Jason Sethre
Publisher
Fillmore County Journal
[email protected]

For a number of years, I’ve been walking into Preston Service Plus and noticing a small stack of brochures resting on the front counter.  The first time I saw one of the brochures for Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum, I asked Preston Service Plus owners Craig Bond and Justin Jones about this place.  They raved about it, and I have to say I truly didn’t comprehend their appreciation for this museum in Fountain City, Wis.  They’d ask me from time to time whether I had made it to Elmer’s yet, and I just never scheduled time to make that trip happen.

Fast-forward to Saturday, August 20, 2022 – it finally happened.  But, I needed to be pushed a bit.

One of my co-workers, Michelle Quanrud, visited Elmer’s with her family within the past month, and she said, “You have to go there.  If you love muscle cars and classic cars, you have to go.”

What was I missing?  I had no idea.

The time was right.

Elmer Duellman, 79, died on July 29, 2019.  Bernadette, his wife, is now in assisted-living.

His seven children are putting the entire Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum collection up for auction with Mecum Auctions from September 14 thru 17.  Auctioneers will only be allowed to attend the auction onsite. 

We needed to go before we couldn’t.  The time was running out.

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From our home in Fountain, Minn., to Fountain City, Wis., it was roughly a one hour drive – and a scenic one at that.  The Mississippi River coastline is always full.

We made our way through the museum grounds with a few family members who are also car enthusiasts.  For those of you who haven’t been to Elmer’s, there are a number of buildings full of more than 100 classic and muscle cars.  Then there are the pedal cars – more than 800.  Elmer also collected snowmobiles and race cars as well as toys.  Elmer loved anything that was enjoyable.

A Model A car in mint condition is located at the home of Elmer Duellman and Bernadette Duellman.  It’s parked in the living room next to the fireplace.  He must have loved that car.  And, his wife must have been very understanding with Elmer’s hobbies.  I can only imagine all the wonderful surprises he brought home for Bernadette.

Every item in Elmer’s collection had a story.  There were about 20 volunteers working at Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum.  The volunteers knew the stories and they’d share them with visitors while waiting in line.

I was told that with Elmer’s closing soon, they’ve been averaging around 5,000 attendees per day they are open.  It may seem like there are a lot of people but it is actually quite easy to flow people around.  I wouldn’t let that number deter you from making one last visit.  When I say “one last visit”, Labor Day weekend will be your last chance to see this important and iconic piece in Wisconsin (and Minnesota’s) history.

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I did take photos of fire trucks for my sons and fathers.  Lanesboro had a 1949 Ford firetruck.  I asked if this was Lanesboro, Minn. and the volunteer who I spoke to said he believed so.  I’m sure somebody in Lanesboro knows the story behind how this fire truck landed in Elmer’s collection.

I also took photos of pedal car firetrucks.  I had one when I was a kid – back when they were made with heavy-duty metal.  I can recall when my father washed his car. I borrowed a bucket, a sponge and some soap to wash my pedal car firetruck.

To me, Elmer’s Auto & Toy Museum is a trip down memory lane.  It brings back memories.  In all honesty, I saw many smiling faces when I looked around.  Everyone was happy to see Elmer Duellman’s love for sharing his passion with the world.

This is one of the few museums in which I’ve been to that I know I’ll never get to visit ever again.

As we exited the last building full of toys, we saw a sign that said, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”  That’s a quote from Malcolm Forbes – publisher of Forbes Magazine.

Elmer won.

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