Toymaker with a Vision

| February 2002

In the early 1950s, Bobby Pusch of Issaquah, Minn., wrote a letter to Reuhl Products, Inc., of Madison Wis.: 'I have just received your Massey-Harris (toy) row crop tractor. I must congratulate your company on the making of the best 44 on the market. However, you can understand me when I say I may have a problem. My rear wheel broke while plowing my left, and most important, field. As the time for spring plowing is fast growing to a close, I would appreciate an extra special rush order on this wheel.'

This letter reflects what Reuhl farm toys were all about: realistic, of high quality -and repairable. Thus, manufacturing Reuhl toys proved a double-edged sword: two of the qualities that endeared them to a generation of youngsters - quality and parts service - became their undoing.

Reuhl Products began in the 1930s in the mind of Andy Reul of Madison, who added an 'h' to the company name as a pronounciation aid - ('roul').

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1934, he landed a non-descript job with the Lew Morrisson Fly Company - apparently any job was better than no job with the Great Depression in full swing. And as Nick Russo and Greg Stanmar write in the Introduction to A Dream Comes True, by Allan Hoover, '... (Reul) had a history of being unhappy where his life was heading.'

Next, Reul worked with the Wisconsin Beverage Tax Division, and then he took over his father's implement business in Helenville, Wis. 'The company prospered,' Russo and Stanmar write, 'but this too was not where Reul wanted to make his mark in life. He finally talked his doubtful wife into going to Madison. Once there he began building toy boats in his basement, testing them in the bathtub.'

This turned out to be something he really enjoyed, and he reasoned that airplane hobbyists would welcome a second use for their expensive flying model airplane engines, which until then could only be used in flying.