2014-04-11 / People

He’s a fan of collecting, fixing old items

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Spenser Rynne, an eighth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, has been collecting 1940s-era items and refurbishing them since he was 6 years old. Rynne, self-taught, learned how to fix many of the items by reading and rereading their manuals. Most of them are fully functional, which allows Rynne to use them in his everyday life. 
(Alex Acquisto photo) Spenser Rynne, an eighth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, has been collecting 1940s-era items and refurbishing them since he was 6 years old. Rynne, self-taught, learned how to fix many of the items by reading and rereading their manuals. Most of them are fully functional, which allows Rynne to use them in his everyday life. (Alex Acquisto photo) KENNEBUNK – Spenser Rynne knows a thing or two about a lot of things. Despite his youth (he turns 15 this week) Rynne, an eighth-grader at Middle School of the Kennebunks, has a collection of 1940s-era items that would make an antique dealer swoon.

From electric fans to tube radios and Polaroid cameras to Smith-Corona typewriters, Rynne not only collects these items and more, he refurbishes them.

Rynne said his interest in “motorized old stuff” came when he was about 6 and his grandfather’s AM radio stopped working.

He recalled fondly sitting by and listening to the radio throughout his childhood. When the device finally died, his grandparents just assumed they’d throw it away.

Rynne told his grandparents, “We don’t have to throw it away; let’s fix it.”

And so he did.

About that time, Rynne was given a 1940s Smith-Corona typewriter, which he also taught himself how to refurbish. Now, in his eighth-grade classes, he uses it to type his assignments while his peers use their iPads.

“Everyone thinks I’m eccentric, walking around with their devices while I’ve got this flashy typewriter,” he said.

When asked why he enjoys devoting time to what initially was a hobby, but has since become a skill, Rynne said, “I don’t really know, I just like working with them.”

Rynne, in his vernacular and accent, sounds deceivingly seasoned, like a 50-something Mainer who has been collecting all his life.

“That’s a tube radio,” Rynne said. “She glows like an old nightlight when she gets going. I think it’s a 1948. My grandfather, he likes a bargain, bought it used in the 1960s.”

Rynne even joked that his taste is incongruous with his peers’.

“I can’t stand modern music,” Rynne said, shaking his head. When asked what he prefers, he answered succinctly: “Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra – the early stuff.”

He even has an exact replica of the cherry-red bicycle that Henry Huggins rode in the “Henry Huggins” series written by Beverly Cleary in the 1950s.

The series later became a spin-off for the “Ramona” series. “I don’t know what it is — drivers seem to give me more respect when I’m riding that tank down the road,” Rynne said of his bicycle.

“I do feel like I belong in a different time period,” Rynne said. One of his teachers, Brooke Tardiff asked, “How old are you, again?”

“What am I, now? 50?” Rynne replied with a laugh.

Since he was 6 and first discovered that he could fix his grandfather’s radio, Rynne has been collecting other mechanical items and using them. “You don’t want to know what our basement used to look like,” he said.

He has between 60 and 80 cameras, 15 of which are Polaroids; three fullsize tractors (one of which was also his grandfather’s that Rynne brought back to life), as well as several smaller ones that his family uses to, for example, mow their grass; five typewriters, all of which he uses; and Rynne’s favorite item of the moment – the electric fan, of which he has 16.

Most of the refurbished items are still operational and Rynne makes it a point to use them.

“I love them,” Rynne said of the fan he brought in for display. “They looked the best before they went plastic.”

He plans to continue collecting into high school. When asked what his dream job would be, besides owning an antique store, Rynne said, “If they’re still in existence, I’d want to be on a heritage railway, running steam engines.”

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