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RESIDENT SEEKING TRIBUTE TO FISHER-PRICE FOUNDERS

Many people know that East Aurora is the birthplace of Fisher-Price, one of the world's largest toymakers.

But remembering the company's founders -- dating from 1930 -- is another matter.

That is why Thomas D. Graham, a retired Fisher-Price employee and 36-year East Aurora resident, is proposing a way to permanently pay tribute to the company's founding trio: Herman G. Fisher, Irving R. Price and Helen M. Schelle.

"My goal is simple: to have our village permanently remember the founders of Fisher-Price," Graham told the Village Board last week in discussing his proposal.

Independent of the company, Graham is asking that the village rename three streets for the founders and also place a plaque in front of 70 Church St., where on Oct. 1, 1930, Fisher-Price began operating in a small building. The plaque would have pictures and brief biographies of the founders.

The company's headquarters now dominate a stretch of Girard Avenue in the village, but Graham says that it is time for the community to officially recognize the company's founders in a move that he hopes will tap into tourism and benefit Toyfest and the Toy Town Museum.

"The Fisher-Price founders were innovative entrepreneurs with great vision and were very involved in the community. Their integrity and commitment to excellence created one of the most recognized brand names in the world," Graham said.

"It would be a shame not to think of why it happened in the first place," Village Trustee Lowell Dewey said.

Graham's proposal calls for renaming Church Street Fisher Street; East Fillmore Avenue -- between Riley and Pine streets -- Price Avenue; and West Fillmore Avenue Schelle Street. In all, 44 residents and two businesses would be affected if the board approves his plan.

The two affected businesses on Church Street, the Upstairs Treasures Gift Shop and R&R Electronic Service, could benefit from the increased tourist traffic on Fisher Street, Graham said.

"I'm hoping to draw people down from Main Street to Fisher Street," he said. "A plaque isn't enough; you do need that draw of a street name."

The new intersection of Fisher Street and Price Avenue would be where the company began. Fisher Street would begin on Main Street and end at Girard Avenue in front of today's company headquarters. Plus, there has not been a church on Church Street since 1892, and East and West Fillmore avenues are confusing because they do not connect with Fillmore Avenue, Graham said.

Elbert Hubbard II and Price urged Fisher to form a toy company in East Aurora. From 1930 to 1966, Fisher remained president and general manager of the company. Fisher also founded the Boys Club of East Aurora and served as director of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce.

In Fisher-Price's early years, Price served as the chief financial backer of the company and was chairman of the board from 1931 to 1965. He also served as mayor and on the School Board. In addition, he founded and directed the old Aurora Theatre and was active in other community groups.

Schelle, the company's secretary-treasurer, tapped into her retailing experience and contacts in the toy industry to have an impact on the company's success. She is credited with having some of the best ideas for new toys during the company's infancy.

"Fisher, Price and Schelle have made a profound and lasting impact on our village, perhaps more than anyone and on an equal par with Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters," Graham said.

He acknowledged that changing the street names would be an inconvenience for those living on the affected streets but that once that is overcome, the village would have a lasting way to remember the Fisher-Price founders.

The Village Board expressed concern about the plan's impact on the two businesses and wants to make sure that the proposal passes muster with the town historian. Paying for the cost of the changes also would need to be determined.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnews.com

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