almost 60 years (1946/1947 till now) a lot can happen. Numerous people
have been involved in the Tonka business and can tell stories about what
Tonka ment for them or what they ment for Tonka. But let's not forget what
tonka was all about: toys for kids. So, what are those real live stories
send your contribution to:
striving for perfection, the side effect … (dec
19 th, 2005)
searching on eBay for a nice object to purchase I came along a story
from Larry who, years ago worked at a toy store and had to destruct
defective Tonka toys at the time. The reason appeared to be the
quality policy of Tonka. So when I asked if I could publish his
story, this was his reply:
... You may certainly use the story... it broke my heart to have to
destroy the toys, I would plead for them to be given to needy
children.. but unfortunately unscrupulous adults perverted the
system for a few dollars, and cost many many children... countless
children when you consider the scope that TONKA toys covered... the
happiness that they were intended to give. Sadly, TONKA had no real
alternative. They were at the mercy of the store owners that sent in
the claims. All it took was a letter to TONKA on the letterhead of
the store claiming so many toys were defective.. and TONKA would
simply credit back the account... essentially giving away money with
no chance of reclaiming it. A Bold and wonderful policy, and one
that rested upon the honesty of the store owners themselves.
The toy store was a chain of stores owned by a local family that had
locations in every mall in several cities, they eventually went out
of business in part I am sure to the major chain toy stores which
did in most of the local family businesses. I would hide undestroyed
toys in the dumpster... usually more than 1 or 2 a month, and then
go back after work and dig them out. I am ashamed to say that I was
lavishly rewarded with the smiles and screams of delight that the
kids who received to trucks would produce... and many a garden, or
flowerbed was instantly transformed into a major earth moving
project. I once gave a young boy 9 Tonka and Ertl vehicles, a
complete road crew with dumptrucks, grader, frontloader, bulldozer,
crane, earthmover.. the whole line and he saw them produced from 3
bags by myself and his Dad (we flew together as pilots) and he
completely locked up... stopped breathing, couldn't talk.. if it had
not been scary for 1-2 seconds it would have been hilarious.. and
even over the dismayed sounds of his mother pleading for her
petunias, the new Dam, or bridge, or highway of his imagination
instantly was undertaken. would you please send your website address
it all started, as a Streater business (jan
16 th, 2006)
everyday an opportunity knocks on your door as it did recently. While surfing at
internet I came along an entrance of a guestbook at Sandys
Vintage Tonka's ...
writer was no one else then a cousin of the 'founder' of Tonka Toys,
R.L. Streater. After some email contacts he was happy to provide me
with some personal experience and knowledge about E.C. Streater and
the very first years of Tonka Toys. R.L. Streater (74 years) is a
highly respected collector of fishing lures and author of: Fishing
Lure Collector's Bible
this is his
we go with what I recall from what my dad told me about
Tonka. Edward Streater was the son of L.E. Streater, who
owned a chain of small rural retail lumber yeards in Minnesota.
an existing business, it served as a base for Edward's
undertakings. Edward was a brilliant person with an
entrepreneurial spirit. He did not see his future as a retail
lumber yard owner. During WW II, he wanted to bid on a contract to
build wooden ammo boxes. He set out to invent a machine to speed
up the assembly of these boxes, it worked, and he was able to bid
on and win contracts for these boxes. He was then able to buy
things that were not available for those without war contracts. By
making the boxes, he generated lots of scrap wood and sawdust.
Again his creative mind pictured that he could make wooden toys
during a time when metal toys were not available. I believe he
made a wagon and a scooter.
He showed samples to the buyer
at the FIRESTONE Chain of stores and they gave him an order for
I remember as a kid that my dad took me to the old school that was
the birthplace of Tonka. Down the basement , the old coal
bins were filled with black tires made from the sawdust with black
pigment and binders added. The early Tonkas were created by Edward
I recalled that my dad (R.C. Streater - younger brother of L.E.
Streater) told me that Edward's experience with the New York Toy
Show and the people involved with it, turned him off the toy
business and was the incentive to sell the business to Mound
Metalcraft. He had already envisioned his new
undertaking..........making a line of store fixtures for retail
stores. This became the highly successful Streater
Industries Store Fixture manufacturer. Their growth was
accomplished by his concept of their sales force designing the
layout of the store, then having the fixtures made for that store,
and delivered on a large fleet of their own trucks and installed
by Streater people. I hope
this information is helpful. It is the best that I can
recall from listening to my dad as a kid."
