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THE READING ROOM
Buddy "L" Sprinklers
Photo: Micheal Yolles
In 1982, Albert W. McCollough's book The Complete Book of Buddy "L" Toyswas published. He began the Story of Buddy "L" as follows:

"There is something special about Buddy "L" Toys that is unmatched by any others, it is their unique appeal that has endeared them to children, parents, and collector's for decades. Partly this is because they were the first heavy steel toys and the first to combine high quality, realistic operation, amazing durability, and innovative design in a line of playthings that offered limitless entertainment for their young owners. They could be ridden, pulled, loaded, unloaded; they could put out fires, or they could dig ditches, screen sand, carry rocks and mix actual concrete."

Beyond all that, their appeal rests on something else, almost a personality. To be sure they bore a personal kind of name, Buddy "L", a name that belonged to a real boy. They were conceived, manufactured and advertised by Buddy "L"'s Daddy. He was a man who wanted better toys for his own son and who succeeded in making better toys for countless other youngsters. Thus, the manufacture began of pressed steel quality toys in the U.S." 1

The Buddy "L" 1924-1929 tank sprinkler truck is 25-1/4" long. The truck has a doorless cab, black front hood, fenders, steering wheel, seat, and short running-boards. It has a dark-green tank 12" long with a diameter of 4-3/4" and a brass faucet at the bottom rear, a hinged filter cap, side rails, and black hold-down straps. The chassis is red with crimpedÐrod bumper, disc wheels with aluminum tires, and black hubs with either a black or dark green sprinkler attachment.

Some of the sprinkler trucks came with four, gray metal cans, 1-5/8"diameter by 2-1/2" high with round lids and dark red, gold, and black decals. On February 14, 2003, I received a call from a toy dealer who had a Buddy "L" tank truck in an unusual color. This dealer was aware of my passion to find every variation of every Buddy "L" tank truck manufactured. So this toy dealer who has sold me many toys over the years and has extensive knowledge of original paint and toy originality contacted me regarding a Buddy "L" toy in an unusual colorÑa Buddy "L" tank truck with a GREY TANK, tank carrier and water sprinkler. The dealer told me that this is the first one that he had ever seen in this color combination. As far as I knew, every Buddy "L" Tank truck manufactured during 1926-1929 had a dark green tank and tank carrier with a black or dark green water sprinkler.

Being a reputable dealer, he informed me that I was not the first person to which he offered the truck. He told me that Don Kaufman had turned it down. I did not know whether I should be flattered or just add another zero to the purchase price. But of course I bought it from him. A few weeks later Sally and Don Kaufman invited Anne and me up to Pittsfield for lunch and to see Don's collection. The first thing Don said to me was "I should have bought that Buddy "L" with the unusual grey tank." "Did I want to sell it?" he asked. Of course I said no and was amazed how fast word travels as I guess Don had a change of heart and called the dealer to buy the truck which I now owned.

Until recently, I thought I had the only one in this unusual color combination. Then a friend and fellow collector from the mid-west called me to look on eBay at a toy he wanted to bid on--a Buddy "L" tank truck. It was GREY! How high should he bid? I looked up the listing, reviewed the pictures and then called the seller to question him. I had him turn it upside down to inspect the paint and was satisfied that it was all factory-original. I told my friend that it looks to be the real deal and advised him to bid high and get this toy--which he did.

In 1929, Buddy "L" changed the tank truck to a cab-less open driver seat with front and rear fenders, and full-length running boards, but retained the crimped-rod bumper, chassis, disc wheels with aluminum tires, black hubs, and the bluish-gray-green water tank. The truck has a black screw-on filler cap. There is a black lever behind the driver's seat which pumps air to pressurize the tank and to spray water through a brass faucet and curved sprinkler bar under the back end. It also has a nickel-rim spotlight on the right cowl with no headlights.

The 1930-1932, 206-B Street Sprinkler Truck pressurized Type I is 25 inches long and has short running boards and no rear fenders. It has red embossed seven-spoke wheels, and rear wheels with black Firestone tires and black hubs. The Type II version is different than the Type I in that it has a nickel double-bar front bumper, nickel-rim, red shell headlights and a five-digit decal license plate on the red crossbar connecting the headlights. This truck came with a BL-12 or BL-14 decal on seat ends.

The evolution of tank trucks to sprinkler trucks demonstrates how basic the toys are and how easily they could be changed or converted to other style trucks. It is also an example of how popular the toys were as over time Buddy "L" made replicas of the many trucks that were seen on the streets all over the U.S. during this period.

The lesson learned here about collecting is that finding something familiar in a not-seen-before color might very well be the factory original, like my former one-of-a-kind--that is as far as I know--now a two-of-a-kind. I can only speculate that perhaps the factory ran low on paint color and simply used whatever color was handy. Or maybe these two toys were grey because a couple of the workers might have dipped the toys in another color for their own children. Or maybe the company was trying different color combinations and the green color won out. I do know that to date, the green is the only color mentioned in all the literature that I have ever put my hands on. And I still continue searching for more variations.

1. Ref. page 13: The Complete Book Of Buddy "L" Toys; A Greenberhg Guide, pub. 1982 by Albert W McCollough

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