After 80 years

Charlie Brawn takes one last look

Charlie Brawn is putting away his miniature toy tractors for good. The Red Deer collector will be organizing a final display of some of his prized toys at Sunnybrook Farm Museum’s annual Pioneer Days Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Charlie Brawn is putting away his miniature toy tractors for good.

The Red Deer collector will be organizing a final display of some of his prized toys at Sunnybrook Farm Museum’s annual Pioneer Days Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

At the height of his hobby, Brawn said he had about 5,000 scaled-down models of farm equipment and other toys. He’s now down to about 125.

“There’s a start to good things, and there’s also an end,” Brawn said.

“This will be my last display. I will be retiring due to my age,” said the senior who uses a walker and will be celebrating his 87th birthday later this month.

He said his fascination with models started in his mother’s garden patch in 1936.

“I was seven years old. And my dad made a little miniature barn and house out of wood and wooden toys for machinery. Mother gave me garden seeds to plant around my yard to look like trees. I had a town site. I had roads.

“People used to come in and photograph it. It was something they had never seen before.”

After discovering how much people enjoyed what he created and collected — Brawn was hooked.

Brawn continued to focus on farm-related models through the years and set up displays at Agri-Trade for about 25 years. The first time participated in the event, he took home an award for being the people’s favourite.

“I had electric lights and running water. All the buildings had lights inside. It just looked so real.”

The Victoria Park retirement complex resident said he built and sold about 80 toys in the basement of his former house, and he’s met many interesting people all because of a hobby that reminds people of their childhood.

“Those toys are scattered all over the world.”

Sunnybrook Farm Museum has been a favourite place for Brawn to connect with model enthusiasts.

“That’s home to me. I’ve spent hours and hours there.”

For years he drove a tractor on behalf of the museum in local parades. He donated a full-size tractor and about 50 model toys on display in the museum’s steel barn.

Museum executive director Ian Warwick said Brawn was instrumental in bringing members of the family who started the Cockshutt Plow Company in Ontario in late 1800s to Sunnybrook for a special Cockshutt show in 2011.

“Charlie has been wonderful. He’s an enthusiastic volunteer and friend,” Warwick said.

He said Brawn has often set up displays of his toys at the museum and is always available to chat with people who stop by.

“He’s an ambassador.”

Pioneer Days Festival runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a pioneer breakfast, tractor pulls, tractor parade, threshing, cowboy church (Sunday), home-made pie, silent auction, children’s activities, concession, face painting, and more.

Admission is $15 per family or $5 per person. Additional meal charges apply.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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