At 81 years old, Mill Hall resident Philip Taormina is still having a lot of fun! Taormina, along with his wife, Dorothy, have been running Balloons by Mr. T since 1982, after the idea came to him when he received a package from his daughter.
"My daughter lived in Houston, Texas, and she sends home a gift and there was an ad in the paper. 'Not flowers again, why not send balloons?'," Taormina said. "From then on, I investigated and contacted flower shops. That's how I got started."
What Taormina started was one-of-a-kind. He said it was a time when floral balloons were just coming out. Taormina was the first one to start selling foil balloons.
Philip Taormina and his wife, Dorothy, have been running “Balloons By Mr. T” since 1982. He performs at parties, receptions, baby showers and many other types of events. He does not plan on stopping doing what he loves any time in the near future.
"Nobody does what I do in this area," he said. "There is a lady in Bellefonte that does it, but she does animals and things, but I don't think she goes out and dresses up."
Taormina started by asking his wife for some money to get things started. He bought supplies, rented a costume, bought a gorilla suit and advertised for his new business, Balloons by Mr. T.
Taormina already had been doing a lot of singing, so he decided to combine his many talents.
"Singing with balloons - years ago, I just did makeup and a clown suit," Taormina said. "Now I do animals, hats, flowers. We went to a balloon convention in Massachusetts, where we did some workshops. From there on, I was making arches and pillars."
From 1982 to 1992, Taormina delivered bouquets in costumes, making people happy wherever he visited. In 1992, he began creating animals and other shapes using twisting balloons.
As a high school teacher at the former Bald Eagle Nittany, Mill Hall, Taormina earned the name Mr. T, which appropriately became a part of his business name.
Taormina said his work schedule depends upon how many calls he gets. On a Saturday, he said he might spend an hour getting ready and two hours for the job itself, or maybe three if a fair is involved.
"I do parties whenever they call," he said. "There's no hold up on that unless I'm out of town or something. I will go to homes, restaurants, bar rooms or any place that they need me. I try to sing songs appropriate to the occasion."
Taormina owns tuxedos in many colors, hats and other costume items.
"People do like to see me in my white tuxedo for bridal parties, receptions and baby showers," he added.
Taormina said the biggest event he's ever done when he delivered a car of balloons to a 16th birthday party.
"They got me to get in the car and drive with the balloons," he said. "After that, I did singing and things and then I handed her the balloons with the keys to the car."
Taormina said his wife, Dorothy, always has helped him with the business. When he was teaching school, Dorothy would have the bouquets ready for him. She used to make all his cards and she continues to take care of the phone calls that come in.
The bouquets, he added, are quite a sight, usually consisting of two floral balloons. This takes six 11-inch balloons with an 18-inch balloon on top. Taormina makes his own bows and there usually is a stuffed animal on the bottom to hold the bouquet down. The bouquet simply states: "Party time!"
"I have always had a saying," Taormina said. "It doesn't matter how down and out people are, they still want to get together and have a party."
Although it already sounds like a busy lifestyle, there's more. Taormina also does oil painting in his free time during the winter that he likes to give as gifts.
"I'll paint almost anything except portraits," he said. "I like to do scenes, boats, flowers. I just gave a painting to the Sons of Italy that they have in the hall in Lock Haven. And I gave two other pictures away - pictures of trees."
Taormina and his wife also are involved in the Mill Hall Flower Club, as well as the Clinton County Herb Guild. In fact, the couple takes care of the garden at the Heisey Museum, Lock Haven. The pair speaks to individuals about herbs and attends cooking shows to provide demonstrations, as well.
"I would say I just like to make people happy," Taormina said. "I have no plans of stopping, as long as I can do it, I'm gonna do it. It's something that just comes occasionally so I don't have to be pressured to do it every day. I enjoy it."
Balloons by Mr. T is listed in the local phone book under "balloons" and also the business name. For more information, call Balloons by Mr. T at 726-4374.