As a child, Christmas time was extra special because it was the one time of the year that I saw my cousin Timmy. Being the only two children of all grown cousins, we were each other’s favorite playmates. Amidst the gray, hazy cavity in my memory, the image of a bright yellow truck stands out. Timmy and I had lots of toys, but his favorite was his Tonka dump truck. At one year’s Christmas gathering, the Tonka dump truck easily crushed my Barbie’s pink convertible in a monster-truck style derby with an audience of G.I. Joes and Cabbage Patch dolls (admission was obviously free).
Little did I know that under the glimmer of the multi-colored Christmas tree lights, the Tonka truck that my cousin pushed around actually had Minnesota roots. In the early ’90s, they were produced under the name Hasbro. However, in 1947, the toy was invented and produced in Mound, Minn. by Mound Metalcraft Company, founded by Lynn Baker, Avery Crounse, and Alvin Tesch. They manufactured garden and closet accessories and other metal items until they were approached by Streater Industries, Inc., another local manufacturer, and asked to make steel toys. So, they manufactured two metal toys that would change the history of children’s play times forever: a crane and a steam shovel. In 1964 they created their most popular toy, the yellow dump truck, or most commonly known as the Mighty Dump.
Due to high taxes and labor costs, in 1991 Tonka was taken over by Hasboro and Tonka’s Minnesota headquarters was closed. However, the toys originally created in Mound are still popular today. In 2001 Tonka trucks were inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, located within the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. Tonka trucks joined just 35 other toys in this prestigious group—chosen based on the toys’ achieved longevity and national significance in the world of play and imagination.
Though recognized nationally, a museum will open to commemorate the Tonka truck’s local Minnesota roots. On June 15, the Westonka Historical Society will officially open the Tonka Toy Museum on the top floor of Mound City Hall, in sight of the factory where the toys were first manufactured. Lloyd Laumann, an assembly line worker for the Mound Metalcraft Company in 1955, is the largest contributor to this collection of classic Tonka trucks, from fire trucks to cement mixers. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Saturday.
Westonka Historical Society Museum
5341 Maywood Road, Mound, MN 55364