LYNN — Two years later Winn Hackett is still looking for information on the vintage merry-go-round behind Little Theatre School. But, her historical hunt did inspire a $15,000 renovation.
In 2017, Hackett, the owner of the Lynnfield Street nursery and kindergarten, asked for the community’s help with her six-year investigation into the carousel’s background. She said she received a lot of phone calls and letters of old-timers sharing their memories of the merry-go-round.
“I was in tears because all I wanted was to dig up this history so bad and to understand the connection of the carousel to the city of Lynn before it’s retired here at Little Theatre,” Hackett said. “I got goosebumps from all the stories. One woman who went here when the carousel was around remembered the boy she had a crush on in the 1950s. It was just very sweet.”
One woman, who lived next door to the nursery, told Hackett she remembered when the carousel was first pulled into the driveway by a truck with a Hostess Cupcake symbol on it, but she couldn’t recall what year it happened.
When Hackett reached out to Hostess to confirm the story, they told her all their archive information was lost.
Another Little Theatre alumna, calling from Swampscott, told Hackett she attended the nursery’s original class in the early 1950s. She recalled going to a park at the corner of Eastern and Western avenues in Lynn where there was ice cream, and monkeys in cages, and said she was almost certain she rode on the same merry-go-round.
While Hackett was unable to confirm many of the stories told to her, she said it did push her to move for a full restoration of the beat-up, rusted ride. Now the carousel is fully functional and has fresh paint, a new canvas on top and a new motor.
Hackett said the school was able to raise $6,500. Excited to celebrate the school’s 75th anniversary this year, she said she decided to cover the rest of the cost herself.
“I feel satisfied with my history research craving, my mindset now is to celebrate the history of the carousel,” she said. “I’m confident in saying it has been with us since 1965, because Sandee (Lee Ballou Giller), the daughter of the school’s second owner, was born in 1963 and went to Little Theatre in 1967. She remembered the carousel was already there.”
Hackett said she looks forward to inviting alumni to ice cream socials and events over the summer to reconnect them to the restored merry-go-round. She hopes more stories will come out of meeting new people who spent their childhood at the Lynnfield Street school.
“It is just crazy this has been with us for at least 54 years, plus whatever time it spent before that touring around the city,” she said. “I am very happy with what I know but I don’t think I’ll ever know the full truth … We have 65 kids here now, the school’s been around for 75 years, so we’re talking about nearly 4,800 kids who have a connection to this carousel. This is why I get goosebumps.”