Isolated in the heart of the Gers countryside, the former municipal school in Crastes has been transformed into a train and an old toy museum: something to learn while having fun with around twenty volunteers and Joël Rigaud on initiative. Reportage.
A particular generation will not fail to fall back into childhood. Wooden objects, old stuffed animals, mechanical cars and stories from the past: memories and wonder, it offers trains and old toy museum, which was inaugurated on May 7 in the company of many elected representatives.
Installed in Crastes a few minutes by car from Auch, it is in the old municipal school that we find Joël Rigaud, a craftsman, accompanied by Richard Castel, who works in aviation, and Jean-Michel Gouygou, retired. All three have one thing in common: They are real enthusiasts of modeling, trains and old toys. The three are part of the Association “Aubiet modelism”. But in Lussan, where they were installed, the space became too cramped for the collection, which grew visibly. Several months of research and hours of negotiations later, it is with Craste’s municipality that they find an agreement.
Two old classrooms, a covered patio of 250m2 of space, the museum is out of the ordinary. It’s a veritable Ali Baba’s cave: car, dining room, porcelain dolls, a collection of books by the famous eponymous heroine Martine, pop-pop boat … Joël Rigaud has collected thousands of pieces with friends and volunteers in this museum. He traces the story. of the toy. Unsurpassed on the subject, it is with passion that he returns to the chronology of certain collectibles.
Joustra, Villac, Jouef, French Toy … these names may not speak to you, but the caretaker has a few anecdotes in stock about these famous manufacturers of your old favorite toys.
Machines over 10,000 euros
The museum works mainly with donations. These are often heirlooms left by parents. People who get tired, or who no longer have time to take care of their collectibles, sometimes leave these model trains and collect dust. They then call on Joël, who enjoys restoring it, restoring it, finding the small missing parts, and exhibiting everything to the great delight of young and old.
“One day someone called me and told me she was sick, she sadly died since, but she gave me, in the meantime, the big model,” he confides. And among the works at the museum, some are of invaluable value because of their rarity, their size or their very specific model, such as the dolls from the famous Balmain brand that present the couturier’s creations in his youth. “Today, with the Internet, we can easily assess whether a doll has value or not,” explains Joël Rigaud.
However, some vintage electronic toys should remain off. In fact, the required voltage is no longer the same, “transformers would be needed everywhere and the risk of fires is high”, states the enthusiast.
“We need to find volunteers”
Taking care of maintenance and showing people around the museum on the weekends takes time. Two to three days a week, Jöel and his friends take their free time to revive this playful legacy. Today, the toy museum is in dire need of volunteers. “We are looking for people to tell the story of the toy and be present by our side,” maintains Joël Rigaud.