Island, WA (Age 74)
at "Minnetonka Pilot Newspaper" february 13th, 1947
thanks to Richard L. Streater
at "Minneapolis Sun. Tribune" november 22nd, 1953
thanks to Richard L. Streater
E.C. Streater (march 25th, 2006)
do you get the face behind the name.
thanks: Dan Hackmann from Streater Inc. (www.streater.com)
of what later became Tonka Toys)
finding of probably the oldest Streater Steam Shovel
or at least another one … (april
than it hits you ... you are probably looking at a very old wooden
Streater Steam Shovel! Thank you eBay!
Tony (USA) wrote me on march 23rd, 2006 "I couldn't wait to show
you the pride and joy of my Tonka collection." and showed me
pictures of his mint in box Tonka B-202
Stock Farm Set made in 1957. I was prety impressed. But the real
suprise came when he wrote a couple of day later that he saw the story
of Edward Streater an thought he recognized a wooden Steam Shovel
which is in his posession. When he compared it to the photograph of
the wooden Streater Steam Shovel you see some times (sorry very seldom)
appear he had to admit it was not the same one.
found the toy in question. It was so long since I had seen it I really
thought it was the same. I'm sending two pictures anyway cause I still
don't have any idea about this toy. Thanks, Tony."
the digging began because I did recognize some destinctive
"He showed samples to the buyer
at the FIRESTONE Chain of stores and they gave him an order for
you look at the 'decall' beside the toy it says: "Tick Tock
Toys, designed exclusively for Firestone."
the colors light blue, red and black for the wooden wheels are used.
But what is a destinctive mark is the white drawing at the side of
the two playing kids. Look above at the wooden wagon with blocks and
you'll find the same drawing. So Tick Tock was used by Streater for
guess is that we are looking at an other unknown early Streater
wooden Steam Shovel.
the search for the identity for this Steam Shovel I did found a kind
of patern to get a feeling about the sequence of when these
Steam Shovels were issued. First Edward Streater used real wooden,
black painted wheels. At the end he used wheels that used compressed
wooden fibers, as mentioned by R.L. (Dick) Streater. These can also
be found on the very very first Tonka
#100 and #150. So this could mean the following sequence:
personal story of the Tesch family (October
Cronk (& Curtis Tesch) daughter & son of Alvin F. Tesch
homepage of Sandy's
is a real inspiration. I came along an entrance in her guestbook of
Venita Cronk who appears to be the daughter of Alvin F. Tesch
(1915-2000) (the third gull at the Tonka decals). When I approached
her and asked her if I could publish her story, this is what
certainly appreciate your interest. I've attached a document which
captures some of my Tonka memories. Although they are mostly
personal, I have no objection publishing them on the net if you
think it would be of interest to others. I've run this by my brother
to see if his recollections were any different than mine; he was
satisfied that my memories are in concert with his." - Venita
1946, our family (father Alvin, mother Louise, brother Curtis and
me, Venita) moved from Minneapolis to a house on Lake Independence.
That is the same year my father along with Avery Crounse and Lynn
Baker became the founders of Mound Metalcraft.
I recall, Lynn Baker became aware of the possibility of acquiring a
company from Ed Streator. He contacted Avery Crounse, Avery sought
out Alvin Tesch. Each man had his specialty: Baker, sales; Crounse,
financial; Tesch, engineering and production. Avery Crounse knew of
Alvin’s talents from his association with Northern Pump, where
Tesch was intimately involved with certain developments for the Navy
during World War II.
was 4 years old, my brother just 1½. At that time, the north side
of Lake Independence was sparsely populated with only a handful of
families living there year around.
it was time for me to begin Kindergarten. My father was spending
many long hours at the “plant”.
We, as most folks in those days, had just one car. School bus
service did not come very close to our house, so the decision was
made that I attend school in Mound, which happened to be just across
the street from Mound Metalcraft.
I rode to school every morning
with my father, sometimes very early. I went to the “plant”
after school and amused myself until we could go home. (Personally,
I think this plan worked out well for my mother. Dad couldn’t very
well keep me there all night! Although he did go back many evenings.)
remember well being in the office of Mr. Crounse. He was a very tall
man and to some looked kind of gruff. But he was a sweetheart. He
let me play at his desk and amused me with stories. I recall one
time when our family visited the Crounse home. I thought I’d
walked into a fairy tale. The house had 3 stories and an elevator!
Mrs. Crounse (Louise, like my mother) was a lovely, petite woman.
