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Of love & good gears

Man, 88, makes toy trucks for children

Man, 88, makes toy trucks for children

December 23, 2002|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

WAYNESBOROR - J. Richard O'Toole loves trucks, woodworking and children, and he's found a way to combine those loves.

In the basement workshop of the house he's lived in for 50 years, O'Toole makes wooden pickup trucks which he gives to children. Most go out at Christmas time.

This year, he gave about 100 trucks to Waynesboro Toys for Tots, and more than 60 to the Mont Alto Fire Company, which distributes them, along with food baskets, around Franklin County.

O'Toole, a Waynesboro native, started making trucks in 1982 after visiting the Arendtsville Fair and buying two small wooden truck replicas, which he copied. He used to take special orders, but now sells only a few trucks.

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"I love giving them away for kids," O'Toole said.

When O'Toole's wife, Madolyn, became ill eight years ago, he stopped making wooden items, and cared for her at home for several years.

After she died, he picked up his hobby again.

"I can't sit around and think about things," he said. "I miss her. We were married 63 years."

O'Toole doesn't wait for Christmas to give his truck models away. When he bought a new saw at Home Depot recently, a store employee loaded it into his car. O'Toole asked the man how many children he has, and when the man replied, "Three," O'Toole gave him three trucks.

"There are 25 pieces of wood in a pickup truck," O'Toole said. "It's a lot of work, but I enjoy it."

The trucks are made of scrap pine lumber donated by a friend at a pattern company. O'Toole cuts out the pieces for several trucks at a time, assembles them in stages, and weights them down with bricks overnight for the glue to set.

O'Toole, 88, does not keep to a set schedule for his labor. "Whatever time I have, I run down to the basement for a couple of hours," he said.

The hardest part is making the wheels, O'Toole said. He cuts them out on a hole saw, then puts each one on a mounted drill and smoothes it with a hand file.

The headlights, which are wooden screw covers he purchases by the bag, and the axles, which are dowels, are the only components of the trucks he does not make himself.

Although O'Toole used to make a wide variety of models, he now concentrates on two. "Most of the kids wanted pickups," he said. "They like to haul stuff in the back of a pickup. I make oil trucks, too."

He leaves the trucks unpainted, because he's concerned about small children chewing on the paint. Older children "can make the trucks any color they want," he said.

O'Toole worked in the boring mill of Landis Tool Company for 35 years, and later at Sears in Hagerstown. He "retired" in 1981, but since then has been a part-time maintenance man and a bank courier.

"My father used to say, 'I'm not going to quit working. They put you out to pasture, you're just waiting to die.' That's how I feel. I can't sit still. You just get older if you don't keep moving."

Charlie Baker, president of the Mont Alto Fire Company, recently saw two small boys receive their O'Toole-made trucks.

"They were ecstatic about them," Baker said. "They just loved the real, wooden trucks. They were all wound up."

The fire company is delivering three 40-foot truckloads of toys and food to local families today.

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