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In Maine, a toy story made artful

John Fawcett amid his art in Waldoboro, Maine. John Fawcett amid his art in Waldoboro, Maine. (MARTY BASCH FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE)
By Marty Basch
Globe Correspondent / September 7, 2008
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WALDOBORO, Maine - Growing up in the 1940s in Watertown, John Fawcett spent a childhood in downtown Boston theaters watching Disney movies. He would return home to sketch what he remembered. He was also drawn to radio shows like "The Lone Ranger," swept away to adventure in other places and times.

Fawcett started collecting memorabilia as a teenager, then began in earnest in the mid-1960s with the birth of the Pop Art movement. His passion for the art behind American popular culture grew during his 32 years as a University of Connecticut art professor and collector.

After retiring and moving to Maine in 1997, he opened Fawcett's Maine Antique Toy and Art Museum to showcase his impressive collection.

"This is not about nostalgia," says Fawcett. "This is about aesthetics. If I like it, it's in here."

Fawcett has liked a lot, packing two floors in his early 1800s Federal-style home turned museum with comic and cowboy art, games and toys from 1930s Disney favorites like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck to Looney Tune legends Bugs Bunny and Porky the Pig.

"I don't look at Mickey Mouse as a mouse, but as art," he says.

Posters, comic books, drawings, original paintings and animation cells are on display with portraits and action scenes featuring the likes of Dick Tracy, Popeye, Lil' Abner, Krazy Kat, Betty Boop, and Charlie McCarthy. In a nod to more contemporary icons, the collection also includes Beatles toys, "Star Wars" action figures and "Alien" movie memorabilia.

Gene Autry's rodeo saddle, cowboy boots and a shirt worn by Lone Ranger radio voice actor Brace Beemer, and the 1948 radio giveaway Frontiertown are on display along with holsters, dolls, and other toys, featuring stars like Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, and Tom Mix.

The museum, which also has a retail shop and art gallery, is a trove of cultural treasures like decoder rings and badges, cereal box premiums, baseball cards, toy soldiers and World War II paper toys.

Like the collection itself, Fawcett's is a bit old-fashioned. Its exhibits are not interactive and it welcomes children of all ages as long as they are under the supervision of an adult, the website says.

For all those young and not-so who yearn for "those thrilling days of yesteryear" this is your place.

Marty Basch can be reached at marty@martybasch.com.

If You Go

Fawcett's Maine Antique Toy and Art Museum

3506 Route 1, Waldoboro

207-832-7398

home.gwi.net/~fawcetoy/

Memorial Day to Columbus Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursday-Monday; Columbus Day to Christmas noon-4, Saturday-Sunday. Admission $5.

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