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Issue Date: December 2009

Toy Story

Colleen Smitek
Even when not in costume, Rob Ruhby has the regal posture of his alter ego, Tower City Center’s Toy Soldier. For 20 years, the 6-foot-6-inch soldier has been delighting crowds with his precise yet graceful movements. He spoke to us recently about the job that never bores him and the inspirations for his moves, ending our interview in his always-elegant style with a bow and a kiss on the hand.
  • As a child, I saw the movie Forbidden Planet and began to emulate the high-tech robot. Then, there was Lost in Space and, later, Michael Jackson and his robot dance. But I was sort of doing that before he was. In ’88, a friend told me, “You should really do something with that art.”

  • There’s an age between 18 months and 3 years you have to be really careful with. You can’t startle the child. I look them in the eyes and approach. The second I sense fear, I back up.

  • I call them the “Shirley Temple types,” and I can always spot them. They kick me in the shin to see if I’m real. ... You just do an about-face and get out of there.

  • I love it so much when parents take the time to dress children up. The kids are small for such a short time.

  • A girl accidentally broke off my wind-up key once, but Mr. Jingeling took me to his toy shop to fix me. You have to improvise. We never missed a beat.

  • When you’re picking up hundreds of kids a day, oh yeah, it’s a workout. People have told me I don’t realize how strong I am.

  • A couple of Aleves in case the joints hurt. But, really, you’re so in the moment that you don’t feel it.

  • I get very hurt inside when someone says, “Doesn’t that get boring?” Never. How could it?

  • I don’t have children of my own. This is my gift to kids.
Until Christmas, the Toy Soldier performs at Tower City Center at noon and 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday during December.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012 10:37:22 PM by Kathy
Can someone give me a way to get in contact with him so I can write him a letter THANKING him for the countless memories he has given our family! Every year, my eyes fill with tears as I watch him dance! He is part of our Christmas tradition and has picked each one of our children to dance with. He has no idea how much we appreciate him and would love to express this to him personally
Tuesday, December 25, 2012 5:31:32 PM by Peggy Atkins
Seeing the toy soldier performance has been an annual traditiob for my daughteres and grandchildren for at least 13 years. I still tear up each time, he is so elegant.This year on 12/23/2012, it was most touching to see him lift up a child that was obviously handicapped , and gently retrun her to her oarents, then picked up another that appeared to have the same handicap, after placing the child back, he gently kissed the mothers hand. what a beautiful experience to see, especailly after we had all mourned the tragedy the week before of 26 children who will nevr have such a joyous opportunity hereion earth. On behalf of my family, we all thank you for you Rob Rughby whom i refer to as the most handsome man.

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