Iron Man of The Month


| May/June 1971



Little Toys

Courtesy of Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana 47390.

Joe Fahnestock

UNION CITY, INDIANA.

'Fred's got a heart as big as he is.' And that's saying a lot about the generosity of one Fred Leathermon. For Fred's not a small, pudgy little sort of fellow. He's just a big man, with an appetite for good things to match it. Should you happen by his stand when he's got his face buried in a half a watermelon, hell slice off a hunk for you. If he happens to be quaffing a quart of cow's milk, of which he laps up several each day, you must share a quart with him, allowing him time, of course, to set down the quart he is drinking so he can fetch another quart from the rear of his big trailer.

That's just the way it is with Fred Leathermon the big friendly guy with the big heart and appetite. But big as Fred is all over, next to his lovely wife he loves most the really little things of life the little cast-iron antique toys, the tiny model steam engines, toy electric trains, tin banks and what have you.

For years the big man with the big trailer loaded with the little toys has been one of the outstanding fixtures at many a midwestern reunion The National Threshers, Rushville, Elwood, Fort Wayne, The Darke County Steam Threshers, Tri-State, wherever he happened to park his truck, open up the sides and drive down the stakes. For the hundreds who stood by and gawked at the old-time regalia lined up on Fred Leathermon's shelves, it was like rolling back the years to a boyhood visit to the village toy store, come Christmastime. Red, cast-iron fire engines, farm wagons with horses, steam threshing engines and separators, toy autos, toy locomotives, iron banks, tin farm pumps that really pumped water a host of things that delighted both big men and little boys world without end.

BIG FRED LIKES LITTLE TOYS - Iron-Man, Fred Leathermon and his lovely wife, Mabel, pose before the Leathermon trailer full of antique cast-iron and tin wind-up toys which he has collected over the years. He looks like a toy-huckster with his wagon but most of the items he won't sell.

Whenever Fred Leathermon and his entourage arrived and set up on a midwest threshermen's reunion ground, it was as spectacular as when the old-time huckster came driving up the dusty country road and stopped in front of the next farm house to display the wonders from the outside world. But instead of such delicacies such as tins of Silver Sea Coffee, Holland-Dutch Chocolate, Koenig-Brand Spices, Edgewater Crackers, County-Line Cheese, petrified apples, sardines, salt mackerel and the like, the Leathermon van hawked things with spring-wound gears and wheels, little steam cylinders that drove flying pistons on tiny thresh engines and road rollers, toy electric trains, and horses pulling red wagons to fight fires. But, unlike the country huckster of long ago, Fred Leathermon didn't care whether you bought or not. Like a boy who never grew up (and that's most of us), he priced the certain scarce and hard-to-come-by articles, his toys, high enough that more than not he kept them that way preferring that way so more could see them, rather than just the well-do-do should own them.