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A "Windup" Toy Story

Dean Rockwell of Macomb has a pretty good idea what he will receive for one of his Christmas gifts each year.

“The first year I was married, my wife Jan bought me a Santa Claus windup toy. The reindeer looks like a moose pulling the sleigh,” Rockwell said with a chuckle.

“And I just enjoyed it so very much -- it was kind of like a throwback to my childhood. She got all enthused and has been buying me windup toys ever since.”

Dean and Jan Rockwell have been married for more than 40 years so his windup toys have grown into a fairly sizeable collection.

The Santa Claus from their first year together remains his favorite.  He calls it a “fun piece.”  The collection also includes a bi-plane, a mother duck trailed by three young ducks, a cat that rolls over, a drumming bear, and much more.

Most of the windup toys are made of cast metal.  They range in age from antique to new.  Rockwell has boxes for many but not all of the toys. “I try to keep them (the boxes) as much as possible. I think that’s part of the charm of the collection,” Rockwell said.

The windup toys are part of the Christmas tradition at the Rockwells’ home and he says they’re only brought out during the Christmas season. This month, he also brought them out for a few hours for a display at the Western Illinois Museum.

Rockwell is a ceramics artist and he’s gallery director for the West Central Illinois Arts Center in Macomb.  But he’s not drawn to the toys for their artistic merits.

“I’m attracted to them just because it’s a throwback to my childhood and they make me laugh.”