by CESAR SALAZAR
After 29 years, Elmer’s Auto and Toy Museum is about to close. Showcasing thousands of examples of road art and vehicle memorabilia, the museum will be opened to the public by the Duellman family over the summer, before the collection goes to auction in September later this year.
Elmer Duellman began collecting in the mid-1960s, when he opened an auto salvage business in Fountain City, according to his son Les Duellman. Elmer first purchased several vehicles, which he said were taking up space fairly quickly. Once he ran out of space, Elmer started filling in the gaps between the larger vehicles with smaller vehicles or small vintage cars. He continued to fill spaces until he ended up filling five buildings with his collections. Elmer even went so far as to keep a 1929 Ford in his living room.
Elmer continued to collect until his death in 2019. “The last item he purchased was two weeks before he passed…it was a Popeye pencil in a box,” said Elmer’s daughter, Melissa. Baker. “It didn’t have one, and a lady had brought it with her, and they were here for a weekend at the museum. She had it for sale and he bought it.
According to Baker, Elmer started his collection by buying things he liked, one thing at a time. “He just started buying things because he liked them, and it was a private collection for many years,” Baker said. “We didn’t open it to the public before so the first year we were open it was only a weekend and we increased [open dates] Of the.”
The museum displays more than 150 motorcycles and scooters as well as hundreds of bicycles. Elmer also managed to trade in a ’39 Chevy for one of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s NASCAR stock cars. Perhaps one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind, Elmer has also collected over 700 pedal cars from all makes, models and years.
Due to the family’s personal life and Elmer’s wishes, the Duellman family plans to hold an auction of the extensive collection the week of September 12, according to Baker.
“That’s what Dad would have wanted,” Baker said. She continued: “You don’t have to be a car enthusiast to find something here that intrigues you. The magnitude of what mom and dad have put together over the years, to think about it…how two people could do that and amass the collection that they have, and the story that’s here. It’s just kind of a wow place.
The museum will be open July 2-4, July 23-24, and 30-31, and most summer weekends. For other opening dates and information about the museum, visitors can go to www.elmersautoandtoymuseum.com. “I can’t speak for the family, but I can only imagine what it’s like to take care of this. There are so many items that are so spectacular,” said Mecum Bidder assistant George Boswell. “The family wants other people to enjoy it.”
Although Elmer never sold any of his items during his lifetime, the auction gives the public a chance to own a piece of history. “This collection that we have here today – there are a lot of number one items,” Boswell said.