The high-pitched sound of a whistle, much like the call of a bird, sounded through a crowded Westerville coffee shop on a recent morning.
Adults looked around, alarmed, but the handful of children in the shop instantly found 87-year-old Westerville resident Paul Schuller, the source of the sound, and smiled, entranced.
Schuller, who fashions several types of whistles, as well as kaleidoscopes and marshmallow shooters, takes his whistles with him around town.
The children he sees are treated to free train whistles, crafted out of PVC pipe and decorated by Schuller.
His slide whistles, larger train whistles and several other whistles of his own invention, along with his marshmallow shooters and kaleidoscopes, are offered to the parents for sale.
"I want to see the kids smile. It makes you feel good," Schuller said. "That's why I charge the parents: because they can have the joy of giving their children whistles. If I'm going to give up that pleasure, I'm going to charge for it."
Schuller confesses, however, that he can be soft-hearted about giving away more than just the train whistles he plans to.
"At Christmas time, I get kind of soft," he said.
Schuller started making his whistles and handing them out about 12 years ago, he said, and he estimates that he's given out more than 500.
The son of Hungarian immigrants, he said he remembered making whistles as a child and decided to pick up the hobby again.
"I made them as a kid. I made them out of wood, of birch stems," Schuller said.
When children marvel at his whistles, however, he offers them a different explanation for how he's able to craft them.
"When the kids ask, 'How do you do these things?' I answer, 'I'm Hungarian, and Hungarians can do anything,' " Schuller said.
Throughout his life, Schuller said he worked in a variety of professions, from being a coal miner in his native West Virginia to a traveling salesman.
He came to Westerville to attend Otterbein College, now a university, in 1946. There, he met his wife of 66 years, Margene, and the two settled in Westerville. He's only lived away from Westerville to serve time in the military, he said.
Schuller now cares for Margene in their Westerville home, where they live with their grown son. A daughter lives in Toledo.
Schuller spends time each day cutting pieces for his whistles in the shop in his garage, then sits with Margene as he puts them together and decorates them.
He's created large Christmas whistles meant to look like candy canes, and he's created small brass whistles meant to be hung on the Christmas tree. He even wrote a story to accompany the Christmas whistles, offering a family tradition to go with hanging them.
As he offers his whistles around town, he said he hopes his joy in giving will inspire others to do the same.
"I hope other people would feel likewise and want to do what they can for the children or for each other," Schuller said. "It makes you feel good. That's what it's all about."