I HAD NEVER heard of Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum in Fountain City, Wis. On Sunday, July 28, our daughter Stephanie and son-in-law, Chuck, took us to this museum on Eagle Bluff in Fountain City. This is the 26th season this museum has been open for the public by Elmer and Bernadette Duellman.

It all started 50–plus years ago with the Duellman’s junkyard, which occupies over 100 acres and at last count had 10,000 cars in it. They used extra cash earned to start a museum. They have now sold the junkyard.

This expanding museum is what captures your attention. Three buildings are filled with over 100 antique, classic, and race cars, some with very low mileage. There are over 600 pedal cars and more than 100 pedal tractors. We even saw several “doodle bugs,” and I had one as a teenager.

There are two other buildings jammed full of antique toys. They include tractors, trains, antique doll collections - more things than you could ever imagine could be collected by one family.

There are also displays in the home and in an antique kitchen. They have concessions and some souvenirs to sell.

The museum schedules are limited. In August, it will be open on the 17th, 18th and 31st. In September, it will be open the 1st and 2nd. There are some other dates in September and October as well. The museum is open from 9:00 to 5:00 and there is an admission charge.

If you look carefully, you’ll see a Corvette with only 5‑1/2 miles on it. There is also a 1929 Model A Phaeton.

Give yourself time. It’s fascinating and it will bring back memories. Regrettably, Elmer Duellman passed away the day after we visited the museum. Hopefully his family continues to operate it.

THE LIFE OF Mrs. Ray (Mary) LaValle was celebrated Aug. 8 at Cerenity Care Center where she has lived since 1993.

I have life-long memories of Ray and Mary LaValle because they gave me my first job at their truck farming vegetable garden on Otter Lake Road in White Bear Township, just a short distance from where I grew up.

One summer day I was fascinated by the large backhoe used for ditching the peat land on the LaValle farm. That’s where I ran into Ray and he suggested to this nine year old that I come and work for them cleaning onions and bunching radishes. I was delighted to have a job and earn some money and for the next three summers of my life I worked there. A lot of neighborhood kids came by bicycle to weed vegetables and pack radishes as they came off the custom-made washing device that Ray invented and built.

We were paid on Friday afternoons. Mary kept records and she along with Ray would provide cash to each of us based on the hours worked. I think I started at 50 cents a day and that was great to have spending money.

Ray died in 1991. He taught us work skills on the farm, as well as life skills and how to get along with each other.

They were married 65 years. When Mary died on July 28 at the age of 110 years, she was the third oldest Minnesotan and the 52nd oldest person in the United States.

She will be remembered as sweet and kind as she approached life and was known for her cooking, baking and craft work.

The experiences of my youth will long be remembered thanks to Ray and Mary LaValle.

 

Gene Johnson is publisher emeritus of Press Publications

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