DFW Elite Toy Museum

Visiting the DFW Elite Toy Museum

Yesterday I posted about the Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden and Toyland in Kentucky.  Keeping with the theme, today’s post will be about my visit to the DFW Elite Toy Museum in Haltom, TX on February 23, 2018.

While in Fort Worth visiting my sister in late February, I decided to make a trip to Haltom City, Texas to check out some of the old retro neon signs, old hotel signs and things like that (having been referred by fellow travel blogger, author and friend Tui Snider).  While I was doing so, I decided I would just check in on my handy-dandy RoadsideAmerica.com app and see if there was anything of interest in the area. One of the places that came up in Haltom City was the DFW Elite Toy Museum.  I had a an hour or so to kill and it looked interesting, so I decided to find my way over there and give it a visit, especially since Roadside America had this tagged as a “Needs Research” location.  And, moreover, it is a FREE musueum!!

The building with the Neon Ice Cream Cone on top!

From the location where I was in Haltom City, the route took me through a number of salvage yards and junkyards and a bumpy, pot hole filled and muddy road.  I thought to myself “there must be something wrong.” Eventually the road led me to turn left and there were a number of small warehouses and building, many of which were associated with the nearby salvage yards. Unknowingly, I ended up passing the location just because nothing in there seemed to be what I would consider “museum-like.”  I went back to RA app and looked again and it noted that the museum was in a building with an ice cream cone on top. Voila! There it was, the building with neon ice cream cone on top.

The Batmobile is one of the first things you can see when you walk in the door.
The main display room of the Elite Toy Museum. Hundreds and hundreds of various cars

I got out of the car and walked in and my eyes were engulfed with some really beautiful scale model cars and even a Batmobile. I talked to one of the ladies there and they sent me to the back and there was a giant room full of a variety of sizes and ages and shapes and types of toy cars. Most of them were larger scale metal cars. There were even some toy cars that pre-dated World War II from Japan and Germany.

A scale model of an old Rolls Royce
An old toy car.  Notice the guys painted into the windows
A few toy race cars in the display
A fancy hand-made scale model of a Rolls Royce (I think)

There were some handmade custom Rolls Royce’s and other hand made toys, many that appeared to be quite expensive. As I perused through all of the display cases, I saw dozens and dozens of unique vehicles and was amazed at everything that was there in this little hidden gem in the middle of Haltom City, Texas.

Fancy Ferrari

As if that wasn’t enough, I went into the next room and the first thing I saw were too beautiful Ferrari sports cars. And there was another car in a bubble. This is an air controlled plastic garage for the vehicle that was in there. Turns out that this car was called a Bugatti. This one’s a 2008 and the lady told me it was worth $1.8 million! I had heard of a Bugatti before but I had never seen one in real life and I really didn’t get to see it very well through the bubble either.  Fortunately, the owner sent me a photo of the car before he placed it in the bubble.

Ron Sturgeon’s 2008 Bugatti Veyron (photo courtesy of Ron Sturgeon)
Museum Founder and self-made “blue-collar” millionaire Ron Sturgeon

The DFW Elite Toy Museum was created by owner Ron Sturgeon, a self-made millionaire.  When Ron was 17, his father died and he inherited a half-interest in a rusty VW bug and $1500. He also became homeless. Ron started off in the salvage business, with his company called AAA Small Car World in 1978 after humble beginnings fixing a few small cars while driving around in an old VW Bug and living in a trailer.  He had started by repairing cars, but then realized he could make more money selling the parts of salvaged vehicles.  By the mid-1990s he had over 150 employees and a multi-million dollar business.  A voracious reader, in a way you could say he read and learned his way to earning millions.   He has also written a number of books, some of which are available at the museum including Green Weenies and Peer Benchmarking.

With one of the rare German-made Driving School Models built in the 1950s by Werner Degener
Rare VENTURA Alfa-Romeo C6 2500 Spyder (light blue on left)

Ron began collecting his toy and model cars in the 1980s and today has amassed over 3000 of them.  He is especially known for his rare Driving School Model collection which is probably one of the largest such collections in the world.  He also has a number of other rare collectibles such as a custom-made one-of-a-kind 1928 Mercedes Benz SSK 1/2.5 scale model, some rare Japanese Nomura Dream Cars, a 1950s Ventura Alfa Romeo C6 2500 Spyder and many more.  Sadly for me, I only had an hour, which provided plenty of time for photos, but little time to learn about the cars.  I hope to make another trip in the future with four hours to learn more.  Below are a number of photos of many of the unique items in the museum.  There is another room dedicated to dogs and dogs in cars that I didn’t have any time to look at.  You can see dozens of photos of the massive collection on the DFW Elite Toy Museum Website.

