Toy Story

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.
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