Tuesday Sep 01 2009
‘King Norman’ navigates his way to Eskaton Village
By: Karen Everett Watson Special to the Press Tribune
Royalty has arrived in town and taken up residence in the Eskaton Village in Roseville. Norman Rosenberg never ruled a country but was king in the hearts of many Bay Area children during the 1950s and early ‘60s when he hosted his own children’s television program and ran 21 toy stores across Northern California. His late wife Doris starred as the King’s page and was the driving force behind their many toy stores, advertising agency and Concord amusement park. Rosenberg said he never could have imagined the life he has lived when it all began in Chicago Illinois in 1918. His reign as King Norman came after the excitement of World War II when Rosenberg found himself navigating a huge ship for the United States Navy. He was assigned to the USS General Tasker H. Bliss, which was the first of its kind and the flag ship for a fleet of 40. “That’s when I met Doris,” he said. “We were set up on a blind date. It was love at first sight. Within a month, we were married. Then I was shipped out to sea.” Soon after the war ended, Rosenberg chose to end his military career. His father-in-law had bought him and his wife a home in San Francisco . An uncle asked him to market candy he was producing and a new business was launched. Rosenberg and Doris began to look for a storefront. Her father who owned a stationary and toy store suggested they look at a little store for sale in the Richmond District and sell stationary and toys. “It was so dilapidated,”Rosenberg said. “But we cleaned it up. When my mother passed away, she left me a little money so I bought the unit next to us and combined the two.” The toys sold much better than the stationary so the Rosenberg’s began focusing on building up their toy inventory. During one Easter season, Rosenberg decided to make up a few toys with candy and Easter grass up for his children. “I told Doris to go over to Woolworths and pick up some candy and grass,” he said. “She was making them up, stuffing a toy pail, watering can and garden set with grass and candy and wrapping them up with cellophane. We were the first to combine toys and Easter candy. It was a big hit.” Rosenberg sold thousands of his Easter toys each season and Norman’s Kingdom of Toys became a household word in the San Francisco. In January of 2008, Doris lost her battle with cancer . Recently Rosenberg relocated with his new bride, Gilyn, to be close to his son, Mark who resides in Carmichael.