Robert H. "Pops" Mauler, who operated a downtown Baltimore wholesale toy business for nearly half a century, died of cancer Saturday at his Jessup home. He was 79.
Born in Baltimore and raised in Govans, he attended city public schools and became a carpenter at the old Church Home and Hospital. During World War II, he drove radar equipment in Burma for the Army Air Forces.
Returning home, he joined his family's toy and novelty business, Mauler Brothers, founded on Fleet Street in Fells Point in 1889. He became the firm's president in the 1950s, and over the years moved it to 111 S. Gay St., near the Custom House, and in 1974 to its final home at 227 N. Holliday St., near City Hall.
Working with a cousin, James Mauler, he sold toys there until retiring in 1994.
"He knew the toy business well and had hundreds of customers," said his wife of 54 years, the former Mary J. Blum, who worked alongside him each Christmas selling season. "He'd supply Hochschild's and Hutzler's when they would run out of something.
"But he really worked with the small corner stores and variety shops. He would also sell sand pails and plastic inflatables to the old Chesapeake Bay beach resorts, too."
While Mr. Mauler had no retail store, he lent a number of his unsold, vintage toys for a December 1977 display at the old Peale Museum on Holliday Street, then adjacent to his warehouse.
Family members said Mr. Mauler combed through his inventory - he didn't believe in close-out sales - and located mint-condition 1950s toys, games and a Mouseketeers costume, all in their original boxes.
Museum curators grouped the toys in glass cases under headings such as "Give a War for Christmas" and "Conquering the Cosmos," a display that documented the 1950s science fiction craze in plastic and metal. The well-publicized exhibit drew visitors who observed such items as a Jack Webb Dragnet badge, Davy Crockett wallet and Roy Rogers lantern.
"Who would ever have thought that one day we'd be showing this stuff," said the Peale's then-director, Wilbur H. Hunter, in a News American article.
"He was a practical, grounded person who respected toys that would last and weren't part of a fad," said a son, Georgie J. Mauler of Jessup. "And he was honest. When he delivered shipments, his customers trusted him so much they would allow him take the invoice amount out of their safes."
Family members said he stockpiled his inventory of well-made toys and sold many of them as antiques for several years after he retired. He had a knowledge of toy guns as well as the Buddy-L line of trucks.
Georgie Mauler said that after his busy holiday season, his father always had time to set up a Christmas garden and trains for the family late each Dec. 24.
Mr. Mauler was an active member of the Towson American Legion post.
Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3620 Wilkens Ave.
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include another son, Robert Gary Mauler of Severn; a sister, Virginia Mauler of Pikesville; and two grandsons.