By Pam Wright
Reporter of the Local Journalism Initiative
Made around 1915, Tipperary is a favorite of Tommy Marie Smale.
With a funny hat, blue eyes and rosebud lips, the toy soldier holding the Union Jack is the emblem of The War to End All Wars.
Smale, a well-known toy and doll collector, has put together an exhibit to showcase war toys of the past in honor of Memorial Day.
According to Smale, sharing the Tipperary Tommy and other military toys is a way to show gratitude to those who have served in the Canadian military.
“We appreciate people who are brave enough to go to war,” he said. “They had to give up a lot to give us what we have today. I think it’s very important.”
Smale also believes that war games offer a window into the minds of children affected by war.
“The kids were there,” Smale said. “We don’t know how they felt or even if they talked about the war. Games were part of that.”
The former primary school teacher, who collected together with her late husband Bruce, has a huge collection. He currently rents a room in the former Sprucedale School in Chatham to display a small portion of his collection.
However, there are hundreds if not thousands of other items hidden away.
“I was always interested in older things,” Smale said, noting that she and her husband had no children and did not drink or smoke.
“We spent our money on fundraising,” he said.
Tipperary Tommy was bought by Smale at an antique shop in Leamington and is in top form for his 107 years. The name comes from a marching song made famous during the First World War called ‘Long Way to Tipperary’.
“It’s amazing to have a baby like this in this condition,” Smale said.
Other notes include toys from Tilbury. Smale also has a wooden ambulance and a tank built by the Ellwood family after World War II.
Ellwood Toys of Tilbury, led by Harry Ellwood, was closely associated with Windsor-based Lincoln Toys and eventually incorporated the Lincoln Specialties range. The company builds toys from wood and pressed steel, including everything from airplanes to dump trucks to Massey Harris tractors.
The toys were popular and are now widely sought after by collectors.
Smale, who is a member of the Historical Toy and Doll Society of Southwestern Ontario, hopes to share her collection with others. Private tours can be arranged by calling 519-359-6171.
“It makes me happy to do it and it makes everyone else happy,” Smale said.