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REMPEL FROGGY THE GREMLIN

RUBBER FROGGY..
THE REMPEL STORY

by Ronald L. Smith

When Froggy the Gremlin became a hit on radio, and in comic books....

He was a natural for the Rempel company...and immortality as a rubber squeak toy. Pretty amazing, isn't it? Froggy wasn't on TV yet, so kids weren't yowling about wanting the creature they saw hopping around with Andy Devine. They just wanted him based on a radio voice and a flat image in a comic book.

And so in 1948 the Rempel Company began to market a Froggy the Gremlin. Yes, he was now infiltrating homes.

There were two sizes, five inch and nine inch.

Surviving examples only prove what kind of a gremlin he really was: no two seem to be exactly alike. Sometimes the rubber has hardened completely. Sometimes portions of the body have changed color or darkened. Sometimes the body or face is deflated, fingers or joints full of holes, or the legs warped to the point where the creature can't stand up on his own.

If you'd like to see a brand new 5 inch froggy in his original box, why You can click here, you can, you can! . And if you'd like to see the original instructions on the box, just put your squeaky ol' computer mouse over here! Ha ha! . There are "squeaker variations" too. Most squeakers are metal, but sometimes you see a Froggy that has been repaired and has a plastic squeaker. On the large-size Froggy, Rempel had two different designs. Evidently the first one had the squeaker in the sole of Froggy's foot. The second, had the squeaker on his back

Yes, it's possible to get a Froggy with a "solid" back and a foot squeaker, or... a metal back "squeaker" instead.

The frog was supposed to be supple enough so that you could squeeze him and he'd not only make a noise, but stick his tongue out a little. If you stick your finger over his back-hole and then squeeze, his tongue definitely rises and his mouth gets wide. So would yours. Bring over a friend and find out.

You can tell a Rempel frog by the logo. In the five-inch frog, the Rempel info is on the back of his head. In the nine-inch, it's on his butt. The Leisure Group (of Medina, Ohio) evidently was licensed to make a rubber Froggy. Their version is slightly larger than the Rempel (perhaps 9 and a half inches). Just why and when the Medina Froggy was made, nobody seems to know. At least, they haven't told ME. (And you can always e-mail any info to cykottick over at hotmail.com). The Medina was wrapped like a cheap children's squeaker toy...Froggy was encased in a plastic bag with a cardboard panel on the top so that he could hang from a rack. The Medina has NO identification at all (ie, a plain unmarked butt) and seems to have a slightly bolder or more garish paintjob.

Rempel and Smilin' Ed also made a Froggy up in Canada, which is so labeled.

Some think these Froggy replicas may have been shamans with some kind of mystical power, some kind of mind control chemical that could be smelled or tasted in the fresh rubber. Even a child merely handling the toy could be affected for life! . Such notions are preposterous, they are, they are. (PS, that ugly kid in the photo ain't ME.)

A touching ad was once run by someone selling a Froggy the Gremlin in near-mint condition. The condition was explained this way: "The original owner was given it as a little girl, and she was so frightened of it, she kept it hidden away in a closet."

Rempel was located in Akron, Ohio, the "rubber capital" of the world. That was where B.F. Goodrich started. So it was there that Dietrich Gustav Rempel set up company in 1946, marketing his "Sunnyslope" line of rubber barnyard animals.

Rempel was born February 12, 1904 in Mariupol, Russia and emigrated in 1923 to the U.S.A. He married Ruth Rempel (born May 27, 1904) and worked a large variety of odd jobs before becoming a development engineer in Barberton, Ohio for Sun Rubber.

Just a few years later he used his patented Roto-cast process to create his own line of rubber animal toys. Rempel sculpted the original toys himself out of clay, and was such a perfectionist he often changed the look of his creatures and made different variations over the years. In his process, molds of clay were then made into plaster production molds. The liquid rubber was poured into the mold, a spin process absorbed the water in the latex, and then the little creatures were tossed into a gas heated oven for a while. The last step was to paint the toys. Each mold was used for "30 runs" and about a dozen toys could be made from each run.

Rubber historians (a flexible bunch) credit Rempel with making innovations in steam and pressure and the use of steel molds.

Rempel's menagerie included Perky the dog, Cuddly the cat, and Chubby the pig. Once he had established himself, The Remp added Fleecy the lamb, Milky the cow, Squawky the duck, Balky the mule, Hoppy the rabbit, Yippy the chick, and Frisky the horse.

Rempel also made these characters in ceramic versions.

Here's a picture of both the ceramic and the rubber Froggy the Gremlin....

