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Toys of the Trail


S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Making family trees provides Jennifer Baeth and her daughter, Emma, 8, with a record of family history in a colorful project at one of the five Fun Day stations Friday.
S. John Collins / Baker City Herald Making family trees provides Jennifer Baeth and her daughter, Emma, 8, with a record of family history in a colorful project at one of the five Fun Day stations Friday.
By Chris Collins

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Fawn Carey didn’t seem to mind kneeling on the floor to give lessons in gaming Friday at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center.

In fact, it was hard to tell who enjoyed the games more, Carey or the children.

The Trail Tender volunteer said she hoped to help the youngsters get a better idea of what it was like for children traveling the Oregon Trail with their pioneer parents.

“To give them an understanding that toys were different and had to be easily packed and that they only had one or two toys,” she said Friday morning during the Trail Center’s annual Family Fun Day.

Carey got down to floor level to teach her young charges the finer points of playing old-time favorite games such as marbles and jacks. And she demonstrated some of the simpler wooden trail toys available to children in the mid-1800s when thousands of people traveled West along the Oregon Trail. 

Most of the wooden toys provide entertainment that calls for patience and practice, such as the game known as graces in which two people toss a wooden hoop back and forth with each player using two sticks to throw and catch the hoop.

Families from as far away as Alaska, and even some from Baker City, took the trip to Flagstaff Hill Friday to participate in the Family Fun Day activities.

Trail Tender volunteer Sara Durflinger supervised children as they dabbed peanut butter on pine cones or bagels and then covered them with bird seed to create their own take-along bird feeders.

 

Rachael Nickens, Trail Center interpreter, used a hot glue gun to apply finishing touches to candles decorated by the children, who first glued decorative paper to glass candle-containing jars.

Shelby Sieckman, an 11-year-old volunteer from North Powder, helped visitors make beeswax candles as part of Friday’s special event.

Jennifer Baeth and her 8-year-old daughter, Emma, extended the pioneer experience they began by reading “Little House on the Prairie” books by traveling to the Interpretive Center Friday.

“It was fun to go through it,” Jennifer Baeth said while she and Emma worked to put names on the leaves of their family tree at one activity station.

Nine-year-old Erica Dymen and her sister, Anastazia Dymen, 11, traveled to Baker City with their parents from their home in Meridian, Idaho.

The family spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the Geiser Grand Hotel. Erica said her Thanksgiving dinner at the Geiser Grand was “perfect.”

“The chocolate fountain was my favorite part,” she said.

The two girls made the rounds through all of the Fun Day activities. 

Aaron Fairall of Fairbanks, Alaska, brought his sons, Jack Jones, 8, and Chase Fairall, 6, to the Interpretive Center while in Baker City to visit family members.

Jack and Chase were eager to join Carey on the floor for another round of marbles and to try out the other toys of the trail she had on hand.

Friends Jennifer Applebaker and Amber Pack of Baker City also took advantage of the day-after-Thanksgiving event with their children.

“It got us out of the house and gave us something to do,” Applebaker said. She is a former Trail Center gift shop employee who was familiar with the Fun Day activities. 

The five children the two women brought to Family  Fun Day were fascinated by the trail toys and games.

Applebaker’s 5-year-old daughter, Stephanie Huffer, said she especially enjoyed playing with all the toys and the marbles.

“My favorite was the buzz saw,” said Electra Ervolina,  Pack’s 7-year-old daughter.

“It makes a buzz sound,” Electra said while demonstrating how a circular piece of wood suspended by a string strung through its middle could be wound tight and then released with a buzz.

 

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