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Sewickley library exhibit celebrates the child inside grown men

| Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 7:01 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
John Stupp of Sewickley shows off one of his slot cars at Sewickley Public Library Wednesday, May 15, 2013. The cars are part of an exhibit titled 'The Toys of Grown-Up Boys,' which will be on display until June 30.

John Stupp got his first car when he was a child in the 1950s.

Today, he has many more that he keeps in his basement, although some now are displayed in Sewickley Public Library's latest exhibit, “The Toys of Grown-Up Boys,” which runs through June 30.

Stupp of Sewickley, whose wife Betty Stupp is the children's clerk at the library, has contributed his collection of miniature model cars, replicas of vehicles driven at the Targa Florio, an Italian auto race, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, to the exhibit.

His “toys” are one of six collections displayed at the library during regular library hours.

His miniature vehicles, called slot cars, come in several sizes, are powered by an electric motor and can be driven around a track that has a slot cut into it.

A guide pin or blade holds the car in place while it runs, and a hand-held controller increases or decreases speed.

Stupp's display also features photos and posters of the real Targa Florio, which began in 1906 in Sicily, and pictures of Stupp's own basement replica of the racetrack, which took a year to plan and build.

“Italians have a long history of racing between towns on the same roads used for local traffic, and the Targa was the last Italian sports-car road race of this type,” he said

“The historical pictures of the Targa from its earliest days, up to its conclusion, with villagers crowded on every roadside in the mountains and with narrow village streets winding through picturesque Italian towns — this inspired me to build a race course complete with towns, people and scenery.”

Part of the track is elevated in the “mountains,” and the other part runs down into a valley, around a lake and through a village that is modeled after the real Sicilian village of Collesano, near Palermo.

Stupp said he has been interested in racing since he was a boy growing up in Cleveland following the sports car racing rivalries among Ferrari, Alfa-Romeo, Jaguar, Corvette, Porsche, Ford Cobra and Ford GT-40s.

He remembers the famous drivers of the era in the pages of Sports Car Graphic and Road & Track Magazine.

His slot-car collection began with an Aurora HO car set that ran alongside an HO train set that he got for Christmas one year. A few years later, he also received a Strombecker racing set.

Also showing off his “toys” is Jim Wiltman, of Sewickley Heights, who will have some of his collection of bobbleheads, which at one time numbered about 300.

After giving some away, he said, he still has about 50, many of Hall of Fame players.

The collection began about 15 years ago when he and his children, Stephanie, 21; Von, 19; and Fritz, 15, regularly attended Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Penguins games together.

At that time, he said, only certain bobbleheads were given out at the games to recognize noteworthy players, but, now, they are given as more of a promotional item of current players, some wearing different types of jerseys.

The one bobblehead he said he will never give away is of former Pittsburgh Pirate and Baseball Hall of Fame player Roberto Clemente.

He also kept his first one of Pirates Hall of Fame second baseman Bill Mazeroski, along with one of Hall of Fame player Willie Stargell and more recent Pirate players Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez.

Also in his collection is a Mark Recchi bobblehead that came out the day before the Penguins traded him in 2006. Wiltman said he was told the Penguins held off trading him until they were able to give away his bobblehead.

He said he and his children still go to the games and collect the bobbleheads. They give some of the duplicates away.

Others displaying their toy collections at the library are Norm Voigt of Pittsburgh, husband of librarian Mary Jean Voigt, trolleys and buses; Bobby Linn of Dormont, Star Wars figures and spaceships; John Gardner of Denver, father of librarian Meghan Snatchko, train engines and cars; and Howard Stuber of Rochester, firetrucks.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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