Wednesday, May 28, 2014

V5.21 - Emanuel’s Story part 3

From Ms Rachel…continued… If I am right, this is Emanuel’s story:

Emanuel was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in about 1938. His parents were Sender and Chaja Mines. Emanuel’s sister, Miriam, was five when he was born. Sender was a shoemaker, and Chaja stayed at home and looked after her husband and children. About a year after Emanuel’s birth, his parents took him to have his picture taken. They didn’t have much money, and studio photos were expensive, but Emanuel’s father was proud of his first-born son, and wanted to show him off to his family in far-off America. He sent one photo to his brother Ben in Birmingham, Alabama.

Emanuel spent the first few years of his short life in peace. Then, on June 23, 1941, when he was three years old, German troops invaded Lithuania. Beatings and murders of Jewish citizens began immediately. By July 10, the Jewish citizens of Kaunas, Emanuel and his family among them, were forced into the ghetto, a slum area of poor wooden houses without running water. Around this area a fence was built, and no one was allowed in or out without permission from the Nazi authorities, on pain of death. The ghetto was horribly overcrowded, food was scarce, and the first winter was one of the coldest on record, made even worse by a severe shortage of firewood. Emanuel and his sister Miriam were cold, hungry, and dirty. Even worse, that winter Sender and a group of others was deported for forced labor in Latvia. The children never saw their father again.

The children and their mother lived in the ghetto for almost three years. Despite the constant hunger, fear, and misery, the Jewish citizens of the Kaunas Ghetto managed to maintain a social and cultural life, including clandestine schools. In one of these schools, Emanuel may have learned his first letters. His mother, like the other adults, was pressed into forced labor, and Emanuel would have been cared for by Miriam and possibly his grandmother, Rode.

Then, in a two-day period, March 27-28 1944, while the adults were at their places of forced labor, the Gestapo entered the ghetto and rounded up everyone remaining – mostly children under 12 and adults too old to work. The people were dragged from their homes and hiding places, and taken to the nearby Ninth Fort in Kaunas, where they were shot. Emanuel, Miriam, and Rode were among them.

No one alive now remembers these three people. They have disappeared from history. The only trace remaining is – maybe – one studio portrait of one child, probably my brother Emanuel, taken in about 1939, in Kaunas, Lithuania. Emanuel is dressed in a fancy gown and sits on a Taylor-Tot look-alike. The camera has captured him in one of the proudest and happiest moments he and his parents will ever know.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

V5.20 - Emanuel’s Story part 2

This is Ms. Rachel’s family story:

My father, Sender Mines, never talked much about his life in Europe before WWII. I knew that before he immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s, met my mother, and started a new family, he had had a previous wife and two children in Lithuania. His children, my half-brother and sister, had been murdered in the Holocaust, together with the rest of the family, aside from one brother and some cousins who had immigrated to the US in the 1920s.

After my father’s death in 1982, we found an unsigned, undated photo in his album of a toddler sitting on a ride-on toy. For years, we all wondered who the child was and why Dad had never shown us the picture. We assumed we would never find out.

A few years ago, I started seriously researching my family’s history. I had assumed that all our records had been lost or destroyed during the Holocaust, but I was able to discover the name of my father’s first wife and those of their two children, Miriam and Emanuel. When they died in 1944, Miriam had been 11, Emanuel 6.

Now I was more than ever intrigued by my father’s mysterious photo. I wondered if there was anything I could do to find out the child’s identity. Could he or she be one of my half-siblings? It occurred to me that the ride-on toy might be a clue. After checking around the Internet, I sent the photo to the experts at Tricycle Fetish, who identified the toy as a 1940s Taylor Tot. If they were right, the child in the picture couldn’t be one of my European relatives, as by 1941 they were either dead or living under Nazi occupation.

However, I thought I’d try another opinion, and after finding Tom’s website, I sent him the photo. Tom thought the ride-on toy was not a Taylor Tot, but a look-alike, possibly based on Taylor Tot’s 1932 model. To both Tom and me, it made sense that a look-alike 1932 Taylor Tot could be a prop in a Lithuanian photo studio by the mid-to-late 1930s.

