Craig Montgomery has a sweet spot for toasters. But not just any toaster. He prefers vintage nickel chrome designs made between 1927 and the 1950s that do something special. He fancies them so much he’s collected nearly 100 of the shiny treasures, now stacked from floor to ceiling in his Benicia kitchen.
“They all have some kind of mechanism,” says Montgomery, who has been collecting them since 1977. “They have timers, and they all do something, rather than being passive—like pop up, pop out, or pop down.” His favorites are the Universal and Landers Frary & Clark brands.
At the peak of the electricity revolution spawned by Thomas Edison, GE made the first electric toaster for the home in 1909. Those early models were passive, says Montgomery, and required careful watching, and turning of the toast. The toasting devices he collects do the job for you.
Montgomery has always loved mechanical things, and is fascinated with form, function and design. However, that’s not the only reason he earned a degree in aeronautical engineering from Cal Poly, Pomona. His grandfather was a mechanical engineer and set up a trust to pay for his grandchildren’s college tuition, under the condition that they follow in his footsteps in engineering, a profession that was once the most highly paid.
However, when Montgomery graduated in 1970, times had changed and there were few jobs available in aeronautics. He had a pilot’s license, but a problem with his vision kept him from making it a profession. He then landed in magazine publishing, where his career spanned some 40 years, working for Hearst Magazine, Ziff Davis and Newsweek where he was in charge of newsstand circulation for the western half of North America. He retired from another large magazine publishing company in 2010, which has allowed him time to pursue his many interests.
Fabricating motorized things has been his passion since Montgomery was 10 years old, tinkering with the lawn mower engine, and making his own Doodle Bug motorized scooter in his father’s garage.
Today, he’s still making mopeds in his garage. He’s also a scuba diving instructor, an underwater digital photographer, fly fisherman, and has some skill with golf. This makes his printed business card somewhat misleading when it says he’s the Chairman of “Doolittle, Sitmore & Bewell.”