One man’s Trouble is another man’s joy.
That has never been truer than when it comes to the Kohner Family’s success in the toy industry. Featuring the unforgettable Pop-o-Matic in the center of the board, the iconic game, Trouble, has brought fun for decades to millions the world over. But Trouble is neither the beginning nor the end of the Kohner toy legend.
While the Kohner path to toys can be traced back to the middle 1800s, with a family heritage in woodworking, it really began in 1940, when Paul Kohner left his hometown of Tachau, Czechoslovakia, and came to the United States to escape the Nazis. Two years later, he would get his younger brother, Frank, out of danger as well.
Paul and Frank formed Kohner Bros, in New York City, during World War II. Before expanding into toys, they manufactured wooden beads and beaded purses, a wartime fashion rage.
The first Kohner toys took the form of beads and craft sets. These items evolved into wooden pull toys such as Tricycle Tom and Ice Cream Mike. From there, the business quickly progressed. And for the next 35 years, would make millions of the Baby Boomer classic Push Button Puppets, Tricky Trapeze and other toys and games. They would revolutionize an entire segment of the industry with an infant activity toy called the Busy Box.
Paul directed the manufacturing, operations and production for the company. Frank steered the business administration and product selection process. But they were equal partners and worked very closely together on all aspects of the company.
“Paul was a tough task master. We were very busy all the time. But it was a family. And we were all part of it.” Al Stubbmann, age 87, Kohner Bros VP R&D for 25+ years
With a new state-of-the-art 150,000 square foot factory under construction in New Jersey, the family business was booming when Paul died suddenly, in 1965.
His passing stunned the family and community. Paul’s son, Michael (then just 22 years old) joined the company to help fill the void.