SMALL WORLD

If you've been wondering what Mr. T. has been up to lately, he's been right here having a stroll in the park in Tinytown U.S.A., along with Dolly, Willie, Urkel, Donnie and Marie, to name a few.

And speaking of celebs, there's Danny Thomas coming out of St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Danny, St. Jude's and Mr. T. are the handiwork of Mr. Moshinskie, creator of Tiny Town in Hot Springs, touted as the world's largest animated miniature city, an assertion that I have no cause to doubt.

As of this writing, Mr. Moshinskie is eighty-seven years old. Since age thirteen he has been working on this miniature world. As a boy he would annually set up his toy trains on a plywood board around the family Christmas tree. After the Christmas of his thirteenth year, he decided not to take it down--ever. Rather, he started expanding his miniature town. It became a neighborhood attraction in Shreveport, LA, and he would charge his friends to see the sights. By gradual steps, his operation became commercial.

Early on, Moshinskie tended to favor western scenes (don't forget, this was the 1930's). Eventually, Tiny Town's subject matter went national, and finally global. That's the Materhorn rising above Mount Rushmore in the photo below.

Fifty years ago, after a tornado ripped the roof off his site in Shreveport, the insurance company settled his claim for $1200. He had recently visited Hot Springs and was really taken with the town. When he added up the expense of moving Tiny Town to Hot Springs, the bill came to $1194. He took this as a sign that God approved of his decision to move.

Don't come to Hot Springs without setting aside a couple of hours for Tiny Town. There is very little store-bought in the craftsmanship. For example, the guide will reach down and pick up a tree off the landscape and show you it's made of tin cans, sticks, wire and sawdust. There're no kit buildings from "Plasticville, U.S.A." in Tiny Town. That's really the magic of the attraction, the fact that so much of it is made from scratch, and recall that some of this stuff was made out of matches and paperclips by a teenager in the 1930's. Further, there is an interactive component to the attraction. Pushbuttons along the rails start trains, fire guns in the miniature shooting gallery, initiate a bear-dance and more.

I cold stare at this thing for hours, marveling at the richness of the detail and the resourcefulness of the workman. My favorite pieces are the in the old western section of the display. I keep imagining this teenager dragging materials out of the family garbage and using them to fashion animated figures, functioning windmills which pump water which flows down a chute, running a tiny sawmill.

You representationalists are likely to consider the artwork a little on the primitive side. Well, you've been spoiled by Hollywood-style miniatures. There's real spirit in this work. The man has a gift, and it costs only two-and-a-half bucks. Go and see. Tiny Town is on Whittington Avenue in Hot Springs.



Arkansas Travelogue home page