Monday, November 19, 2007

a fine ROCKIN' toy show down at Centennial Hall and a shout-out to friend and mentor Tom Snook

(above and below) a bea-u-tiful unrestored Keystone Packard-model wrecker

(above) one of the show's highlights: the Hubley #5 racer
(above and below) the Cadillac of toy trucks:
the Smith-Miller L-Mack California-style dump truck
(this, along with several below, are the re-creations of Fred Thompson)
I have this myself in red, black and silver;
only problem, it's so BIG, where do you display it?

(above) Fred's newest: the P.I.E. "dromedary"-box tractor
pulling its classic, silver-ribbed trailer
P.I.E. stood for "Pacific Intermountain Express"
(above) one of the great original Smith-Millers:
the Hollywood Film-Ad GMC beacon truck. The GMC's and L-Macks you
see here are from the earliest Smith-Miller dies, along with the B-Macks
and the Miller-Ironson Autocar-styled cabs too.
(above and below) another Fred Thompson special, the L-Mack logger
All the details are just so incredible. A real man's toy.

(above) the legendary L-Mack Mohawk tanker
(above) the trick is truck-spotting (like train-spotting).
here, lurking, is a spiffy cast-iron Arcade Bell Telephone truck pulling a pole-pup
expensive!
(above) look in the weeds and ye shall find . . .
a gorgeous wooden truck-puzzle, under plastic-wrap
(above) the find of the day for me, a Lumar (Marx) scooper-dump with great lines
this is what people dream about: unrestored pieces with beautiful age-patina,
everything there and working, but best of all . . . played with and loved
(above) a magnificent crawler-shovel, restored
(above) a Buddy L shop crane, from the '30s, restored
(above) many years ago Tom Snook took me under his wing,
taught me what to look for at a toy show.
Tom had one of the greatest collections ever in the US,
but now he's letting many key, much-loved pieces go, sadly.
Here's some of which he was displaying this weekend.
(above and below) one of Tom's prize pieces:
the oversize Japanese tin International cement mixer made by SSS
you could look for 50 years and not find one as clean,
without dents, and in original paint. YUMMY!

(above) Tom Snook's surfacing company handled jobs throughout the East Bay,
(the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, generally in the Concord corridor).
This Kenworth, by All-American Toys, always reminded Tom of his equipment.
(above) a hand-crafted R.G. LeTourneau-built scraper, a "Tournapull."
I have one just like this in my collection, originally from Tom's,
with the proud lettering TOM SNOOK SURFACING
(above) a gorgeous hand-crafted Allis-Chalmers scraper
(above) here's Tom Snook! I think we were both laughing when I shot this pic.
Thanks, Tom, for years of fun collecting . . . and the knowledge you've provided.
-
Tom Snook and I met several decades ago, at a toy show, possibly like this one at Centennial Hall in Hayward, CA. As you can plainly see, Tom's getting up there in age and his health is compromized. But he'll be the first one to tell you that he's had a great life collecting toys, being a fine Dad and Gran-dad, the proud owner of a fine construction company with many haulin'-ass trucks, graders and suchlike, along with classic cars, and, best of all, a (reasonably good --this said with love) husband (considering how insideous this toy passion thing is) to the wise and wonderful Ms. Velma Snook.
-
Tom decided to mentor me in toys, seeing that I had a passion for trucks and construction equipment. My earliest childhood memories are playing with Doepke graders and sand loaders in my backyard sandbox and at pre-school back in Englewood, NJ. When it comes to trucks and construction equipment, I wear my heart on my sleeve. As does Tom. But the thing about Tom, he's willing to share his knowledge. And I soaked it in. We almost pulled off a book about it all, for Motorbooks (publisher of ROCKIN'), called THE WORLD OF AUTOMOTIVE TOYS, but in the end the task of setting up so many photo studios at so many collections besides Tom's, put a temporary halt to the project. But the slides and captions are all tucked away, in hopes that it will once again be green-lighted. Then you will see what a fantastic collection Tom assembled. I hope this happens while Tom's still with us, 'cause he deserves this book big time.
-
At its height, Tom had a collection that surpassed 50,000 pieces. It might well have been 75,000 pieces, there were so many shelves brimming with the best pieces (along with a gazillion un-opened and stashed away boxes above and below grade) at his studio workshop in Crockett, CA, very close to the Carquinez Bridge. It's no longer there, having been sold off in small bits and large chunks. At this past weekend's show, Tom and his long-time friend and helper Randy were exhibiting for sale some of the last great pieces he'd held onto. Like . . . that incredible, impossible-to-find-in-that-condition SSS Japanese tin International cement mixer. I mean, sheesh. I could look at that thing for days.
-
OK, on one level, what a shame Tom couldn't hold onto everything. But on the other hand, he's had nearly all the great pieces at one time or another. Sometimes you have lots of toys and life's grand, and other times it's about finding happy homes for some, or even many of them. That's the way the game's played. And Tom Snook, bless his great heart, was--and is still--one of the top men that's ever strapped on pads to play in the big arena. In many ways it's just like collecting rock posters; heaven and heartbreak, all along the trail. Dark alley-ways. Sun-lit plazas. It's always about education and discovery (oh, and having just enough cash at the time).
-
Tom's taught me so much, it's almost subliminal now. I can walk a toy show like this and within an hour point out the top 25 pieces. And he showed me that you ALSO meet many wonderful people at the shows, like Jim Dugger, like Andy Prezioso, like Niall Malcolm (also a rock and roll friend). So I say to anyone fresh in the game: keep on the hunt always, hone your eye, play the Internet for information only (don't be a sucker), know what you're looking for, keep watch over your pocketbook, and try to come home with something every time . . . something that's meaningful to you and only you. It also helps to have a forebearing significant other. And shelf space.
-

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I bought a few Dinky Toys from Mr. Snook over the years. Good guy.

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