Ephemera Road Trip: A carousel in Colorado, a craft store in Kansas

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I doubt that the frontiersman Kit Carson ever had any connection with a carousel—in fact, he died before the merry-go-round age flourished—yet there is one that bears his name on the county fairgrounds in Burlington, Colorado, near the Kansas border. A quite elaborate one, in fact, manufactured by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co in 1906, hand carved and painted by Gustave Weiss and staff, equipped with a restored Wurlitzer organ and fully operational. (Rides are just a quarter.)

Although the carousel’s 46 animals—including a giraffe with a snake around its neck, a zebra, the usual array of horses—don’t move up and down, the carousel whirls faster than most and circles around a center of Victorian-era paintings of pastoral scenes as well as the company’s flowery sign. There’s also a very good little museum that makes note of the ins and outs of carousel making, the history of this particular carousel (apparently spelled alternately with one or two rs), and the bicentennial restoration of the organ. Much more and great pictures here.

Salina, in central Kansas, was one of those lovely surprises of the trip. It has a neat downtown with both an art film center and a beautiful theater for the performing arts, built in 1931 with Art Deco reliefs and engraved letters on its facade, with a neon sign and a gilded cage for selling tickets out front.

It seems to be a place where people engage in many home crafts; there’s both a quilting store and a sewing shop on the main street. The sewing store, called The Tangled Thread, has a window display that called up memories from my own girlhood and probably the girlhood of many others: dress patterns from what look like the 1950s and 1960s made by Butterick, Simplicity, Advance, and Vogue. It brought me back to my mother’s night table drawer, stuffed full of these tissue-paper fantasies. Also in the window display: sitting on an ironing board, an ancient red, blue, and yellowed white box of Faultless Starch.