When Harvey Foran isn’t at work for the Village of Arnold, or tending to things up at the ranch north of Arnold, you can find him immersed in his own personal “Legoland.” Ask Harvey anything about Legos, and he’s full of information – from the very beginning to the present.
Harv said that as a child growing up in the 1950s, Legos didn’t exist. When he was in the military from 1969 to 1970, he had a friend that was talking about his Lego collection.
“Being naive, I asked, ‘What is a Lego?’”
His friend responded with, “They are plastic bricks that you put together and build things.”
So Harv asked, “Like a jigsaw puzzle? You put pieces together and make a picture?”
The response was, “Yea, but these are 3D bricks.”
Around 1971 or 1972, Harv’s wife Barb’s grandmother, May Burns, mailed in a coupon off a Velveeta cheese box and a couple of bucks to receive a bag of Legos for Barb and Harv’s kids. Of course, Harv knew what they were.
“We still have those Legos today,” he said. “For some reasons unknown, we never bought the kids any Legos. I think it was because we couldn’t find them in stores around here.”
Fast forward to 1980, when Harv was working for the Arnold Utilities and taking a class for his wastewater certification. The instructor started talking about HIS Lego collection. Then, one day, Harv was visiting with a good friend, Todd Smith, who asked what Harv wanted for Christmas. When you’re in your 30s, you don’t ask for toys, but Harv did.
“Legos,” he said, and poohpoohed it.
Todd ended up bringing Barb and Harv their gifts, and low and behold Harv’s was a Lego pirate ship.
“Todd and I built it together. I was hooked and the rest is his tory. I often wish Todd could see what he got started. RIP my dear friend,” Harv said.
By then stores were loaded with Legos. Harv started buying more, and Barb was getting more for gifts.
“I’m building and building with no place in the house to display them, so they would go in cardboard boxes and to the basement,” he said.
Years down the road, the Jim Neesson property next door to the Forans came up for sale with a nice trailer house on it, and like most of Harv’s ideas, the light bulb came on at 3:00 a.m., and it hit him: LEGO HOUSE!
“Barb, bless her heart, agreed,” said Harv.
Through the years, the trailer was getting fuller and fuller and age was taking a toll on the trailer…leaking windows, bad floors, etc. Harvey’s Legos were starting to collect dust, and it was disheartening. He was laden with deep, fond memories of the times he spent there with Barb and the grandkids building Legos for hours.
Again, with Barb’s blessing, Harv contacted Gary Larreau to erect him a new building next to the Forans garage. The 24×50’ new Lego House was completed in 2018. Harv brought all the Legos from the trailer and just bunched them in the new building, with help from Barb, daughter Chris, James, the grandkids, and Julie Bailar.
Exactly how many sets were moved? Well, he’s not exactly sure.
“I had all of my sets cataloged by theme and number on an old computer. I had no printer, no backup, and guess what: CRASH. As I recall, I had about 450 sets listed. I have bought probably another 30 sets since the big crash,” he said.
“It’s an ongoing process and will probably never end because I have more to build and still buying. When people come to tour the house, I tell them to come back in six months because it will have changed,” he said.
Besides the sets, Harv has tons of loose bricks that Barb is sorting by size, color, shape, etc. She is also sorting out the non-Legos. She also helps with building and displaying of the Legos.
“There are companies out there that are making compatible bricks. Lego stamps every piece with the word Lego, but the knock-offs are plain. They do fit each other, but I want to keep my Legos pure,” he said.
Harv has slowed down on his buying. When he’s out of town, he hits the stores that sell Legos and looks for clearance sets. He hits auctions, garage sales and flea markets that may have some. He found a seller on eBay that had several sets of the 1970s vintage Legos that came from Germany with instructions printed in German.
He also searches on-line for Lego items that are not toys. He has bucket hats, neckties, shelves, signs, banners, cups, mugs, and board games, to name some. One find was bed sheets that friend Nancy Fox hemmed into curtains. Another friend and neighbor, Cathy Daly, took some Lego material and made Harv an apron with pockets.
If you ask Harv what his favorite theme is, he can’t narrow it down to one.
“I like the older Western and Islanders and newer Harry Potter and City. Star Wars not so much,” he said.
One of the highlights in his Lego career – actually two – was going to the Legoland theme park in Carlsbad (San Diego) California twice with the grandkids.
He advises everyone: “If you go, allow at least two days.”
So why does Harv play with Legos? “At 71 years old, I’m a kid at heart. I can play for half an hour or all day. I can leave in the middle of a project and come back whenever. I can do it year round in a climate controlled setting, and it’s very relaxing. I have been a Lego maniac for 40 years and plan to keep doing them until I’m out south of town,” he said.
article by: Janet Larreau
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