Tinkertown Tickled Me


Tinkertown began in 1962 as a hobby  It was not meant for paid admission and public display.  The first scene Ross Ward crafted was a general store.  He built 90% of Tinkertown by himself using scraps from his sign business.  His human figures tended to be either wood or clay, and the furnishings were either antiques or crafted miniatures.  “I did all this,” he said, “while you were watching TV.”  So turn off the TV and go see Tinkertown, but do it before October 31.

If you delay, you’ll have to wait until April 1, 2017, to see this rather bizarre, dusty conglomeration of folk art.   When I arrived at Tinkertown, I said to myself,  “This looks like that weird medical museum in Riga (“Take Your Medicine” blog) and the folk art miniatures in Santa Fe.”  In other words, a quirky, one-of-a-kind attraction.   So before I paid to go in I watched several people leave.  Most were women with small children.   “How was it?” I finally asked about a dozen of them.   Everyone, even a teenager, liked it.  Some were downright enthusiastic. Once inside, I found a guest comment book and, again, all was positive.  “Love it!…Genius…Keep on Tinkering!” were 3 entries. Go to Tinkertown and make up your own mind.

This time-warp museum is on the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway in the shadow of Sandia Peak on New Mexico’s highway 536.   We saw no sign for it going north and turned around to find what we realized had to be 536. Tinkertown is considered an Albuquerque attraction, but it’s not in some of the local tourist literature.

This collection of hundreds of miniatures is accompanied by several folksy aphorisms like “The greatest mistake we make is to neglect what is possible while brooding over what is difficult,” and “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  I imagine that Carla Ross had something to do with the latter.  Ross Ward became a tinkerer  when he started carving circus figures in junior high school.  He died prematurely in 2002 from Alzheimer’s Disease. Carla, his patient wife, closes Tinkertown in the winter and travels. We exchanged details about favorite destinations.  I had the impression that she will not maintain Tinkertown forever no matter how much it delights children and amuses their parents.


Most of the miniature displays in 22 rooms have themes–a western saloon, hillbillies at play, fortune tellers, etc. The museum itself is constructed of glass bottles and unidentifiable stuff. There are some surprising collections–wedding couples, dolls, etc.  We loved the hummingbirds outside.  My favorite room contained several of Ross’s classic circuses going full tilt.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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