A Toy Nomura Dream Car
A Japanese Race Car Toy
A Miller Race Car
An old Mercedes
He also has many rare Schuco toys from Germany
One of many rare scale model toy collectibles
The 1/2.5 scale one-of-a-kind 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK model
Old antique toy race car
Fun fun fun – a Santa-mobile

Ron has not limited himself to Toy Cars.  He has a number of other collectibles including an original “Thing T. Thing” prop from the Addams Family TV show, and a few other oddities.

Lots of cool stuff!
Addams Family “Thing” Hand prop
Rare Poison the Rat Arcade game from the 1950s
Marx Big Loo Toy Robot from the 1960s

My experience overall was “overwhelmingly surprised and happy” after my visit here.  I am grateful to Ron’s staff for all of their kindness and assistance (such as opening the case for a better photo of the Batmobile — which I DID NOT touch.)

Great toilet sign too!
Another shot of the Batmobile
Strange and unique

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Announcing My First Book! Now in progress

Finding Success in Missouri

Hello all! Just wanted to announce that I am in the midst of writing my FIRST BOOK (in a planned series of 12) – Titled “Less Beaten Paths of America: Unique Town Names,” the book is all about a number of unique named places I have been to on my numerous travels along the back roads of America. The cover art is currently being designed by my good friend Antsy McClain, who is not only an amazing singer/songwriter/storyteller, but also a very accomplished graphic artist. I also want to thank my friend and fellow travel writer Tui Snider for her divine advice on self-publishing.

Happy Happy Happy…yes, there is a Happy, KY

I hope to have the book available by mid-October and will be doing a pre-order promotion later this month. If YOU would like to be included on all promotions and announcements please email me at the NEW official email for the book: lessbeatenpaths@gmail.com This will be my official email list.
 
So many of you have suggested I write these books — I hope you’ll support me!!  Thanks always to all of you!!

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P is for People – #atozchallenge

I am enriched by people. They inspire me, they teach me, they bring me joy.

I have often been told that I have never met a stranger. And it’s true. I am unabashed around people. Whether it’s joking with a person in line at a grocery store or interacting with the person at a table next to me in a restaurant, I always feel comfortable.

Having a huge elephant ear with friend Robert Phinney in Dayton, WA
Got to meet Nelson Campbell, Director of the well know documentary Plant Pure Nation, in Louisville, KY

The same goes with my travels. I have been blessed to have met hundreds of unique individuals from all walks of life.

The diversity of people enriches us.

Unlike my other posts in this series, I am stretching far beyond the boundaries of back roads in America. This post will take the reader to Japan, the Philippines, Canada and beyond. As a tour guide in Flagstaff I got to interact with 100s of nameless tourists from all over the world. Working in Japan in the late 1980s, I met more unique folks from the far corners of the earth.

Met the Seattle Smile Guy along the way. Didn’t want money… just wanted smiles
Motorbike Quartet in Cebu, Philippines
Street Person – Cebu

First off, there are the “random people.” The people I have photographed on the streets while traveling. Here are a few, including some from the Philippines during my trips there in 2007. From the loneliness of street people, to the unique shots I would see from the car as I drive by in some small town, these people add color.

 

Siesta Time – Cebu
Belly Rubbing – Carbon Market – Cebu
Street Person – Toronto
Walking by the Art – Toronto
Relaxing – Weatherford, Texas
Standing – Antlers, Oklahoma
Old Man – Paducah, Kentucky
Sleeping on a Bench – Lexington, Kentucky
Street Person – Dallas, Texas
Meditation – San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona
Hanging with Ukranians at Fat Smitty’s in Discovery Bay, WA
Sumoflam and Antsy McClain

For years, I have worked and often traveled with singer/songwriter Antsy McClain to many parts of this country. I have been blessed to meet many wonderful musicians, some very well known, others not so well known. Many I have gotten to know well…not as musicians, but as people.

Many of the musicians I have met are genuine.  They are such neat people…not pretentious at all.  It is nice to talk to them about life.  One of them, Bobby Cochran, who played guitar for Antsy for a few years, was also the lead guitarist for the band Steppenwolf in the 1970s.  I saw him as a fan back in 1975 and never imagined I would be traveling on the road with him talking religion, politics and life.

