Roy­als want to bow out

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By LIBBY KIS­SICK

Ti­rau’s only monar­chy is hand­ing over the keys to their beloved cas­tle Pamela af­ter a 30-year reign.

The toy mu­seum of Kelvin and Pamela Baker, on Ma­hood St, con­tains hun­dreds upon thou­sands of his­tor­i­cal toys.

How­ever, when the sur­round­ing 7-hectare land and three-bed­room house of the cou­ple is pur­chased, their tourism at­trac­tion shall have a new king and queen.

The cou­ple, who have brought such magic and joy to chil­dren, adults and tourists started talk­ing about the suc­ces­sion of their self­built cas­tle mu­seum four years ago.

Now they are hang­ing up their crowns.

Ac­cord­ing to Mrs Baker, 61, and Mr Baker, 62, the pair are look­ing for­ward to the perks of re­tire­ment – fish­ing, time with grand­chil­dren, and projects, lots of projects.

‘‘ It’s time eh, Kelvin,’’ Mrs Baker said as she placed the cast iron keys to the cas­tle on the in­door cafe’s counter, dressed in a royal pur­ple vel­veteen gown, with a crown rest­ing on her head.

‘‘Yeah,’’ said Mr Baker, in his bur­gundy vel­veteen robe.

Mrs Baker said her toy col­lect­ing started mainly out of a ne­ces­sity for doll parts for their doll hospi­tal in Mt Edge­cumbe, Taranaki. Then she got in­ter­ested in the his­tory and the dolls and toys started to pile up.

The cou­ple wanted to dis­play the col­lec­tion, so they de­cided to re­lo­cate to Ti­rau where they built a cas­tle.

‘‘ We had to build some­thing unique and dif­fer­ent and thought of a cas­tle,’’ she said.

From the out­side, cas­tle Pamela looks typ­i­cal. It has tur­rets, flags, wa­ter fea­tures, a mote, a sweep­ing drive­way, dark and heavy oak doors, grey brick work . . . yet step inside and dis­cover the big­gest NZ toy col­lec­tion in New Zealand.

In­ter­na­tional dolls, train sets, minia­ture shops, con­struc­tion sets, tele­vi­sion char­ac­ters, ad­ver- tis­ing char­ac­ters, Olympics kiwi bird plush toys, The Wombles, Van­der­beers, Flash Har­rys, Shirley Tem­ples, Raggedy Andy, All Black dolls, Topsy Tur­vey dolls, and an im­pres­sive dis­play of dolls span­ning from the 1800s to to­day, all live here.

It is the care and at­ten­tion to de­tail, to sto­ry­telling, that makes the mu­seum and cas­tle spe­cial.

When the toys could have been har­boured away in a dark room in the cou­ple’s house like most col­lec­tors, the Bak­ers have cho­sen to share the toys and the mem­o­ries they cre­ate.

Mrs Baker de­cided to de­pict lit­tle scenes such as the morn­ing of a wed­ding day – brides­maid on her hands and knees search­ing un­der the bed, mother of the bride hold­ing a gar­ment out to the bride, the bride preen­ing and fuss­ing in the mir­ror, and a lit­tle boy peep­ing through the half open door. This is Mrs Baker’s favourite. Other scenes of an up­mar­ket fash­ion bou­tique with the seam­stress out the back sewing and mend­ing in a poorly lit cup­board, a dolls hospi­tal,and a con­ve­nience store with lit­tle tins of Raw­leys rest­ing on the shelf, ed­u­cate and en­thral mu­seum guests.

There are three gen­er­a­tions linked to the cas­tle, with the cou­ple’s chil­dren and grand­chil­dren all part of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mrs Baker runs the cas­tle and Mr Baker, a me­chanic by trade, helps out when not work­ing on home ren­o­va­tions and build­ing projects.

Their daugh­ter’s minia­ture horses graze here, and grand­daugh­ter Tyler, 7, is their lit­tle princess.

She has a crown of her own and helps her grand­mother in the cafe. The princess is pop­u­lar with the peo­ple.

‘‘It is very re­ward­ing. We have en­joyed it as a fam­ily but there are other things in life to en­joy and achieve.

‘‘It is time to move over, for some­one else to have it, to build it up and make it fresh, put their own stamp on it,’’ Mrs Baker said.

She as­sures po­ten­tial buy­ers that there is no work in­volved with run­ning a cas­tle, ex­cept for mak­ing cups of tea and scones, and mow­ing the lawns once a week.

‘‘We know the right per­son’s out there. We are con­tem­plat­ing leas­ing the place. Sell or lease, it could be quite ex­cit­ing!’’

As for the value of the tourism busi­ness and its ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion, it is sim­ply not known, and Mr and Mrs Baker say it is not about what it is worth.

‘‘What we are deal­ing with here is ev­ery­one’s child­hoods, feel­ings and good mem­o­ries,’’ Mrs Baker ex­plained.

There have been in­quiries since the cou­ple listed with NZ Tourism Prop­erty Sales.

When asked if they would have to like the new own­ers, af­ter all their time and ded­i­ca­tion, Mrs Baker said, ‘‘no, busi­ness is busi­ness.’’

The toy mu­seum and cafe at­tracts school groups, quiz groups, students study­ing his­tory, cos­tumes, film or me­dieval mu­sic. Even plays have been per­formed at Pamela.

Large wooden tables and chairs, akin to a scene of me­dieval times, ac­com­pany the cafe and seat up to 130 peo­ple.

Mr Baker said they have met all the big ‘‘nanas’’ from Fon­terra who have held meet­ings be­hind the book­case.

The cou­ple are proud to have been part of Pamela Cas­tle’s his­tory, and in­tend to stay in the Waikato.

OUR KING­DOM: Kelvin and Pamela Baker at the en­trance of the Pamela Cas­tle which is up for sale.

GOOD ROYAL FUN: Queen Pamela with her king’s prized jew­els, his train set.

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