Tiny vintage toys, such as this police motorcycle, are part of the “Cruisin’ ” exhibit on display at the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
Bryant Clark grew up with an appreciation for old things. The Clarksville resident has long collected them too — everything from thumb-size toy cars to 18th-century homes.
“My parents used to take us to antique stores and we started very young,” he says. “I do like wheels probably more than anything.”
Many of his favorite vintage toys and bicycles are part of “Cruisin’, ” the Rehoboth Beach Museum’s newest exhibit. Celebrating “the history of self-propelled vehicles and toys in motion,” the assortment features cast-iron, battery-operated motorcycles, metal trucks, pedal cars and more, with many items on loan from local collectors.
“I really like the little Schuco cars. They’re really neat,” Clark says of the toys produced in Nuremberg, Germany, from the 1930s through 1950s. The U.S. restricted manufacturing in that nation after World War II, so companies turned to other products, he explains, noting, “A lot of neat toys came out of Japan and Germany after the war.”
As for toys that kids could ride, there’s a 1950s Ladybug Riding Toy, created by the Margarete Steiff company of Germany. Its black-and-red mohair seat is stuffed with straw. There’s a pink-and-white Vespa pedal bike, circa 1950-60, a Fire City Battalion No. 1 “firetruck” with a pull rope attached to ring its bell, and a ranch wagon from the Murray Manufacturing Co.’s “sad face series.” (The car’s front grill was placed upside down to create the look.)
The exhibit also details the history of tricycles and bicycles, with full-size bikes parked along one wall, appearing ready to cruise down Rehoboth Avenue to the boardwalk.
Though museum-goers can’t try out the 1953 Roadmaster (advertised as being “what dreams are made of”) or any others on display, Clark says pieces of his vintage collection are often put to use. He recalls a time when at least a half-dozen family members took off for the bay astride his classic bikes. A few of them dropped out because those single-gear bicycles demanded too much physical exertion compared to the relative ease of their modern successors.
And his young nieces and nephews often play with the antique toy cars displayed around his home. “It’s no fun if you can’t play with them,” he says.
Cruisin’ will be on display at the museum, 511 Rehoboth Ave., until March. For info, call 227-7310 or visit rehobothbeachmuseum.org.