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May 11th Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destroyer

• CATEGORIES: Features, toys • TAGS: .

UPDATE: Thanks to Lester for correcting me on my boat models. I mistakenly called a Battleship a Destroyer. I mentioned my mistake to my wife and she assured me that she knew the difference. 

On Saturday morning May 11, we hoped to escape the cold of Northern MIchigan’s Mackinaw City by driving south. Our goal was Brian’s house in Fenton, MI, where he planned to take us out to dinner at the French Laundry (more on that tomorrow). He’s outdone himself with his generosity and hospitality, so many thanks to him!

Our first stop was the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum in Bay City, MI. I can’t remember how I learned about this museum, but it was a wonderful treat.

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When we arrived, there was only two other vehicles in the parking lot. We took a few pictures of the outside and headed into pay. When we stepped inside the door, the till was there, but non one was around to take our money. I yelled, but didn’t get an answer. I checked the door to make sure the open side said ‘open’ and it did. I checked the prices and discovered it cost $7 per adult, but they were running a mother’s day weekend special, so Ann didn’t have to pay. Therefore, I laid $7 on the till and we began our tour.

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Wow. There were toy automobiles neatly arranged everywhere. We’d later learn that more than 12,000 toy vehicles were displayed. Another 4,000 were awaiting display. As Ann and looked around a man in a scooter and a young boy appeared, said hi, then went to the front. We told them we’d paid, and the man didn’t say much, he just continued to the front.

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As we made additional progress through the different rooms a man in a wheel chair appeared. He was very friendly and began to explain the history of the different items. After a while, it became apparent that this wasn’t just a museum, it was one man’s collection: Jim Dobson.  The man who was helping us (I missed his name) pointed out one wall where Jim had placed signs related to some of the companies he’d founded or been involved with. It was a long list.

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Jim Dobson and I talking about his companies.

The man on the scooter we’d seen pass us earlier in the museum soon returned. It turned out that was the eighty-five year old Jim Dobson himself. For the next couple of hours Jim shared his life with us. We talked about the fire trucks he’d owned (140 or more) and all the toys (16,000), all his houses, his companies, and his kids, and how much fun he’d had collecting his stuff. He was a local Fire Chief, of which he’s very proud), and performed as a clown for thirty-five years (Dobbie the Clown). He also taught at the Barnum and Bailey Clown College. He was a fascinating guy and his stories were never ending.

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After we talked jeeps a bit, he also shared that he had a FC Fire Jeep that had been disassembled. He knew the man that launched the Valley Fire Truck Company that did Fire Jeep conversions. He’s interested in selling that, because he knows he won’t ever get to it. (email me if you want to know more). After talking about the FC and my interest in jeeps, Jim volunteered to share an article he had back at his office (at a location away from the museum), so we agreed to follow him to his office. But first, he wanted to share with us a Destroyer (USS Edison DD946) he’d help get to Bay City. He said he’d give us a tour, but the gang plank isn’t quite finished yet. Here is a pic of this future Bay City tourist attraction that is only a couple minutes from the museum.

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After visiting the Destroyer, we went to Jim’s office. He noted he didn’t just own the building, but the entire black from corner to corner (and it was a sizeable block)!

Jim was a pleasure to meet. If you drop by the museum on the weekend, you might be lucky enough to meet him also.

Here are a few more pictures:

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Ann standing next to the world’s largest pumper truck. It was originally based in New York City.

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This is the enormous pump engine.

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I am lifting the hood of the oldest known running Fire Truck, a 1914 International. In case my mother is reading this . . . yes, Mr. Dobson gave me permission :-)

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12 Comments on “May 11th Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destroyer

  1. Joe in Mesa

    What an amazing find (the collection AND the man). Wow. Just another reason I read eWillys like it’s a daily addiction! Thanks, Dave 🙂

  2. Colin Peabody

    Did you see any Al-Toy Jeep vehicles in this collection, like the Fire Jeep, the CJ2A, the Jeep truck, the Jeepster or the 1949 Station Wagon, all of which were Willys Overland Christmas presents (1945-49) to VIPs and high volume dealers?

  3. mmdeilers Post author

    Jim told me he thought he had collected all the jeeps that were made, but I could see there were some he didn’t have (some rare Tonkas I’ve posted one eWillys for example). He also didn’t have the u-haul peddle jeep and trailer, though he had other similar U-haul toys.

    I didn’t see the Al-Toy jeeps, but there were sooo many toys, that I could have easily missed them. If you’d like to ask him, I can give you his contact information.

    – Dave

  4. Lester Senn

    The ship Edson DD946 is actually a destroyer not a battleship.She was launched in 1958 and decommissioned in 1988.She served off of Vietnam and was shelled by the North Vietnamese and our own US Air Force.Her name was even used in a Twilight Zone TV episode. Go to Wikipedia and enter DD946.She had quite an interesting history.

  5. Colin Peabody

    Dave-

    If you could email me his contact info, I will try to get in touch with him.

    Thanks,

    Colin

  6. Jenna

    Hello! I stumbled across this today and wanted to say THANK YOU for taking time with my Grandfather Jimmie Dobson. The museum is his pride and joy! If you don’t mind I would love to share this blog on our Facebook page in the near future. I help him keep a social media presence. You can send me an email if that is ok to verify!

    Thanks!

  7. mmdeilers Post author

    Jenna, please feel free to share it. We had a great time there and have recommended it to many folks. He was very kind to take the time he did with us.

    Thanks,

    – Dave

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