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by Stephen Dafoe

For the past five decades, Ron Cust has been accumulating toys. Whether it was small scale replicas of the cars he dreamed one day to drive or vintage automobiles he cruises around town, the retired fire chief has a love for four wheels and an engine. For the past week, Cust and some other local toy collectors have been showcasing their vintage cars, trucks, dolls, games and unique hockey tables at Smith Music for others to enjoy.

Some of the toys Cust and his friends have brought in are unique items made between the 1950s to the present day.

“The interest was sparked when I was younger. My dad always commented on how I enjoyed trying to describe which vehicle was coming down the road and understanding which make and model it was,” Cust recalled, adding that while he enjoyed the real cars, he also enjoyed playing with the miniature replicas his parents would buy for him. “Also, I was sick for a bit, and as a gift they would bring into the hospital always these Matchbox cars for me.”

Cust’s collection includes many original Matchbox cars in their original boxes, play toys from his childhood that are now cherished collectibles from a bygone era.

Some of those prized possessions include a Corvette Stingray toy made by Eldon that used air compression to steer the car in an age where electronics were not commonplace in toys. Another highly prized item is a 1959 Esso station made in Jamaica by Lesney, as well as a few of the company’s original hand-painted vehicles from the early 1950s.

“Those Lesneys were hand painted by the local residents, and they were die cast and crimped on the ends by local men that made a living with them,” Cust explained. “They’re kind of unique. We forget that Mattel and Hot Wheels that are produced now were based on that original design that was made by Lesney back in the 1950s.”

The display has more than cars and trucks. Vintage dolls, records, board games, video games and consoles all join some pure Canadiana – three vintage table hockey games. The display’s original Munro hockey game was created in the Depression years by a father and his two sons from coat hangers and a ripped apart coal bin.

That hockey game was produced in large quantity thanks to a lucrative contract from Eatons. The game continued in production until 1954. The display also includes a 1981 version of Coleco’s traditional table top hockey game created in the 1970s as well as a 1970s Phil and Tony Esposito magnetic game, a product Cust has only seen two of, one of which was in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Whether it is reminiscing over hockey games of years gone by or talking about the history of Matchbox cars, Cust believes there is a simple magic behind looking at old toys, one that connects us to the past.

“I think people love toys because just as a good song brings back a special memory, that toy brings back a special memory from childhood,” Cust said. “Granted we can only live it [the memory] once for a couple of seconds, it’s here, and it comes charging through, forward to us like a good piece of chocolate bar. I think that toys themselves are something tangible. You can touch and look at them, and you can share them with your kids and grandchildren – explain to them how it was. I think that helps connect the generations.”

The Toys From Christmas Past display runs until Dec. 18 at Smith Music and is open for viewing 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 16 nd 17 and until 7 p.m. Dec. 18.

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Ron Cust talks about his display.

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A Marx garage.

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A collection of die cast cars and trucks.

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A visitor looks at an Eldon air-controlled car.

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Cust shows one of his hand-painted Lesneys from the early 1950s.

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A vintage doll.

– Stephen Dafoe Photos

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