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May 26, 1989 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-05-26

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The Collectors

Fire memorabilia, miniature shoes and
antique matchstrikers — the one thing they
have in common: the passion with which
several Detroit area residents collect them.


Special to The Jewish News


ad drivers collect tickets.
Egotists collect compliments.
And some girls acquire ad-
mirers as casually as furniture
collects dust. ,.
But there is nothing casual about
true collectors. With considerable zeal
they assemble, preserve and display
their cherished objects.
Whether a particular collection is
whimsical, wild, serious or stylish — in
every instance it seems to state on
behalf of the collector: This is an expres-
sion of who I am or, who I wish to be.
Come meet five different collectors,
each with a story to tell.


Marylin Wohlman

s fate would have it," Marylin
Wohlman says, "I have access
to the most beautiful shoes in
the world and can't wear them."
Wohlman's husband is in the hide
business. His family was one of the
original members of Leather In-
dustries of America. Naturally, the
people at the shoe shows would love
Mrs. Wohlman to wear any of their
shoes. But Wohlman has a cogenital
problem with her feet and must wear
orthopedic shoes, but that was not
about to keep her from having the
glamorous footwear she adored. For
about 35 years, she has collected
miniature shoes, old and new, from all
over the world.
It's compensation, she says.
"That's the whole trick in everything
— being able to turn some kind of
liability into an asset."
The mere description of
Wohlman's small shoes creates vi-
sions that dance: Lalique, mother-of-
pearl, a gold-plated French d'orsay
shoe trimmed with rhinestones, a
glass boot on glass skates and a mar-
ble shoe with an angel peeking out.
The varied textures of the collec-
tion almost trip off the tongue:
pewter, wood, china, leather, crystal,
glass, rubber, raffia and satin.
Wohlman's little shoes do their
walking both through time and across


24 •. FRIDAY„ MAY 26,

founded and operated two successful
It's also easy to get her to choose
a favorite from her diverse collection.
"I have," she says, "a pair of miniature
sling pumps with a bunch of cherries
on the front. They're the kind of shoes
a teenage girl in the 1940s would buy
for her first high heels. They repre-
sent my youth; they're pretty and
they're fun."


Harve Disner


he carpet is particularly red in
the lobby of Detroit Auto
Brokers. Fire engine red. On
the wall a few steps away is a copper
fire truck, framed and mounted on
red velvet.
By the time one enters the main
office, the evidence is bright as a
blaze: someone here has heard the
siren's song.
Leaning in a corner, authentic red
flashers are set in chrome. On an end
table is a lamp with a fire extin-
guisher base. In front of the lamp is
a book titled, Historic Fires of
A few feet away, perched on a pole,
is an authentic City of Detroit firebox.
It stands not far from a fire hydrant
— also the real thing.
So where's the fire? Just ask
Disner, the owner of Detroit
t Auto Brokers
and the collector of all
_ this fire-fighting memorabilia. With
the scanner on his desk, he can pick
Marylin Wohlman: 'That's the whole trick in everything — being able to turn some
up radio transmissions between the
kind of a liability into an asset.
fire command centers and their fire
"Oh, I wanted them for the collec- engines.
miles. They're like a history lesson,
so badly," she says. "But of course
Disner has been hooked on hooks
she says, or a travelogue.
and ladders for a long time. "When I
There's an art deco ice skate they weren't for sale."
was a boy growing up in Detroit, I liv-
cigarette lighter, an embroidered shoe
Wohlman went in and talked to
from Tibet, a shoe-snuff box and a the manager anyway. Not long after, ed near a fire house," he says. "I was
small plastic model of wingtips that she left the store with the Cinderella always fascinated by fire fighting.
a Thom McAn rep used as a sample slippers under her arm. The manager When I grew older and had an
automobile, I went out and bought a
50 years ago.
had given them to her as a gift.
radio that picked up fire calls. I still
Sometimes, if a girls wants a glass
slipper, she has to be her own fairy
Wohlman speaks with en- chase fire engines."
Like the Sunday, not too long ago,
godmother. Walking by I. Miller in thusiasm of each sandal, skate or slip-
Troy one day, Wohlman spotted a per in her collection. It's easy to see when Disner was out for a drive with
display pair of "Cinderella shoes."
her as the go-for-it entrepreneur who his wife: Suddenly, he got a call from

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