OAKS, Pa. (CBS) — Inside a shopping center in Oaks, an old tire factory holds an ever-growing collection of Americana: the American Treasure Tour.
This huge display once required a special appointment to see. Now it has regular public hours and all-new attractions.
In 2016, Meisha Johnson got a one-on-one tour.
“About 100,000 square feet of space! So what’s all in here?” Meisha asked.
Director Virginia Frey quipped, “What isn’t here? We have things hanging from the ceilings, the walls. It’s a collection amassed by one person over the period of 50 years and he’s still collecting.”
To see it all, you have to hop on a tram. Ross Brakman was Meisha’s tour guide.
“We go at a pretty devastating 2 to 3 miles an hour,” he joked as he drove.
“We can’t pretend that there’s always a rhyme or reason to what’s coming up, but it’s all fun,” Ross said. “It’s all about America here.”
Everywhere are little odds and ends, vintage signs, collectibles, starting from the 1800s to the 1980s. You’ll roll past about 80 cars, from mid-century muscle to the priceless vintage that would never survive today’s traffic.
Ross stopped at a 1905 Franklin. “This is 110 years old. It doesn’t have a horn. Instead, it has a bell.”
“Every now and then, you’ll see something strange, like a gorilla wearing sunglasses holding a giant banana,” Ross said.
The American Treasure Tour has preserved many high-tech inventions of yesteryear.
“We have the circus wagons that are filled with these animated store displays,” Ross said. “They would have these on display so people could see what electricity could do. I mean, it was a magical thing for a lot of people in the early days.”
A machine that looks like an organ was actually used to play sound effects for silent movies.
The American Treasure Tour is bigger than ever. If you have been there before, you might not have seen their newest additions, like new blinking signs, huge papier-mâché statues of famous characters both real and not, and animated displays that once graced a Macy’s window in New York.
“The American Treasure Tour has always had dozens and dozens of dollhouses. We love that we keep getting new ones. We have the Maharaja’s Palace, which was made by a world traveler from Connecticut and she used Styrofoam.
The “It’s a Man’s World” dollhouse is “a fantasy place for a man to have. There’s also Grandma’s Attic, which is a little cluttered, but Grandma’s up there sewing.”
The largest collection of miniatures was made by a local middle school teacher. “It’s at least 20 feet worth of space, just a world of imagination that he created,” Ross said.
You might recognize an oversized version of Rudi the Wanamaker Bear.
“One of the most famous department stores in Philadelphia ever!” Ross said. “They sold little Rudi bears, but in the center of the table was our Rudi here.”
Gotta warn you: there’s also a 12-foot clown head with glowing red lights.
It’s easier to see the American Treasure Tour than it once was. “We are actually open for general admission now. We’re open Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Ross said.
If you’re looking for a scenic winter drive, you can’t do better than this collection of the ridiculous to the sublime.
The American Treasure Tour is at the 422 Business Complex in Oaks, with an official address of One American Treasure Way, Oaks, PA, 19456.