SAVANNAH EVENING PRESS Tuesday,
June 23, 1953
|Retired Utilities Tycoon Has More Fun
Toys Now Than When He Was a Child
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 23 (AP)
Francis L. Ball, retired president of a group of utilities companies, is
having more fun with toys at 70 than when he was a youngster.
He's quite sure that nobody, "except maybe a few hard characters,
ever quite outgrows his childhood."
Ball's toy-collecting hobby keeps him a busy man and has brought him
into contact with people all over the country. It began many years ago
when he started collecting children's toy banks.
During his business career Ball had observed that men, "whose only
interest was business, folded up and didn't last long after they
By the time he reached retirement age himself, five years ago, his bank
collection had broadened into general toy collecting. He began swapping
and trading with other collectors all over the country.
Everybody, it seams, is interested in toys, either childhood memories or
because of children in the family.
Ball looked into the subjects of toys and toy making and found far too
little has been written about the subject. He extracted from libraries
data about articles published in antique periodicals. He has had
second-hand book men dig up copies for his comprehensive and growing
People write and ask him how old toys can be repaired. They ask how they
can replace riders, drivers and ladders which have disappeared from
In his workshop, he makes minor adjustments on his own toys, but no
major repairs. Patching, welding, adding a replacement part, or
repairing, he says destroys collector-value. An enthusiastic collector
will use a magnifying lens to detect such tampering.
Friends want him to write a book about old toys. But time presses so
hard on his heals Ball says he has no time for that.
All in all, the hobby has added so much enjoyment to his life that Frank
Ball says, "The truth is that it has been so much more successful
than I ever thought was possible."
What kinds of toys interest him and drag him to antique shows and shops
and into correspondence with folks who have found old playthings in
For one thing: the beautifully hand-made toys of the era before mass
production, some carved from wood, exquisitely made dolls, old
diamond-staked locomotives, the first in trains — "crude but
He has gathered toys of later times: horse-drawn fire engines, cannon,
street cars, mechanical trains, clever playthings in which the toymakers
built in clockworks they bought from the clock makers of New Haven,
Conn. Some toys by a Connecticut sewing machine maker, he says, were
incredibly intricate and did astonishing things.
He sees a growing understanding of the link between children's toys and
history, toys that reflect an age, as environment and even
He thinks that in general, military type toys existed in just about the
same proportion in olden days as now. But he considers many of today's
toys far more challenging to children's ingenuity and constructive
This is just one facet of Frank Ball's fascinating hobby.
"After 48 years in the utility business," he says, "I
don't know what I'd have done without it."
By acting as we ought to think, we end by thinking as
we ought to act.