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Beaver Dam collector purchases costume inventory

October 31, 2018 GMT

For those who know Tom Heffron, hearing that he purchased the entire inventory of costumes at Taylor Rental will come as no surprise.

Heffron is a collector, in every sense of the word. He enjoys the hunt — especially for toys — as the avocation of his life.

For those who don’t know him, his actions take a bit of explaining.

“Collectors are a unique bunch,” he said. “They love to collect and half of the fun is the hunt. I’m selling things, but I’m still buying as well. That’s the trouble. When you have the sickness as bad as I do, there really is no cure.”

Heffron is new to the costume world, having focused more or less on collecting toys. He is eager to rekindle happy memories of childhood, and frequently asks people what toy they most recall. He then produces the toy, gifting it to them and urging them to enjoy it with their families and friends.

As Heffron entered adulthood, he started small. His hobby mushroomed, however, when he and wife Judy took over the rooming house operated by his parents at 319 Washington St. — aka the Heffron White House. With that massive space, he began filling room after room with everything from farm toys to board games, trucks to action figures, Disney collectibles to snow globes, dolls to construction sets.

The list goes on ... and on and on.

As tenants of the Heffron House moved on, Heffron appropriated the space and a new area of collecting found its home.

When it came to the costumes, he had rented Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every holiday for the family’s annual Holiday Open House. This year, the 34th annual event is set for Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. When Taylor Rental owner Dan Booker shared that he wanted to get out of the costume business, Heffron was only mildly interested.

“Dan told me months and months ago that he wanted to sell the costumes all at once,” Heffron said. “That was in early 2018, and I said, ‘No I don’t want to get into all that stuff.’”

Nonetheless, he did get in touch with the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre, which is currently renovating the former St. Peter Catholic School as a new theater complex. While they were interested in the Taylor Rental lot, the theater’s costume room is far from complete and it would not have any place to store the collection. When that space is ready, Heffron will be ready as well.

Heffron recalls asking his wife’s permission to buy the inventory, but she simply rolls her eyes at the thought.

“I remember discussing the idea, but she recalls me asking if I could buy seven costumes,” Tom Heffron. “What I probably said — which I did say — is 780 costumes.”

Judy Heffron admits, goodnaturedly, that she frequently dismisses what her husband says without even hearing it.

Tom Heffron rationalized a connection to childhood, thus justifying the purchase.

“I thought, well, the costumes get people reminiscing about their childhoods, or escaping the craziness of the world,” he said. “The next thing I knew, we had agreed on a price.”

Many were professionally made by a Chicago costumier, and include all the related accessories. There are dozens of animal suits, two racks of vintage clothing, “Wizard of Oz” characters, “Gone with the Wind” stars, military uniforms, historic figures such as Napolean Bonaparte and Julius Caesar, Disney characters, monsters, Renaissance lords and ladies, and many more.

“Some are pretty fancy. Some are pretty ordinary,” Heffron said. “It’s a whole mix of just about anything you can imagine.”

Heffron thought he could donate some, keep some of the best ones for friends and family to use, and share some with area churches, teachers for history lessons, theater groups, charities and civic organizations. Such donations will provide a tax deduction.

Some people might also like to buy a particular outfit.

“I got a call from a guy who wanted a gorilla outfit,” Heffron said. “I said I have six of them.”

The caller is a Harley enthusiast who wants to wear the suit while riding his motorcycle, Heffron said. He sold the man the costume with the proviso that he never tell anyone where he got it.

“I imagine it will take six months or a year to disperse most of them, and we’ll keep some of the nicest ones here as part of the collection,” Heffron said.

Those who wish to obtain a certain costume for purchase or loan may contact Heffron at bdtoyman@gmail.com.