10 Country: Leigh's Museum Home - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Leigh's Museum Home

October 21, 2004

Ambrose-- She's a superstar with literally millions and millions of fans who want to touch her, bridging all cultures with pleasant memories of her and her ancestors. Some people still live in the good ole days, surrounding themselves with pleasant memories they can switch on anytime.

"It's yellow and reminds me of the sun and nature," says Leigh Tinsley as she stands in her living room after turning on her colorful Borden Ice Cream sign that hangs in one of the front windows. She remembers a cow. "She's still pretty to me," says Leigh as she stands back and looks at a wall of items.

It's as if you are standing in a museum. "I would have never thought there was this much stuff," says Leigh looking at one of hundreds of items of a special cow. Leigh Tinsley's home has a lot of stuff, museum quality stuff of Elsie the cow, an advertising superstar for Borden's that started in 1936.

She was everywhere. "A measuring glass," says Leigh holding one out with the happy cow logo surrounded by yellow flowers with a measuring scale on the side. Just about everything had Elsie's picture. "Oh, yes, the dolls," says Leigh as the picks up one on a shelf.

Some collectables continue to brighten her day. "Got a weakness for anything that lights up," says Leigh standing before nine electric clocks. There were many styles. Somehow, she made time to find most of them, even the one with an unusual blue background.

Not many people realize Elsie the cow had two lives. Of course, the one most people know about that's pushing milk and ice cream, but there was another side to her. She pushed war bonds, urging people to support World War II, credited with selling $10 million worth.

Not many people know Elsie promoted dog food. "Oh, yes," says Leigh pointing to an old bag in a frame. The directions? Just add water and feed. And, even dishes. Elsie was into or on just about anything. "This is Elsie the cow punch bowl and cups." Elsie's picture was on the white punch bowl with individual pictures of her children on the cups. And signs, everywhere signs, all with stories of determination to get them.

She traveled 16 hours one-way to Lubbock, Texas for a particular sign, a big metal one with an unusual blue background and Elsie's unmistakable picture. The sign looks brand new. "The items you have been hunting for, for a long time, that's a thrill." Leigh says it's not so much the chase. "I like getting it. The chase is OK," says Leigh with a laugh. Another thrill was finding another sign, driving 10 hours one-way to Roanoke, Virginia. The metal sign marked a drug store's location while promoting Borden's Ice Cream. "I didn't care how much it cost, I wanted it," says Leigh," As soon as we got what we wanted, we left."

They drove most of the night since Leigh's late husband taught a Sunday school class at a nursing home on Sundays, and he didn't want to miss it. One unusual aspect of collecting Borden signs is they don't have imitations, just the real thing. "What you buy is what you get," says Leigh.

But why have a home full of Elsie the cow memorabilia to the point that it looks like a museum? "The joy of it. Not the investment. The beauty of it," says Leigh who still gets a thrill out of looking at her Elsie memorabilia, where beauty remains in the eye of the collector.

She wants one more piece. A wooden model two feet long of a horse pulling a Borden's wagon.

posted at 3:15PM by dave.miller@walb.com