Morgan Wilburn is swept away by vacuum cleaners.
The 7-year-old boy has 21 of them, plus a cherished how-to video that gets more play than a Disney movie.
So there he was Friday, his wide eyes protected by safety glasses during the ultimate field trip: a tour of the Bissell Inc. factory, maker of his favorite models, those that use water.
“Wow!” Morgan said as an employee explained how shampoo squirts from a Bissell Big Green.
“This is Morgan’s glory, a mecca,” said his mother, Julie Wilburn, video camera in hand. “He has a hand vacuum mounted on the wall in his bedroom.”
Bissell brought the Salem, Va., family to Michigan after reading a newspaper story about Morgan’s collection, which includes vacuums by Hoover and Electrolux.
He hopped out of his hotel bed before 7 a.m. to prepare to see President Mark Bissell - “That’s like meeting Michael Jordan,” his mom said - and then was led on a two-hour tour, from the assembly line to the test lab.
“This motor here has two fans,” explained Norm Lemieux, a sales manager. “You can really get suction with this baby.”
“That’s nice,” said Morgan, words that became a well-worn reply by the time the tour ended with chicken fingers in the company cafeteria.
Julie Wilburn said her son’s fascination with vacuums began when he played with the attachments at 19 months old.
“Santa has brought a vacuum every year since. The first one he got was the Bissell Little Green for small stains,” she said. “He has 21 in the house and a few out on loan to the neighborhood. Everywhere there’s a closet, there’s a vacuum.
“He plays baseball and takes piano lessons. He’s in the Cub Scouts,” Julie Wilburn added. “But he just won’t give up vacuums.”
Morgan said he doesn’t know why he likes vacuums, but he wants to sell them when he grows up.
He doesn’t do much housework. (Otherwise, the carpets would be wet all the time from the water vacuums he likes, his mom said.) But his mom and dad give him big remnants of carpet that he vacuums in the garage for fun.
He also does a little vacuuming around the neighborhood to make money and help pay for some of his machines, some of which cost up to $300.
On Friday, Lemieux walked Morgan through the assembly process, allowing him to stuff electrical cords into boxes.
Morgan dropped to his knees to examine a Powersteamer model.
“Does it have a crevice tool?” he asked.
“The guy is really focused on product,” Mark Bissell said. “He knows to turn the switch when vacuuming bare floor. You don’t want the dirt to shoot out.”
For Christmas, Morgan wants a central vacuum system that could be operated in each room of the house. He might be disappointed.
“We told him Santa probably can’t get it on the sleigh,” his mom said.