Hanging with guitarist Bobby Cochran in Bardstown, KY in 2011
Sumoflam and world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, c.g.b.
Sumoflam and GUITARIST EXTRAORDINAIRE Edgar Cruz from Oklahoma
One of my favorite people – multitalented musician Bruce Wandmayer, from Santa Cruz, CA
Hanging with my Aussie mate, multiinstrumentalist Pauly Zarb.
Have become good friends with the lovely former country rock singer Patti Hall, who now sells real estate in Phoenix
Sumoflam and guitarist Michael Kelsey from Indiana – he is one of my favorite guitarists and musicians. He is also a fabulous person.
“Crafty” Jack Burger from Lethbridge, Alberta

Another Antsy fan I met in Lethbridge, Alberta. Crafty Jack is a carpenter and master luthier. I spent two days with he and his sweet wife “Little Debbie” back in 2008. He taught me and my son about guitar making and took us on a nice adventure to Vulcan, Alberta to learn about Star Trek. Also, while in Lethbridge we enjoyed a dinner with him and Debbie in a converted water tower.  What a trip! Our visit with him was out of this world!

I have spent time with Crafty and Debbie in California and also on a cruise to Cancun.  We strolled the historic site of Tulum in Mexico together.  So blessed to know these great folks.

Sumoflam at the USS Enterprise Monument (with Crafty Jack) in Vulcan, Alberta (2007)
One of many Flamingoheads

Along the way I have become close friends with many Antsy fans. These “Flamingoheads,” as they are called, are also a diverse and lovely flock of folks. Some have become lifelong friends.

A couple of these Flamingoheads took great care of me on a visit to California in 2015. “Christmas Carla” and “Princess Ione” provided housing, touring and transportation for nearly a week. I got to know them, not as fans of Antsy, but as the real people they are with their unique life stories.

Enjoying the ride in California with “Christmas Carla” (she was born on Christmas day.
Ione (L) and Carla (R)…kissin cuzzins!!
BBQ Pitmaster Oliver Zuder showing off his trophy at the Oshawa Ribfest in 2008 in Ontario

My travels across Canada and the US have led me to others. Take, for instance, Oliver Zuder, a BBQ pit master from Ontario. I met him at Camp 31 BBQ in Paris, Ontario in 2013 and we became friends soon. I went to BBQ competitions to watch him and his brother Davor make people smile with satisfaction.

In the past couple of years, Oliver has started a new BBQ business called Uncle Sam’s BBQ, also in Ontario.   We keep in contact and my mouth waters every time I think of him.

Davor Zuder and some smokin’ ribs at Oshawa Rib Fest in Ontario in 2008

Crisscrossing the country I have met and chatted with cafe owners and shop owners. Their colorful stories enrich.

Carrie Fields, owner – Tightwad Cafe in Tightwad, MO
Tonya Floyd, current owner of the Wigwam Drive-in in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam with Nancy Starvaggi Schaffer, showing off the AMAZING homemade sausage and pasta from Mama Santa’s Restaurant in Cleveland, OH
Donating on of my “MARDUP” license plates at Carhenge. I wonder if it is hanging on the wall…

I have also had my brushes with celebrities in my travels. As a tour guide in Arizona in 1983, I once met Alice Cooper in a restaurant parking lot in Sedona. We talked Golf and politics for 30 minutes. No selfies, no autographs. Just two people chatting.  On another occasion, I was attending a solar conference in Kobe, Japan in 1991. At lunch I sat with some other non-Japanese from Norway. We chatted a while and then I was introduced to Morten Harket, who I immediately recognized as the lead vocalist for the group A-ha (Take on Me). He happened to be a huge advocate of solar energy. We talked about many things. No pictures or autographs. Just enriching conversation.

David with Nadia Comanci – spent three days with her as her personal guide in Kyushu

One of my fond memories was being on the road for three days in Kyushu, Japan as the personal guide and interpreter for Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci. I spent hours listening to her harrowing escape from the Communist regime in Romania. Though a national hero, she was also a prisoner to dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu. Fascinating stuff.

 

Sumoflam and Swamp People’s Troy Landry…one of the friendliest and most personable guys you’ll ever meet (Troy that is…)
Sumoflam with Troy Landry – 4 years after saying I would meet this guy

Back in August 2010 I watched the first episode of the TV show Swamp People. Already an avid traveler and travel writer, I became fascinated with the show, which featured Gator hunters in Louisiana. One of them, Troy Landry, was quite a character. I told my wife “one day I am gonna track him down and meet him.” In 2015 I did just that. I visited his bait shop and crawfishing facility in Pierre Part, LA. He happened to be there buying loads and loads of crawfish from fishermen. We talked and chatted for 30 minutes or more while he worked. Friendly and outgoing, and totally good natured, he told stories of Gator hunting, told me about the crawfishing business and the let me “choot him” in a selfie.

