With his ancestors being some of the founding fathers of Traer, Craig Wignall’s love of history began at an early age, something that is evident in both his career as a history teacher and his personal life.
“Much of the history I have has been handed down to me through the years,” Wignall says.
As a teacher at Willowbrook Elementary, Wignall shares this love of history with his students. Along with Sandi Holland, he began Willowbrook’s annual “Pioneer Day” in 1994. Each year, Wignall and other teachers bring in items such as the two-person saw that was previously owned by his great-grandfather, in order to give the children of Altoona a taste of the state’s history.
“We bring logs outside and use them in order to teach the kids how the saws used to work,” Wignall says.
Along with the saw, Wignall also has a sewing machine that his grandmother used to sew his mother’s diapers, an 1890s vacuum cleaner used by his family, and the original Dick and Jane readers.
But his ancestors’ belongings are not the only pieces of Iowa history that Wignall currently holds. Hidden amongst years of historical artifacts is the original 1950s Gumby, the main character in a stop motion clay animation children’s show.
“My mom’s friend, Ruth, and her husband were the originators of Gumby,” Wignall says. “Ruth also played the voice of the horse, Pokey.”
Throughout the years, wignall has worked to collect numerous artifacts from Iowa’s history. These include, but are not limited to, the last waxed cottage cheese waxed from Anderson Erickson, a speaker from the Southeast 14th drive-in , a remote control 50-59 Lincoln car, and one of his favorites, a white 1959 collectible fire truck.
“Growing up, my family would get a new car nearly every year due to the nature of my father’s job. History and cars became a big part of my life,” Wignall says.
Whether it is a 1957 Rose Bowl Program featuring the University of Iowa or the toys of his childhood, it is safe to say that Wignall’s garage holds the key not only to his family’s past but much of Iowa’s past as well.
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