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Toys and Action Figures Fill Pauls Valley Museum

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life, Feature.
August 6, 2012

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The word historic gets tossed around a lot. Come visit our historic downtown…here’s another historic site, so much history happened here. Kevin Stark had seen, and heard enough. So when a group of Pauls Valley leaders set out to draw business to the southern Oklahoma town, he threw out an idea. It may not have gotten much traction in a less ‘willing to try anything’ place, but they latched on. As part of our series Oklahoma Revealed, I visit the final product…

Downtown Pauls Valley is quintessential old time Oklahoma. A bumpy brick road runs past the restaurants, drug store, repair shops, even an art gallery. Then, smack dab in the middle is a building housing a one of a kind collection: action figures.

“Floor to ceiling action figures.”

That’s an eighteen foot ceiling, by the way.

“This is what we call the adult collector’s bedroom diorama. When you go to a natural history museum, you will see dioramas built of like a cave man fighting a cave bear. Well this is the same here only this is specific to our museum.”

The action figures are sprawled out on the floor, out of their boxes and everything. I know, collectors nightmare. Okay, so imagine you’ve spent your whole life rummaging, gathering and hunting for all of this. That’s Kevin Starks for ya.

“We’ve got two displays in this area, one is devoted to Western toys of the 50′s and 60′s. That covers Roy Rodgers, Bonanza, Rin Tin Tin.”And then we have toys of the 80′s which covers Silver Hawks, GI Joe, the Smurfs.”

The action figures and toys fill 6-thousand square feet. The name of the museum…say it with me…the Toy and Action Figure Museum. And Kevin says it’s the only one in the world. This is his museum without question, despite the title. Still, he had to answer to his wife.

“She was a little upset that I was moving all of my toys out of my studio and into another building. Because when they were in my studio, those were my toys. Well, being put into the museum, they became more of the whole towns.”

The toys are everywhere. The bedroom collection may be the spotlight, but these are toys we’re talking about. Who’s going to hate on toys? You could just as easily go with the GI Joe section, or the glass case filled with DC Comics characters. For Kevin, it’s the cave.

“It’s just there’s a lot of fun stuff out there, that you go ‘I can’t believe they made that’. We’ve got Batman tortilla chips over here in the shapes of bats, well those came out in 1989, when the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton came out. And I even have the lunch sizes.”

Literally, it’s a cave. Filled with everything. Everything.

“We have this super underwear hanging in the museum. We thought you couldn’t have a museum that’s all about superheroes and action figures and not have super underwear.”

Perhaps not what you look for in a museum, but there it is. Kevin Starks is officially “curator” of the museum, that’s really an inherited title when the museum is essentially your collection. It doesn’t stop either. He’s still going to flea markets, garage sales, and now websites.

“A lot of families come in, thinking that they’re just here for the kids. But I tell ya, five minutes in, the dad is usually going ‘Oh, I had one of those come here kids, I had one of those’. Course the kids don’t care what dad had.”

Pretty soon, you’ll want to play catch with a Nerf football. Or I’m dating myself I guess. It’s not all just looking either, you can become a real life action hero too…

“With the superhero headquarters, you’ve got the hotlines, of course. Everybody has to have the hotlines. So you’ve got the hotline to the police, the President’s hotline, NATO hotline, and the pizza hotline. Course that’s vitally important. You must have the pizza hotline. Lots of machinery and computer type things.”

In the middle of a historic downtown, something that actually brings people in. About 20-thousand a year, says Kevin. Oh, and he doesn’t discriminate when putting together exhibits.

“I see Kiss I see um…”

“Spinal Tap, there’s Spinal Tap. Hey you know, they even made action figures of Spinal Tap.”

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