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Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Old toys still bring new joy to Christmas

By David Giesige

Sue Miller, left, and her sister Annie display their father's antique toy truck. . .

CELINA - Stories of Shirley Temple posters and Roy Rogers action figures were told Sunday afternoon at the Richardson-Bretz Building as people remembered the toys of their childhood.
With Christmas almost here, the Mercer County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society had guest speakers Sue and Annie Miller present their collection of antique toys at the chapter's annual meeting. The Miller sisters shared the stories of the antique toys from their family before opening the discussion.
"Christmas and toys go together hand in hand," Sue Miller of Celina said.
Some of the toys the Miller sisters presented were an American Flyer train set, a Roy Rogers cowboy doll on a horse, a metal toy truck with a working lift, homemade ships and baseball bats, spoons from the Lawrence Welk Show and a doll house. The toys were mostly from the Miller sisters' older relatives and were from around the 1930s, Sue Miller said.
Sue Miller told the story of how the Turner Toy Co. in Wapakoneta made toys out of leftover automobile parts.
"When I look at how those toys used to be, made of hard metal and with sharp edges all over the place, it's a wonder how those kids survived. The toys weren't safe at all," Sue Miller joked.
Miller said her father and other children went to the scrap bin of the toy factory to find discarded toys. The children then brought the toys to the storefront where the workers happily repaired the defective toys for the children, she said.
While some of the toys presented, such as the Roy Rogers and Shirley Temple toys, were store-bought, many were homemade.
"During the Great Depression, you couldn't buy toys because you didn't have the money for them, so they made things instead. When times were hard, people would do woodworking just to keep busy," Sue Miller said.
Miller's uncle was one such person who made toys by hand during tough times. He hand-carved toy dogs, ships and even baseball bats for Miller's father, she said.
"The big thing back then, whether it was at a family reunion or on a Sunday afternoon, was to play baseball in the backyard so the baseball bat was a big hit," Sue Miller said.
When the Miller sisters opened up the conversation to the room about favorite toys and which toys people always wished they would have gotten, everyone was eager to chime in with their own story from their past.
Karen Frenzer, 71, of Celina told how her father had mailed a doll from Belgium while he was fighting in World War II.
"My father mailed me the doll, but for some reason they mailed the head and the body separately. For my entire childhood, the head was never attached. When I was probably 50 years old, my father finally reattached the head to the body," Frenzer said.
Other favorite toys were the Marybel Get Well doll, a toy jet, a Dick Tracy doll, the cardboard records that used to pop out of the back of cereal boxes and could be played on a real record player and a doll house.
Annie Miller works at Celina Manor and said she and her sister have given the presentation to the residents.
Sue Miller added, "We'll bring in a box of antiques and spread them out over the table. Then we have the younger employees compete against the residents to try and guess what each item is. The residents really get a kick out of that."
The Miller sisters said that they have always liked antiques and that they were lucky their parents saved so many things from their childhood. Their favorite part of the program is hearing participants' stories about their old toys.
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