She gifted me a small silver mesh purse which I still have.
remember visiting the Baker home, also, a lovely home on Lake
Minnetonka as I recall. Mrs. Baker (Florence) made a mean chocolate
cake. I still have the recipe. Believe the children were Marilyn and
Freddie. They were much older than my brother and me, I think
probably high school. I remember Marilyn as very pretty and Freddie
as very cute.
to the plant. There was an electrician (I think he was an
electrician) there, Mac MacDonald. There was a little nook along the
stairway that had a cot it in. Mac must have worked some odd hours
as this was his place. I remember it being called “Mac’s
cubbyhole”, and I remember napping there when the wait for Dad got
too long. Mac used to wear a funny little cap, kind of like a
the time I got to third grade, the bus came closer to our house, and
I was old enough to walk the short distance, so my days of riding
with Dad ended. I was lucky to have those days. He worked such long
hours; at least I had him all to myself for about an hour a day.
weren’t allowed to wander the shop during working hours, but I do
vividly remember the paint line. I just thought it was so neat to
see all those cabs hanging naked on those little hooks, then coming
out so bright and shiny after a dunk in the paint tank.
my brother and I would be at the plant after hours. We had a good
time pushing each other around on the big carts, at least until Dad
also rarely got into the big office upstairs. By this time, Gordon
Batdorf was on board, I believe as the accountant. I used to love
sitting in his chair. It must have swiveled or something. I though
Gordon’s wife, Connie, was very pretty.
don’t remember much about Russ Wenkstern at the plant, but I do
remember going to his daughter’s birthday party where we all
dressed dolls which we could then take home. A nice memory.
of the best perks for my brother was that he usually got the first
off the line of all the new toys. He had quite a collection. Curt
was, and still is, more interested in fishing, but he got plenty of
use out of those toys. For a very short time, Tonka made doll beds.
The first one was a white hospital bed with a headpiece which raised,
just like a hospital bed. The second year it was blue. So I got a
couple of Tonkas, too.
early years were pretty lean. I remember one holiday when Dad was
bound and determined to provide dinner for all the employees. He
brought home turkeys and asked my mother to prepare the dinner. Then
they hauled it all over to Mound and served up a sit-down dinner on
long tables which had been nicely decorated. It was a great time.
first one is of the dinner my Mom did for the plant. It is of the "head"
table. On the right is Gordon Batdorf, Florence Baker, Lynn Baker. On
the left, I'm not sure who the first two are, but the third one is my
mother, and the little head peaking at the camera is my brother, Curt.
second picture is closer, and clearly shows (right to left) Gordon Batdorf,
Florence Baker, Lynn Baker.
Dad’s primary responsibilities were at the plant, I do remember
that he did go to one toy show in New York. As I recall, they were
trying hard to demonstrate that they had an indestructible toy. Dad
demonstrated when he stood on it with all of his about 230 pounds at
and Avery left the company in 1952. There was some philosophical
conflict about the future of the toys. Avery had other fish to fry,
and Dad was ready to try something new. He was the kind of man who
liked the challenge of making something work, and when he succeeded
he was ready to move on to another challenge. That was pretty much
the way he spent the rest of his life.
remained from the Tonka days. One of the friendships that lasted the
longest was with Ray Jeske. Ray came on the scene very early in the
Tonka timeline. Dad used to tell me the order in which the early
employees came on board. I don’t remember Ray’s number on the
hire list, but he was number 1 in Dad’s book for a long time.
employee he spoke of and I remember was Myra Berge, (not sure of the
last name spelling), the secretary. She was a sweet person,
and Dad thought very highly of her.
Cronk (& Curtis Tesch)
F. Tesch after he left the company in 1952.
first thing my parents did was to drop my brother and me with the
grandparents and take a month long vacation to the Southwest and
Mexico. First and last time they did something like that. They had a
wonderful time. ....", Venita Cronk continues.
F. Tesch and her uncle (mother's brother) formed
a well-drilling company which they ran successfully for several
years. After the well company, he was considering options when
a friend of his asked him to help him straighten out his machine
shop. That was the beginning of several such positions. For a number
of years he worked as a consultant for several different companies.
his wife passed away in 1960; however, he remarried in 1963.
Together they owned their own machine shop for several years but
had to give it up due to her severe illness. They moved to Pequot
Lakes to their lake home. His second wife passed away in 1974.
Alvin F. Tesch went back to consulting and
continued well into his 70's. "
hated to give up working, said it was the only thing he really
wanted to do.", is how Venita Cronk describes briefly
his passion for his work.
F. Tesch passed away in Florida in December of 2000 at the
age of 85.
Thanks to Venita Cronk and Curtis Tesch for sharing this