Editor's Note: Different collectors get drawn into the hobby in different ways. As we see in Peter Willner's story, sometimes fate brings them a circus.
My present for being the ring bearer at a family wedding was my first Lionel train set. I was eight. This gift is the only memory I have of 1952.
Being drawn in to my imagination and by the fact that I hadn't yet discovered girls, trains became my X-Box. All other toys were abandoned.
As a child in Manhattan, room to set up was limited and never permanent.
Fast forward about thirty some years, my wife returned to law school. I was home alone. The last time that happened I bought a Porsche.
Speaking with vendors at train shows raised my interest in collecting. I meet an eighty year retired electronics technician. He was hand- making carnival rides in 0 gauge scale. I thought, can I do without a carnival? The answer was no. I ordered five different rides.
The problem was he didn't ship. I made the pilgrimage to pick them up York Pennsylvania. I was now committed. My wife thought I should be.
At another week-end train show, I arrived late on the last day. There was a fellow selling circus related small items. He told me that he and his wife were both performers for Barnum and Bailey.
They would dress in clown costume and drive into the ring in a 4 door Lincoln. They exited the front doors, a full sized horse exited a back door. They did their act. They got in front, the horse got in back. They drove out. All was well.