On a whim, my wife Ellen and I travelled to nearby Eden N.Y., about a half-hour drive from the Peace Bridge at the Fort Erie-Buffalo border. We headed to the birthplace of the kazoo and the only place in the world where the metal kazoo is currently produced, Eden, New York.
Not sure what a kazoo is? It's a small simple musical instrument that when you hum or sing into it, it produces a buzzing sound. It's a true piece of Americana.
Eden is a hamlet (pop 3,300) way off the tourist track. In addition to the Kazoo Factory and Museum, there are a number of historic homes, old churches, plenty of farmland, a few restaurants, a Tim Hortons and a Dollar General Store. That's about it.
It would be hard to miss the Kazoo Factory, Museum and Boutique Gift Shop, located on Highway 62, which runs through the village. Look for the building with the giant kazoo on top.
When we entered, we were met by Karen Smith, the manager of the boutique who knew everything you ever wanted to know about kazoos.
She told us that the factory is the original building where the metal kazoo was first produced in 1916. The equipment used to manufacture the tiny musical instrument is also the same. Looking at the factory was like looking inside a time capsule. Today, as in the past, over 20 machines are run with a single 10-horsepower motor connected with overhead jack shafts and leather belts.
When we saw the workers behind the machines, we realized this was truly one of the few remaining working museums that we have ever seen. We were pleased to learn the factory employs 15-20 people from Suburban Adult Services Inc. who have developmental disabilities. These jobs help them lead meaningful lives and remain as independent as possible.
We learned that to make a handmade metal kazoo requires 18 different steps and this factory produces the original kazoos (some in three different colours) as well as a few specialty kazoos like the French horn, Trumpet and Trombone Kazoo.
Display cases inside the museum show examples of wooden kazoos, liquor bottle shaped kazoos celebrating the end of prohibition, antique kazoo instruments and, silver and gold kazoos and many more.
Before we left, we browsed the unique boutique shop picking up yet a few more Christmas gifts. The two dollar original kazoos will find their way into the grandchildren's Christmas stocking.
The Kazoo Factory Museum and Boutique at 8703 South Main Street, Eden N.Y. is open daily, except Sunday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is free and there's plenty of free parking. For more information 716-992-3960 or
Just up the street from the museum is the family-operated Four Corners Restaurant. It was recommended by the locals and it turned out to be a great place for lunch. We could tell we were in a small town as soon as we entered, but we experienced welcoming eyes.
Our server, Jenn, who we learned was the granddaughter of the owner, greeted us with a smile, seated us and told us about the daily specials. For lunch we both had a bowl of homemade butternut squash and apple soup and shared a ham, turkey and cheddar melt on a fresh bagel. With coffee and tea, our bill was around $18.00. Incidentally, this place only accepts cash. Open from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch.
On your way back to Niagara you'll pass right through the Village of Hamburg where you'll find a few more things to discover. Their downtown is quite nice with a number of interesting stores to browse.
How To Kazoo: A Kazootorial
Enter Kazoo Man
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.