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Retired Toy Aficionado Living at Riderwood Has No Intention of Ever Stopping the Holiday Magic

November 22, 2011

Riderwood Resident Ralph Kaufman Has Been Making HolidaysMagical for About as Long as Chestnuts Have Roasted on an Open Fire; He Has No Intention of Ever Stopping
SILVER SPRING, MD (November 22, 2011) - Ralph Kaufman, who lives at Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring, has been making the holiday season magical for about as long as chestnuts have roasted on an open fire. And he has no intention of ever stopping because the magic - literally - is in his blood.
Kaufman is one of the founders of KB Toys, a family-run business when it was established many decades ago with a lot of hard work --and magic. That magic was a blind date with a "nice New York girl" while he was stationed in the U.S. Army on Long Island in the early 1940s. His date was Dorothy Borden, who in 1944 would become his wife, and whose father, Max Borden, and grandfather, Jacob Marx, asked him to consider joining their toy manufacturing company, Jaymar, after the war. Kaufman officially became a toy aficionado following his five years of World War II service, during which he was a Lt. Colonel.
He went to work at Jaymar,  a toy business  "seeded" by Dorothy's uncle, Louis Marx. The company counted the Yo-Yo  as its first great toy hit in the 1920s. Jaymar was the world's largest toy manufacturer by the 1950s. "It was a good opportunity for me," said Kaufman, who is a Massachusetts native and a graduate of the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania. " I was joining a well established company."
The Yo-Yo, according to Kaufman,  was soon after joined by other small toys produced in plants owned by a Marx, Borden or a Kaufman family member. Those small paper or wood toys included puzzles, miniature cars, tea sets and musical toys.  Small pianos - about 12 inches wide by 10 inches deep by 16 inches high - had keys the same size as those on actual pianos so young users could get the feel of real piano playing. The cartoon character Popeye appeared on some toys, while Norman Rockwell paintings and Disney designs graced many puzzle boxes.
Kaufman eventually became the president of Jaymar and worked there until his retirement. He kept a close affiliation with Marx toys until it was eventually sold to Quaker Oats.  Jaymar had factories in Brooklyn, New York, Fair Haven, Vermont and a close affiliation with a printing company in Rochester, New York.
Kaufman traveled to Japan and Hong Kong in the early 1960's, in a search of well-priced toy products. An added benefit of that travel was his introduction to Japan and its sushi cuisine, both of which he is fond.
Louis Marx also helped Kaufman's father, Joseph, and brother, Howard Kaufman, get into the toy business, first as distributors and later as retailers. Kaufman Brothers Toys, later called KB Toys, or Kaybee, would eventually have stores in shopping malls throughout the United States.
"I always took great joy in seeing children lined up to get toys," said Kaufman. "I had cartons of toys in my house in Rockville Centre, New York. We took care of the neighborhood."
Catalogs produced by the manufacturers were used by chain store for buyers to purchase a wide range of toys offered for sale in stores that included Sears, JC Penny, Kresge (now KMart) and Woolworth in the mid-20th century.
Today, some of those vintage toy catalogs are present for viewing in the Kaufman's apartment home at Riderwood.  Regrettably, Dorothy, who was the catalyst for his toy manufacturing career, died earlier this year. Kaufman might say that now his children and grandchildren, frequent visitors at his  apartment, are the source of his continued happiness and magic during the holidays.
The magic will continue into 2012 when Kaufman's first great grandchild is due to arrive.