Erector convention brings out kids, young at heart

·3 min read

Jul. 17—LEWISBURG — Kids and kids-at-heart came out to the Miller Center on Saturday to celebrate the fun of yesteryear.

The A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society's 2022 National Convention was held on Saturday at the Miller Center, 120 Hardwood Drive, Lewisburg. It featured nearly 80 tables of exhibits, including a cannon that shoots plastic army soldiers with parachutes, an American Flyer train layout, hand drills, revolving Christmas trees, woodworking and chemistry sets, a four-foot Walking Robot and more.

Suzie Watts, of Selinsgrove, brought her children to the event and worked with them to build their own erector set.

"It brings you back to when you were a kid," said Watts. "It's fun to see the older adults and the toys they find exciting."

Mia Watts, 6, using tools, said, "It's hard to do but it's fun."

Bill and Gloria Lehman, of Lewisburg, said it was "interesting" to see all the collection.

"We had no idea about it," said Gloria. "They do this convention every year."

The A.C. Gilbert Company produced educational toys from 1909 to 1967, including magic sets, microscopes, physics sets, erector sets, electrical engineering sets and chemistry sets. The A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society, a 501c3 non-profit association, has celebrated these toys and their legacy since 1991.

David Gilbert, the grandson of A.C. Gilbert, said the primary mission is to collect, interpret and educate members and the public about the various products. He was joined by his wife Kathy Gilbert, of Winchester, Va., and their son Matthew Gilbert and his wife Andrea, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"My father took over the company after my grandfather retired in 1954. In 1962, he sold the company and died two years later," said Gilbert. "From that point forward, our whole family put it behind us. What's exciting about this organization, Gilbert didn't go away. The company went out of business in 1967, but the legacy is there are collectors that are still passionate about the toys, and they want to share that history."

Matthew Gilbert, the great-grandson of A.C. Gilbert, said Saturday was his first convention.

"It's crazy for me," he said. "I've not been to one of these before. It's a bit humbling and I'm trying to take it all in."

Bill Tanis, a member of the Miller Center and the Society, organized the event at the Miller Center. They were originally going to hold the convention at the Country Cupboard, but after the restaurant closed and Tanis was instrumental in helping facilitate the switch to the center.

Unique items at the convention included a one-of-a-kind set created by employees and given to A.C. Gilbert on the 50th anniversary of the company. There are movie props that were featured in the 2002 movie "The Man Who Saved Christmas." There's also a rare revolving Christmas tree stand, one of two vacuum cleaners in existence and replica paintings of the first color advertisement in a magazine featuring erector sets from 1914.

Ken Schuman, of Wisconsin, snagged the vacuum cleaner at an auction. He has been a collector since 1998, having collected 100 sets.

"I had a grandson and I got him an erector set," he said. "I was hooked again."

Tom Lindsey, of Georgia, said he has been a collector for 22 years.

"I never had them as a kid," he said. "I grew up, and I wanted to get an erector set at 64 years old. Now I have 140 complete sets."