Mini Vintage Village

Mini Vintage Village
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Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Days as a Toymaker and a Peddler

            In the summer of 1974 my brother Dan and I started making wooden toys in the basement of our parents’ home in South Burlington, Vermont. We were in between semesters at college at the University of Vermont and looking for a way to make a little money over the summer. My father had a collection of woodworking machinery in the basement of our home. Dan and I were familiar with these tools having helped build the house.
By the end of my first year in college, I was ready to try something completely new. Using the considerable amount of scrap wood we had generated while working on the house, Dan and I designed a little bulldozer and cement truck. Next Dan came up with a train engine, followed by a log car and caboose. We sold the first ones to people we knew and the occasional gift shop. But we needed a market to sustain us.
Timbertoys dominated my life, though working with my hands was satisfying and offered me a chance to follow my muse — designing and selling the toys. At some point I hit on the idea of peddling them on Church Street in Burlington. Starting on Cherry Street on a frosty overcast Saturday in December of 1974, I boldly parked my pickup truck alongside Woolworth’s Department Store. I placed a dozen wooden toys prominently on a pile of logs in the bed of my pickup and waited for customers. To my amazement, within minutes, I sold a wooden train; an engine, a log car, and a caboose. I noticed the foot traffic was much heavier several hundred feet away, directly on Church Street. Now I was curious what would happen. I moved to a parking spot on Church Street in front of Hagar Hardware and again set up the toys. Within half an hour I sold just about everything I had. Then a police officer approached the truck and asked to see my peddler’s license.
            “I can get a license to peddle my toys?” I asked in surprise.
            “Yes, just go to the city clerk’s office on Monday and apply.”
            “Any idea how much it costs?” I asked.
            “Twenty or so at most,” he said.
            I was at the city clerk’s office that Monday and asked for a license. A skeptical city clerk with a bowtie told me the licensing committee would have to review it and that would take a week or two. The Christmas season was underway and I asked if I could get it sooner. Someone in the office said I should apply directly to the city council that was meeting that night. What luck, I thought.
I went to the city council meeting that night and bypassed the licensing committee. I correctly figured the Aldermanic License Committee was made-up of members partial to the desires of the merchants.  At the point in the meeting when the chairman asked if there was any other business, I raised my hand and asked for the license to peddle my wares. When the chairman asked me what kind of wares, I approached the large meeting table and rolled several of the toys toward them.

To be continued...


  1. We have a train among our school toys that looks like the one in the picture, but I have know idea where it came from. Those are sturdy toys - ours has been played with for many years and it's still in great shape.

  2. Great story...I will be back to read more....blessings

  3. Amazing, i want to read more :))
    Blessings , Vero

  4. fair holding us in suspense like this! I'm sure they granted your permit, but the big question is, did they play with them when you rolled them towards them? I'm guessing they did and smiles spread across their faces. That's my guess. Am I correct?