Hanging with Danielle Colby from American Pickers at Antique Archeaology in 2012

On another roadtrip, this time into Iowa, I visited the small town of LeClaire, on the Mississippi River. This was the home to Antique Archaeology, the Antique shop made famous by the hit TV Show American Pickers. While there in that hot July afternoon, I was told that Danielle Colby, one of the cast members, was around and was always happy to meet fans. She is the tattooed friendly gal that works with the pickers on the show. During my visit, I learned that she had her own business creating unique clothing and had a shop across the street. I went over there and we chatted about her work, her roller derby hobby and her work as a burlesque dancer. She welcomed a selfie too.

Under one of Clyde’s massive creations…his 12 foot tall dragon
Clyde Wynia, the creator of Jurustic Park and the artist behind all of the work

Not so famous, but just as unique, was my opportunity to meet 80 year old Clyde Wynia, the creative mind behind the amazing Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI. This former attorney turned his welding passion into a unique menagerie of metal creations, including giant dragons and small spiders. He gave me a personal tour and told some amazing stories.

Clyde tells stories of his various pieces of art

I also can’t forget to mention my encounter with “the one and only JFK,” James Frank Kotera, the Twine Ball Man of Lake Nebagamon, WI. (See full story and video HERE.)

Sumoflam with JFK, “Mr. Twine Ball” and “Junior” – August 2007

My travels have also led me to chance meetings with individuals with similar interests. And social media, especially Facebook, has extended that opportunity.

Portrait and landscape photographer Derek Ace (photo by Jeff Dostalek)
Derek Ace self portrait

On a trip to Wyoming in 2013, I stopped at a place called Hell’s Half Acre. A unique geological formation, it was a must see photo stop for me. I struck up a conversation with a young hot shot photographer named Derek Ace, from Madison, WI. We hit it off and I got his contact info. Derek and I have been Facebook friends ever since and I have been enlightened and enriched by his amazing photography, especially his desert works and his off the chain shots of abandoned buildings, rusted cars and sundry other forgotten treasures left behind.  See his Rural Ruins page for some great photos.

Author, travel writer, lecturer and musician Tui Snider of Azle, TX
Sumoflam and Tui Snider, June 2014

As an avid blogger of quirky things, I had a chance virtual encounter via the web of Texas Travel blogger Tui Snider. We exchanged notes about offbeat and quirky places in Texas and soon became good Facebook friends. On a subsequent trip to Texas in 2013, I finally met this amazing individual and her husband Larry at their gothic-accented home in Azle. Besides quirky things, Tui is also fascinated by the paranormal and has also become quite the expert on cemetery gravestone symbolism. She has published numerous books and articles. I count her as a dear friend.

Sumoflam with Shelly Cumbie in front of the historic Denton County Courthouse for a tour of the “Ghosts of Denton”
Writer, Radio Host, Sacred and Mysterious Site Traveler Teal Gray

Through Tui I have met ghost tour guide Shelly Cumbie in Denton, TX, who has provided many fascinating stories. I have also become a virtual friend of writer, blogger and podcaster Teal Gray.

Teal has actually done a live podcast interview with me on her internationally syndicated podcast.  She also recently write an article about my travel blogging and photography for the Dallas Entertainment Journal (see the link here)

Teal Gray Worldwide

The podcast can be heard in its entirety here:

Even my local staycation trips have led me to fascinating new friends, such as local bird and nature photographers and enthusiasts.  See some great photos by the members of the Jacobson Park Photographers Group which I started on Facebook. (see the site)

Photographing Wildlife with some of the Jacobson Park Photographers

I have also had the opportunity to meet local chefs that have been on Food Network competitions such as Cutthroat Kitchen or Guy’s Grocery Games. Ranada Riley, co-owner of the Lexington Diner, was one of these. Her “amazing” hairdo and unique cooking style have made her a local celebrity. But there is so much more to her beyond the cooking, whether it be her faith, her love for life or her diverse lifestyle. Meeting her in person and then following her life through social media has been a great adventure.

Ranada Riley, owner of the Lexington Diner in Lexington has been on television Food Network Competitions such as Guy’s Grocery Games and Cutthroat Kitchen

What more can I say? People bring me great joy and it is so fun to meet new folks every week!

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