Thanks to the input of webvisitor Cornelia Shields, I can add a bit more about "Deegie and the Princess," the children's book Ruth Rempel wrote, which was illustrated by her rubber-hubby Dietrich G. Rempel in 1929. Cornelia says, "In the story, a little farm boy named Deegie makes animals of clay to replace pets blown away in a storm.  From the information you gave, it's easy to see the inspiration for the boy's name (Dietrich Gustav, D. G.) and his great perfectionism. His perfectionism, grief, and love are so great the fairy princess brings his clay animals to life.  Since Dietrich Rempel designed them, it's easy to understand his artistic talent to draw them just as he envisioned.  People in search of this book rave about the illustrations."

At this point it's hard to say for sure if Mr. Rempel's sketches were transformed into rubber figures at Sun Rubber, or if he saved these and waited till he formed his own company years later. The book can fetch between $50 and $100, and there's also a 45rpm version for the illiterate. It's narrated by Rempel, and has sold for the same high price when it's turned up on eBay.

Before Rempel got the assignment of manufacturing a likeness of Froggy, they had their own Frog, known as "Croaker." The name seemed a bit macabre, so it was changed eventually to "Peeper."


Today, some antique stores sell this bogus frog as "Froggy the Gremlin." That is, until they are hit with a pie, stomped in the foot, or jeered mightily for not knowing any better.
And here, you can see the "Peeper" version complete with his gift box, if you care. Rempel made a lot of rubber toys, since they were in Akron, Ohio, rubber-town U.S.A. Yes, they did make a rubber ducky, and if you're inclined, a click HERE will show you a pair of Rempel waterfowl and over here a rubbery Rempel chicken item that probably tastes like something you could buy from Colonel Sanders

A few years ago, there was a newspaper piece about a store in New York, noted for memorabilia, that sadly admitted that the one item they were unable to get for a nostalgic client was a Froggy the Gremlin. But thanks to eBay, it's easy to find one. Prices can go mighty high for a perfect Froggy in the original box! Want to guess what an average 5 inch Froggy went for recently at an Internet auction? Here's a photo of the squeeze toy and what the final price was! . If you'd like to know how much a nine inch frog went for recently, that's what a click HERE will get you! .Even an ugly, flattened rubber frog stuffed in a drawer could be taken out and sold for decent bucks! That's what this click is all about!

And, Here's another imperfect Froggy...he's got a bent arm. But somebody spent some good bucks to get him!

Would you believe... even a one-handed frog sold for a fin!

. Here's an eBay auction for a painted-up Froggy with the back of his head smashed in! But it sold. And here's a completely bent and mangled up Froggy that a dealer decided to put a RESERVE price on! Now can you GUESS how much a nine inch frog, with box, went for at an Interent auction in September, 1999. Oh, Froggy Fever knows almost NO BOUNDS... . Meanwhile this click shows you what the original instructions in the box looked like! Hard to believe, but the toy company had something to say about Froggy and his squeaker... . And here, you can see how much a 5 inch froggy in mediocre shape cost an internet buyer! .

Rempel was such a success that his company had over 40 workers and they were making 6,000 toys every day. The huge 15,000 square foot plant was located at 404 Morgan Avenue in Akron.

By the time Andy's Gang was on television, and fans could actually see Froggy cavorting and hopping back and forth, Rempel had over 500 employees and four locations for manufacture and warehousing

The company branched out to make other items, and in helping our country during the Korean war, Rempel's company manufactured everything from crash pads for tanks to rubber cups and even rubber pontoons for the Corps of Engineers.

About 50 different rubber toys were made by Rempel thorugh the mid 50's, and it seemed like there would always be a bright future for them and for rubber squeak toys. But...

Eventually Andy's Gang went off the air, and Rempel went off to West Point, Mississippi. It was there that he built a 76,000 square foot plant and manufactured a whole new line-up of items including Spring-type rocking horses and outdoor play equipment.

The last of the rubber squeeze toys were issued in 1968. Today, you don't see many rubber squeeze items in toy stores. Just in pet shops (the fabulous noisy rubber dog bone) and maybe some stores offering infant items.

Rempel was sold to Blazon, a company that made outdoor swing sets, and eventually Blazon was sold to Leisure Group, known for Flexible Flyers and swimming pool equipment.

Mr. Rempel died in March of 1987, in Akron, Ohio. His wife Ruth had died in March of 1986. She was the author of Deegie & the Fairy Princess, a story book illustrated by her rubber-hubby Dietrich G. Rempel in 1929.

For great photos of both Smilin' Ed and Andy Devine, and amazing stuff about Froggy's television career (pix of Midnight and Squeaky, too!) click here for Froggy the Gremlin Part Two

click here for A tribute to Vito Scotti!