Franklin man’s collection includes 22 out of 24 Fred Lundahl toys

Published 10:47 am Friday, September 9, 2011


A loader sits between two Model Ts. - Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

FRANKLIN—Barry Roberts has a collection of toys that many would die for.

The retired International Paper electrician has 22 out of the 24 Buddy L toys made by Fred Lundahl, an automotive fender builder from the 1910s to 1920s.

“This man’s son became ill, so he decided to build a few toys for the boy to play with while he recovered,” Roberts said. “His son was named Buddy, so he named the toys Buddy L.”

The Franklin man’s toys range from 28 inches long to 7 inches high and 8 inches wide — some are larger — and are sturdy enough to hold a 200-pound man. They are made for one child to ride on while being pushed by another, he said.

Barry Roberts holds a Buddy L firetruck. -- Merle Monahan | Tidewater News

They include fire trucks, buses, trains, wreckers, express trucks and dump trucks.

The toys are patterned after the vehicle Lundahl was making a fender for, with names like International Harvester, for example.

The toys became so popular that Lundahl gave up making auto parts and concentrated on toys.

Roberts began collecting Buddy L toys about 14 years ago, but has been a collector for about 30 years.

The toys are expensive, and at one time, sold for several thousand dollars, he said. The economy has lowered prices.

Roberts will not be satisfied until he obtains the last two Buddy L toys—a water tower truck and a coal truck.

“They’ll turn up one day,” he said. “I just hope they’re not out of my price range.”

His collections go beyond the toys.

“I just have a passion for collecting,” the 66-year-old said. “I’m interested in everything. I have about a dozen miniature Model T Fords and a bunch of other old toy cars, plus a 1930s Coca-Cola truck.”

He turned a bedroom into a showroom. Roberts also has Indian artifacts, including arrowheads, a beaded Indian breastplate, White House vinegar bottles, old bottles, dollhouses and old dolls.

In his garage, he keeps his own toys, plus several toy airplanes he purchased from flea markets and antique shows. Roberts has suspended the planes from the ceiling.

To finish off his garage collection, Roberts has collected three Model A Fords that still run.

“I’m thinking about driving one of them in a parade sometime soon,” he said.

The collection he is most proud of includes 120 autographed baseballs from Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mayes, Catfish Hunter, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth.

His first signed baseball came from Ruth, a New York Yankee who set a lifetime home run record of 714.

“Years before we were married, it happened that my wife’s mother went to a baseball game in Pennsylvania and one of the bat boys had a crush on her,” Roberts said. “He gave her the ball and she kept it all those years. She gave it to me, and that’s when I started collecting baseballs.”