I will probably never know for sure who the child in the photo is. Certainly the photo couldn't have survived the war, and must have belonged to, or been sent to, a relative in the US before 1940. The child might be one of our American relatives. But if so, why did my father never show us the picture? My guess is that he found it too painful to talk about, and I think the child was my father’s son – my half-brother – Emanuel.

Continued next week…

Saturday, May 10, 2014

V5.19 - Emanuel’s Story

While it should be pretty obvious that I love these old Taylor-Tot strollers, the strollers aren’t the most important part of the gig. People are what is important. Connecting with people, refreshing their memories of a childhood gone by is what really makes me tick. One of the blessings of having the only website about Taylor-Tots is that people are finding it. People who I would never have known about otherwise have found my little website and that makes all the work worth it.

A few years ago I received an email from a nice lady named Rachel. Rachel is from Vancouver, Canada and even though the idea of some guy in Tennessee being contacted by someone from Vancouver is pretty far out, her request was even more interesting. Rachel sent me a photo of a young child sitting in a stroller. She said that the picture was probably taken in Lithuania in the late 1930’s and she wondered of the stroller could be identified as a 1930’s vintage Taylor-Tot.

When Rachel sent the picture, it was a very dark print - obviously a very old photo. The first thing I did was use a photo program to lighten up the picture so that I could see more of the stroller’s details. When I was better able to see some of the details of the stroller in Rachel’s picture, I found several items that seem to tell us that this wasn’t a Taylor-Tot stroller.

For instance, this stroller’s T-handle was wider; the front crossmember is shaped at an angle; the front bumper is shaped differently and there doesn’t seem to be any beads in front of the youngster. I really struggled with this one, because I wanted it to be a Taylor-Tot. It did remind me of a 1932 Taylor-Tot like one I had seen on a catalog cover but not quite.

If the child’s handle had been wider and the front crossmember had been squared off, I would have agreed that it was more than likely, a Taylor-Tot.

As it was, I had to get back to Miss Rachel and tell her that it didn’t look like it was a Taylor-Tot. I told Miss Rachel that I thought it might be a European stroller, perhaps of the same 1930’s vintage because, just like cars of the day all looked basically the same, my thinking was that strollers might have also.

I wanted to write this article for my Taylor-Tot newsletter, so I asked Miss Rachel’s permission and when I did, she asked if she could write the ‘other half’ of the story of the child in the stroller.

Stay tuned for Part two.

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Friday, May 2, 2014


We’re still working our little stroller over and getting it ready to present to the world.

The wooden roller beads (1956 and up used plastic roller beads) sit on a rail around the food tray that sits right in front of the rider. They are something for the rider to play with. As it turned out, Hobby Lobby had fresh wooden beads. All I had to do was drill holes thru them and paint them with a child-safe paint.

The buggy bumpers had rubber tubing over them and the tubing is readily available by using…well…I think I’ll keep that to myself. You never know when I might make up some kits and sell them on ebay for a little walking around money.

So, now you know. I’m the resident expert on Taylor Tot strollers. I reproduced more decals than I needed and have ebay’d a few sets to other restorers. In 2009, I decided to create a website especially for the strollers and as of right now, I have the ONLY website in the world that is dedicated to Taylor-Tots. I’ve restored 6 strollers for customers and sold lots of parts and met dozens of interesting folks…all because of a swap meet find.

One of the hardest restorations was for a fellow in Texas. He had 5 siblings and each time a new child came along, his dad would paint the stroller a different color. Yep, SIX layers of paint and it looked like it had been run over by a truck, all bent and warped. By the time I finished media blasting, I had to get new media…mine was full of paint chips. But I got her done and when the fellow got it back, he was totally flabbergasted. It really looked like a family heirloom.

One of the most interesting people to contact me was the daughter of the company owner in 1964. She was just thrilled that someone was keeping the name alive. She happened to be in Nashville and drove down to the ‘boro to meet me. We had dinner at Demo’s and she brought along a prize…her dad’s salesman satchel from 1964. It’s a zippered briefcase that has cut sheets for ALL the Taylor-Tot products for that year. By 1964, Taylor was making strollers with vinyl liners and overhangs. This satchel even has fabric samples that allow the customer to choose how they wanted the strollers covered.

Probably the most touching story I have run into is Ms. Rachel… I’ll tell you about her next week.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.