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Toys from past delight all ages

Kent Scheer shows the audience a finished pinwheel during his toy making demonstration at the Bemidji Public Library on Thursday. Pioneer Photo/Ben Karkela

Kent Scheer never wanted to let the toys of his childhood disappear from memory. As he grew up, he found a way to make his living crafting toys from generations past.

Scheer, who lives in Wadena, originally started off working as a wood carver, but he soon started developing his own toys.

"I wanted to do something that was a little more unique, a little more novel," Scheer said.

Scheer shared some of his creations by holding a toy making workshop Thursday at the Bemidji Public Library.

The event was made possible by the State of Minnesota Legacy Amendment Fund.

The demonstration started off in the morning as Scheer hosted a fifth grade class from J.W. Smith Elementary School.

A second demonstration open to the public was held at 3 p.m. and attracted participants of all ages.

Scheer estimates he has 70 to 75 projects that he can share during a demonstration, and he usually decides what he is going to show depending on how many people are participating, and how much time he has.

Clarence Trego was the first to arrive, eager to revisit and recreate items from his past.

"It's a reminder of things in my childhood," Trego said. "I'm into some woodworking as well. I'm trying to make simple toys."

Soon, children and their parents filtered into the room, and the demonstration began.

Scheer showed the audience how to create a pinwheel made out of paper, and moved onto his favorite toy, a simple top.

Before the demonstration began, Trego and Scheer got into a spirited discussion about top-throwing techniques they used as children. They talked about a specific kind of toy called a pig top, which is a top that was thrown.

"They were popular in the 30s and it's a real trick," Scheer said. "In order to throw them well, it takes a lot of practice."

Scheer was happy to help his audience create an even simpler top made out of poster board and a wooden dowel.

Scheer says his favorite part of his job is just seeing people's reaction once they see the toys he creates.

"Kids today can be surprised by some of these old things," Scheer said. "To show and old-fashioned toy and hear a little gasp when they see how it works, that's a lot of fun."

A lot of research went into Scheer's work. He talked to people from older generations and learned about how kids were entertained during earlier times, especially the Great Depression.

"That's a time that's not a whole lot different than today," Scheer said. "They had to find ways that they could conserve. Play things were one of the first things to be cut."

Toys were made from everyday items around the house such as wood scraps or used cloth. The toys could be very simple, or surprisingly complex.

With all his research, Scheer started recreating the toys from older generations.

Soon, Scheer came up with a large collection of simple, homemade toys that illustrate what kids can do on their own initiative without going to the store.

Scheer makes everything from pop guns to kites.

Now, he enjoys sharing his own, toys and preserving them for future generations.