- Bruce Elliott
Did you know Albert Einstein's favorite toy was building blocks?
Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite toy was building blocks.
Building blocks are some of Harold Rupert's favorite toys too. After all, he makes them.
Actually, the renowned toy maker and Pueblo native crafts the "learning train," specialized building blocks stacked on its cars. The blocks, painted in different colors and cut in various shapes, can be used for interactive learning.
Rupert, 74, makes a lot of other old-fashioned wooden toys as well. One of them -- two bears that pump the moving handle of a railroad handcar -- has been featured in the Guggenheim museum's folk collection in New York City.
Rupert, who uses 52 different species of wood in his handiwork, says it runs in his blood. "I always worked with woods," he said. "My dad worked with wood and my grandfather was a woodworker.
"Every piece you cut has a different smell and different texture. It kind of talks to you. People will find an old dead piece of tree and bring it to me and I'll make something out of it."
And boy does he ever. Dragons flex their wings and snap their snouts; old-fashioned Model-Ts stand ready for a trip on the town; bumblebees show off their electric yellow stripes.
Rupert's shop, in a big garage behind his house, is his "paradise." His wife of 52 years, Pat, paints his works, and the two have traveled the West displaying their creations. (Locally, they sell at Retro Moto Toys in Manitou Springs.)
Rupert worked in education for 42 years after retiring from the Army. To him, toys mean a lot more than a simple child's bauble or a collector's treasure. They, he maintains, lay the foundation for reading, speaking and performing complicated tasks.
Just ask Albert Einstein or Frank Lloyd Wright.
-- by Dan Wilcock