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.