#LongLost #Christmas #Toy #Returns #Owner #Years #Received
Remember the excitement of a Christmas morning at just 3 or 4 years of age? The way the magic in the air hung so heavy it felt as though one was swimming in it—as if the stairway from bedroom to living room was a waterslide awaiting its rider and promising a surprise splash ending sure to cause sheer delight. What if you had the opportunity to relive that brief moment in time all over again—to experience that innocent and youthful thrill of childhood enthusiasm as an adult of 40, 50, 60 years of age? Chances are, it would take a lot to recreate it—such as, say, five or so buildings stocked with vintage toys, perhaps?
Last September, at the Mecum auction of Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum in Fountain City, Wisconsin, one lucky bidder was transported back to the most exciting Christmas morning her rich and enduring memory holds when she came upon one of her most treasured childhood toys among the auction items. Miraculously, it wasn’t just a lookalike or even a carbon copy of the toy she used to own—it was the exact trike that once sat under her tree on Christmas morning.
“I got it in 1954,” Jackie Schramm recalled. “I was 3 years old.”
Even though she was just a tiny tot, Schramm, originally from Tigerton, Wisconsin, remembers it like it was yesterday: shuffling down the stairs Christmas morning to find the horse-shaped trike she would soon name “Little Blackie” parked beneath the tree, as if it was waiting there patiently for its pint-sized jockey to take it for a spin.
Schramm’s parents were involved in various equine pursuits, both as horse owners and as regular attendees of professional horse races. Their love of horses inspired the idea behind the gift.
“My dad would always hold me up in his arms so I could see, and I always loved watching the racing, so when I got this, this was really a treasure.”
Once Schramm’s little legs grew long enough to reach the pedals, her mom and dad would take her outside to ride it around the block in the warm spring and summer months. At first, Schramm said that Little Blackie stayed in the garage when not in use, but he soon upgraded to a spot in the horse stables after the family sold one of their horses and a spot in the barn opened up.
“My dad let me put it in the stall where the horse used to be with the other horses,” Schramm recalled. “I would have to tie it up every day and take it out, and then my dad made a little plaque that said ‘Blackie’ on it.”
Schramm’s childhood friends Dori Packer and Cathy Hoffmann, who she remains close with even today, recall coming over to take turns riding aboard the little trike, and both were amazed when Schramm told them she’d found her beloved toy at the Elmer’s auction.
“In fact, they’re the ones that helped me verify this,” Schramm explained. “I said, hey, listen, I’m not losing my mind here, am I? This is it, right? And they said, ‘Oh my gosh. How did this happen?’”
That is the big mystery: how did Little Blackie end up at Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum? Schramm can’t be sure, but she thinks it’s likely her parents took the little horse-shaped trike to the annual car show and swap meet in Iola, Wisconsin, to sell it after Schramm reached adulthood.
“My parents would go to that show and swap meet all the time,” Schramm said, adding that she would also attend regularly with her own group of friends, and later, with her husband, Mark. As a couple, Jackie and Mark Schramm would attend the show with any one of the classic cars that they’ve owned throughout the years, and it’s well known that Elmer and Bernadette Duellman were also dedicated attendees of the Iola car show and swap meet, hardly ever missing a year. Schramm said she and Mark would often stop to talk with the Duellmans, as they were kind and interesting people with a wealth of hobby-focused knowledge.
“We always talked to Elmer and Bernadette, and I never knew that they had this (toy). All these years, and here it is up at his museum, which we were always going to take a drive over and see the museum, and we never got there.”
Elmer passed in 2019, and while his family spent the next several years running the museum without him, the time eventually came to sell the collection. With thousands of toys, pedal cars and full-sized classic and collector cars comprising Elmer’s collection, the family chose Mecum Auctions to take on the challenge of offering a large portion of the items at auction. Schramm, an avid follower and fan of the Mecum brand, received an email promoting the event, and she said she was stunned.
“I thought, oh my god, we never went there. So, when my husband came home, I said, hey! We’ve got to go over there. They’re going to have an auction.”
As their plans to attend the auction got underway, Schramm hopped online to browse through some of the listings.
“I was sitting here, and all of the sudden, I came upon my little toy, and I just sat here in awe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in shock, like, that’s my toy! There were several pictures on there, and I went through every one I don’t know how many times. And I was like, my god, that is mine.”
Schramm said she recognized the toy as her own due to a very specific repair she remembered her dad performing on the horse after a particularly rough fall, one that sent both her and the horse rolling head over heels after the front wheel became lodged in a crack in the sidewalk. Before long, she and her husband were on their way to the museum in advance of the auction to see the toy in person.
Schramm said that she, her husband and members of the Duellman family all spent hours looking through the buildings trying to find Little Blackie with no luck, until finally, she spotted it on her third lap around the last building on the Duellman property. “I screamed out, I found it! And everybody came running. I said there it is, that’s it.”
Soon, auction week arrived, and Schramm and her husband were ready with a weeklong reservation at a nearby hotel. They spent every day browsing the countless items available for bids and socializing with staff and other customers. Schramm said it seemed as if everybody had heard bits of their serendipitous story and that all of them were hungry for more.
“They really seemed to roll out the red carpet for me,” she said, noting that Dana Mecum, president and founder of Mecum Auctions, and son Frank, Vice President of Consignments, stopped by to talk with her personally and signed her auction pamphlet. She said the shuttle bus drivers all provided their personal cell numbers in case she needed to make any special trips, and that everyone from the bidders assistants to the photographers, the office staff and beyond were kind and accommodating in a way she’s rarely ever encountered in professional settings.
“And it wasn’t just me,” she said. “Everybody I saw interact with Mecum’s people, they treated them all so courteous.”
Schramm also met a Mecum fan from Marshfield, Wisconsin, who insisted on chipping in toward the final hammer price of Little Blackie if Schramm proved successful in her efforts to win it.
“He said, ‘I’m here to make sure you take that home. I want to help you financially with this,’” Schramm explained. “I said, you don’t have to do that, but he insisted, and after I successfully got the bid, he came over and gave me $200. I tried to give it back to him but he said, ‘Please don’t offend me; I’m here. I want to do this.’”
After getting Little Blackie home, the Schramms found a temporary spot for him out in their garage, but Schramm said that soon, he’ll have a special spot in their rec room. She’s also already made arrangements for Little Blackie for when she’s called to meet her maker.
“I wanted to make sure that if something happened to me that my son would take it, because he remembered it maybe at the age of about 4 years old—my son remembers it in the garage, as a kid,” she explained. “I had to have a little family meeting, as I called it, and I wanted to make sure that they would take that when something happens to me here, when I pass away. They kind of looked at one another, but my grandson, who is 13, popped up and was like, ‘Grandma, that was really yours?’ And I said yes, and you’re going to have to take that when something happens to your mom and dad. ‘Oh, no problem,’ he goes. So, everything got cleared there, so I’m at peace now that it’ll stay in the family as an heirloom, hopefully.”
After nearly 50 years apart, Little Blackie is finally back home where he belongs, and if Schramm has it her way, that’s exactly where he’s going to stay from now on.
This story first appeared in Mecum Magazine, published by Mecum Auctions, the world leader in collector car, vintage and antique motorcycles, and road art sales, and is used with permission. For more information on Mecum, go to mecum.com.