Restoring Toys After Adversity

Bob Roskow, Jr. had been running his own auto body shop, building a reputation for quality work, and gaining customers when he suffered a serious brain injury. Suddenly, everything changed. He was no longer comfortable working in his own shop. He could not perform the work he had trained to do, and his memory was shot. When he realized he could no longer hold on to his past career, he started looking for something he could do.

Excerpt of an article by Anita Crone | South Strand News

Photo credit Anita Crone/South Strand News
Bob Roskow Jr. checks his finished product against a Tonka bulldozer he will start working on soon. Photo by Anita Crone/South Strand News

“As an auto body technician, you have to remember how things go together,” Roskow said. “So I decided to try finding something that would incorporate some of those skills while improving my memory.”

In 2008, he was looking around the house and found an old Tonka truck.

“I decided I would see if I could bring it back to its original glory,” Roskow said.

And so it began. That first truck opened up a new activity. He now searches eBay for other old trucks – the metal kind. Some he resurrects into new toys, others he turns into parts.

From the initial effort, which involves power sanding the rust, dirt and debris that tends to stick to the tiny vehicles, he takes apart the vehicles, primes the parts and paints them.

While he started with his own truck that he had as a youngster, he’s expanded his offerings to include scooters and pedal cars. His pedal cars have been a top offering at fundraisers for Miss Ruby’s Kids the past three years.

“I don’t do it for the money,” Roskow says. “I do it for something to do, as well as learning about people. Every truck has a story, and I enjoy hearing those.”

He researches each piece to make his work as close to the original as possible, right down to the decals, and, in some cases, the changes that were made in each model year.

“In a way, it was just like the big auto industry,” Roskow said. “Tonka changed one or two pieces each model year, just enough so you could buy the most current year’s model.”

Working with the small stuff also means he has to be much more attentive to detail than he would if he were working on the road-worthy big vehicles.

He also has found people to help when he needs it. For instance, a friend will design a decal if he can’t find the original, or someone else will weld a broken piece.

His lineup includes firetrucks, tow vehicles, dump trucks and bulldozers. He’ll search online for special vehicles and is willing to do what he can to fulfill special orders. But, Roskow cautioned, he works at his own pace.


Click here to read another Beyond Adversity post.

Thanks to Bob Roskow, Jr. for sharing his story; Anita Crone for writing the article; South Strand News for committing its resources to the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.

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