Royals want to bow out
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.