Over the years, Bixby, handcrafted more than 100 marionettes replicating everything from czars and peasants to witches to little boys in such fairy tales as "The Little Humpbacked Horse," a Russian fairy tale,-and American classics like "Jack and the Bean Stalk."

The magic of shows, Bixby said, was using color, lights and his cast of marionettes to bring the story alive for children everywhere. "They're beautiful stories and the schools loved them," Bixby said.

But it wasn't easy. Making a marionette – not to mention a whole set – took about a week to carve, model it in clay and string it properly, he said.

Bixby estimated that, with his assistants, it took the men three to four months to make all the marionettes for a show and then another month for rehearsals.

Together with his wife, Thyra Bixby, who died in 1972, the couple dedicated their lives to the Bixby Marionette Traveling Show. Thyra Bixby designed and sewed costumes and kept the books for the family business. Meredith Bixby advertised and marketed the show to countless schools where the show performed each year from Alabama to Ohio.

Both also lent their voices for different characters in the shows, and later, when tape recorders and televisions were invented, did hours of taping that included several televised broadcasts.

Times were hard when Bixby first started. After moving to New York City to study painting in 1928, he moved around from room to room. One room, Bixby remembers, cost a then exorbitant $3 a week.

After a while, Bixby got lucky and found a steady job working at the city's main library on 42nd Street. He worked in the library's newspaper room for five hours every night after a full-day of art classes. Because of that job, Bixby said, he found a regular place to live.

"Those were desperate times," Bixby said of the early Depression years.

After talking to a Russian friend about Russian fairy tales, Bixby got the idea to put marionette shows with interesting themes like the Russian stories of Baba Yaga, an evil witch who doesn't like children.

He lived in New York for three years, then moved to Detroit and started puppeteer full-time, with the help of two assistants he hired and trained. The first show they performed was "Dr. Faust," a series of German morality tales, which Bixby said was a hit with Catholic schools in the area.

Bixby met and married his wife in 1937, and the business really started to take off. After being amazed and delighted that he could actually make a living of puppeteering, Bixby said, the rest was history.

The Bixbys moved to Saline in the late 1940s after his father'4 death, and they decided to put down roots in the town where Meredith Bixby grew up.

"Meredith has always been very proud and satisfied by his successful career and his ability to ensure that both of his children went to universities," said Lisa Laramie, project coordinator of the Bixby Exhibit and longtime friend.

"The Bixbys were thought of very highly in the community."
Bixby's two children are Norah Bixby, who teaches at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, and Michael Bixby, a professor in Boise, Idaho, who teaches business law.

For years, the puppets lived in Bixby's studio barn in Saline, but after 46 years in the business, Bixby began looking for a more permanent home for his marionettes.

Bixby wanted to make sure that all of his puppets; scenery, props and playbills from his collection would remain together in the same place instead of being parceled out among different museums.

And in 1996, Bixby got his wish when planning for the Bixby Exhibit started. In a partnership with the city of Saline, with funds from a Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs grant, the exhibit came to fruition in 1998.

In 2016 the Bixby Exhibit is located in the Saline Area Library.
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