December 13, 2015

Crafting Toymaker Brought Joy to Kids

When it came to making miniatures, Koerner Rombauer showed signs of genius. He was commissioned to make models of the Iron King Mine (showing both inner and outer workings,) as well as the Ajo Open-Pit Mine that was featured at the Yavapai County Fair.

But his greatest joy was spending all his extra time making toys for the children of Prescott.

Rombauer's landlord, Lee Mobley, would often help with the manufacturing. Together they made "miniature scale models of cabin cruisers, trucks, racing cars, Stanley Steamers, locomotives, steam engines, houses and animals." What made Rombauer's toys extra special was that the "motorboats really run; steam engines really steam; and whistle and conveyor belts really turn."*

"If I can see it, I can usually make it," Rombauer once said.  It takes a great deal of imagination to utilize small, mundane items to create miniature reproductions. Here are some examples that Rombauer utilized:

THIS:                                      BECAME THIS:
Toothpicks Venetian Blinds
Brass Buttons Port Holes
Flashlight Batteries               Outboard Motors
Mustard Plaster Cans Smoke Stacks
Fire Extinguisher Tubes Steam Boilers
Corrugated Cardboard Tin Roofing

Some creative and helpful thoughts came from Rombauer's wife. "When 1500 straight pins needed to be cut in half, (she suggested) that the job be done with tin shears while the pins were still in the papers."

ALSO ENJOY: The Heartwarming Christmas of 1920

The story of the old fashioned, heartwarming Christmas in Prescott, AZ two years after World War 1.

Rombauer was a Prescott High graduate who moved to Los Angeles in 1918. Seven years later, he began his amateur career when he produced "15 sets of manger scenes for Christmas." While in California, he made his largest miniature: a model of the Mt. Palomar Observatory for a parade float. In 1944, he moved back to Prescott.*

A stickler for detail, Rombauer would often be seen at Prescott's Santa Fe rail yard "for many minutes, quietly regarding stationary locomotives." He would then "rush home and add detail to (his) miniatures."

The toys and models Rombauer and Mobley made eventually found their way into the hands of excited and enthusiastic children. Imagine the bright-eyed smiles when the children first realized that their homemade toy actually worked! "In all his years as a toymaker, (Rombauer) worked for the fascination of it and has never accepted pay," a newspaper article stated.*

Later in his career, Rombauer once "tried to give one of his projects to a local resident." In giving thanks, the "recipient sent Rombauer a dollar for his services." Astounded by this, Rombauer framed the bill and hung it in his home.

It would be interesting, if any of these creations still existed, how much would they command on a collector's market? With interest high in both toys and folk-art, surely it would be far more than a dollar!

The love and joy that Rombauer and Mobley unselfishly gave to Prescott children is an example for us today.

It truly is better to give than to receive.

Tourist Tip:

Do you like antiques and collectibles?
CLICK HERE for a listing of Prescott's many Antique Shops

*Prescott Evening Courier; April 10, 1950, page 2 col. 2 (top)


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