booth, gift shop, and helps with a variety of other things as well. Nanette is also helping with crafts for the Children’s Gallery. She is now starting to look for a job.
I also met Dean Aschenbrenner on the tour who has been a volunteer in the maintenance department for four years. He said he was a middle school science teacher for 38 years until he retired. He is with a group of men who help with the repairs and the woodcarving. He told me good friends of his told him about the position; one was a docent and one was in the maintenance department. He said, “They told me, ‘you are retired and have nothing to do…’ so, here I am.” He shared that they regularly work Mondays and Fridays from 8:30 – 2pm, doing whatever maintenance work needs to be done. Dean also said he is certified to run all the rides. He said he really enjoys being there because everyone is so friendly, appreciative, and helpful. He continued, “They have a picnic for us in the summer and around Christmas they have a dinner for us and say ‘thank you.’” He said they are always looking for more help so if anyone has an interest, give them a call and they will find a job for you. Dean shared, “We are usually fixing organ equipment. We keep the place running the best we can. We have ten of us in the maintenance crew. During the summer, we have more that help with the rides and tours. Whatever Megan or the staff asks us to do, we do. One of our volunteers has just retired from volunteering and one of his jobs was to check monthly on our fire safety systems so I am doing that now also.” The museum also offers both beginner and intermediate/advanced carving classes.
The Carrousel Society of the Niagara Frontier was organized in 1980 with the intent of returning a North Tonawanda carrousel to the area. The 1916 Allan Herschell machine was purchased in 1982. In 1985, the Society purchased the Herschell factory complex and opened it to visitors in 1986. Restoration of the building is on both the National and New York State Registers of Historic Sites.
• June 24-28– Summer STEM Week, 10am-4pm
• July 13-14– Carousel Carnival Days, 10am- 4pm
• August 8– Teddy Bear Picnic, 10am-2pm
• Sept. 16-20– National Code Week, 10am-4pm
• Sept. 21– Smithsonian Museum Day, 10am-4pm
• Oct. 11– Spooktacular, 5:30pm-8pm
• Nov. 30– Santa on the Carrousel, 12pm-2pm
• Dec. 7, 14, & 21– Santa on the Carrousel, 12-2pm
• Dec. 26-30– STEM Snow Days, 12pm – 4pm
This definitely would be a fun place for families to go. It also would be great if you were involved with a group in which you could suggest a fun day trip. It is only $6 per person. They also have FREE day on Wednesdays. They have a café where you can eat after you take your tour. Give them a call for more information and to make reservations.
If you have an interest in volunteering, give Megan a call at 693-1885.
Website: <www.carrouselmuseum.org> or <www.facebook.com/herschellmuseum>
If you know of a successful program in your community or would like more information please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Carol Wolf is a writer, speaker, storyteller, and leader of workshops and retreats. She is retired from 35 years in health care administration and co-hosts a TV show called Challenge for the 21st Century for the Network of Religious Communities. She is the author of Journey into Prayer and Biblical Storytelling in Youth Ministry. She has been married to Dick for 58 years and they have two sons, four grandchildren, and one great-grandson.|
Carol wrote this book as part of her two year Master's program in the Academy for Biblical Storytellers. It has just been published and is available for $10.00. Carol is an author, speaker and leader of workshops meditations and conference.
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