Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bus trip to Iowa: The Dumont Museum

The bus parked at the Dumont Museum and Gloria, our tour leader, went inside to see if they were ready for us.  When she came back out and got on the bus, she said, "Oh, you'll like it as soon as you walk inside and see that train!"  
I think she was surprised that this museum wasn't only about tractors.  
I got the biggest kick out of seeing everybody gather round that train display once we were inside, walking around it to see all the detailed handiwork:  One section has cars from the '50's, with a drive-in-movie actually showing a moving picture.  In another area there was a hospital, with ambulances outside flashing their lights and a helicopter with its rotor turning.  There's so much action that you could never take in every single detail.  The looks on my fellow travelers' faces reminded me of the expressions you see on children's faces at Christmas, right after Santa has made his appearance.  

My favorite part of this attraction is that Lyle and Helen Dumont are there, strolling from one room to another, giving everyone the opportunity to ask questions.  They love to see people enjoying their collections, and they like to answer questions.  There is an article HERE that includes an interview with the two.  To know them is to love them. 

They have quite a bit of Roy Rogers memorabilia, although they trimmed it down somewhat.  Helen said she noticed that not many people spent a lot of time looking at that part of the museum, so they boxed up some of it and sold a few things.  I imagine it's because most of the people who idolized Roy and Dale are dead now.  Like most people my age, I loved Roy.  I asked Helen how they got to be personal friends with him and his family.  She said her husband, Lyle, just made up his mind he was going to meet the man.  He called the museum, which at that time was in California, and got on good terms with a lady who worked there.  He asked her if there was any way he could meet Roy, and she told him, "If you come to the museum at 9 A.M. when it first opens, he will probably be here."  
They flew out and did get to meet Roy; their personalities "just clicked", Helen told me, and they became such good friends with Roy and Dale that they would go there and stay for a couple of weeks, touring the local attractions.  They still keep in touch with some of Roy and Dale's children. 
Roy and Dale only had one child who wasn't adopted.  She was born with Down's Syndrome and only lived for a couple of years.  Dale wrote a book about her called "Angel Unaware".  My favorite piece in the Roy Rogers collection is little Robin's baby crib, because I remember the book from when I was in junior high school.  I told Helen I was glad they kept the crib and still have it on display.  

Yes, it's a tractor museum too, with every rare Oliver tractor ever built.  When Cliff restores an Oliver, he gets his decals from the Dumonts.   
Lyle operating his train set
Sigourney is off the beaten path, but I don't think you will be disappointed if you go out of your way to see the museum.  Lyle and Helen are the real treasures of the museum, so if you go, be sure to visit with them.          


Becky said...

I remember reading an article a few years ago about the big Roy Rogers museum closing and that everything (even Roy's old home AND Trigger) was being put up for auction. I cried! My husband thought I was nuts. "Roy is before YOUR time, you goose." But he forgets. My maiden name was Rogers. Every famous person with that name held a deep fascination for me when I was a kid. Being adopted, family takes on new and strange dimensions. Roy was a distant uncle, in my mind. He was family. I watched the old movies, sang Happy Trails and made plans to visit Trigger one day. I even fibbed to kids when I was growing up that Roy was my uncle. Yep. The restaurant guy. That was all they knew the name for, sadly.

Jon said...

An interesting post - and I really love trains!

I never met Roy Rogers, but my parents met his son Dusty in Apple Valley, CA. Dusty was Roy's real son from his first marriage. His wife Arline died shortly after childbirth.

My Mom met Dale Evans in a dress shop in Apple Valley. Believe it or not, Dale was buying a bra!!!
My Mom said she was extremely nice.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

That is so much more than a tractor museum for sure! How nice these folks actuarially got to know Roy Rogers and Dale too. They were always favorites of mine. I read that book too. Thanks for sharing the trip and all the information. What lovely people they must be.


I think I would love that train display. It sounds so neat.

Margaret said...

My late husband and my nephew would LOVE to see those trains. We have a few around here, although I'm not very good at setting up the track.