Toys of history

Clarkston News Staff Writer

Preschooler Laine York playing with a wooden tractor made by Robert Jones 4
Preschooler Laine York plays with a wooden tractor, handmade by Robert Jones. Photos by Jessica Steeley

Robert (Bob) L. Jones passed away in 2004, but his toys continue to provide fun for kids.
The handmade creations were given to the Clarkston Early Childhood Center by his longtime neighbors and friends Dr. Tom Stone and his wife, Arlene.
“We had gotten [toys] over the years from Bob and our children and grandchildren played with them,” Stone said. “We thought [the Early Childhood Center] would be a nice place for them to be used and they’re just delighted to have them. It’s really kind of a legacy of Bob. So, they’re living on, being played with by youngsters in the community today.”
Jones would often duplicate wooden toys and other objects. He could make almost anything in wood, including bird houses, boxes, picture frames and decorations, Stone said.
“Somebody said, you know, I need a box, it’s about this big, it’s got to hold index cards or I want to do thus and so with it,” Arlene Stone said. “He’d come up with something and then if you liked it, he made five more or 10 more of them because maybe you’re going to come back and say ‘You know what, I could use a second one.’”
She said Bob made wooden cars and trucks, tractors, airplanes, etc., a variety of different toys. They donated around 40 to the Early Childhood Center.

Preschooler Braydan Odneal playing with a wooden train made by Robert Jones
Preschooler Braydan Odneal playing with a wooden train handmade by Robert Jones.

“Everybody loved him,” said Cheri Jones, Bob’s granddaughter. “He did it for the community, he loved his woodshop, he loved making all of this stuff and giving it away, he didn’t sell anything, he gave his hobby away.”
The toys have real detail and character, like all the objects he made, Stone said. He guessed Bob made over 50 different kinds of toys, often donating his crafts to fundraisers and organizations.
“He spent his whole life for the community. When he was healthy he would do that by volunteering and by being involved,” Stone said. “He started out as a janitor at the bank and worked his way up to being president of the bank before it was bought by Pontiac State Bank and then he ended up down there and managed their main office branch. But, he had several heart attacks and finally he just had to stop working and he transitioned into his workshop in the basement and he just put that same dedication and effort into producing things with his hands.”
Stone said Bob retired in 1972 and began a new life of traveling and creating.
“His creativity flourished in his basement workshop,” Stone said.
Cheri said she always remembers her grandfather during his retired years, building in his woodshop.
“I would always go down to the basement and he’s got a work bench and he would set us up there with a little stool and our own little hammer and give us a hunk of wood and some nails,” she said. “That was how we did our work stuff and then he would be busy. He would be down there working.”
His woodworking was well underway when the Stones moved into the neighborhood in 1974, a neighborhood Bob and his wife, Uldene, lived in since the 1930’s.
“They were in that house forever and when we moved in in ’74 they kind of adopted us and they were Grandma and Grandpa Jones to everyone in the neighborhood,” Arlene said.
“To all my friends, everybody they were grandma and grandpa,” Cheri agreed.
Bob was also very involved in the Clarkston community. At one point, he was president or secretary/treasurer of 13 community organizations, Stone said. It was a way for him to give back while he was working, like how his crafts allowed him to give back in retirement.
“Two words which may summarize Bob Jones’ life are ‘resilience’ and ‘legacy,’” Stone said. “There are a lot of stories that go with Bob and it’s just that the current story is that his last legacy, if you will, is these toys that he made, that his grandchildren played with, are now being played with by the children of others.”


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