One of the joys of staying home from school sick–well, not really all that sick–on a cold, rainy winter’s day was my very own Gilbert Erector Set, complete with electric motor. That’s the blue thing with the black band around it, directly over the little metal pump-house. At least I always thought of it as a pump-house, without exactly knowing what a pump-house was.
Ah! Take this into bed, open the metal box, and get busy building things! All kinds of things: whatever you could imagine. But this was an old-fashioned set, so you had a lot of screws and nuts and had to use a screwdriver and a wrench. And the pieces, instead of being shaped for you, were metal plates and girders in assorted sizes–plus wheels and gears, as needed. The motor was for making things turn, which it did quite handily. The pump-house had no obvious purpose, but no way would I have ever parted with it.
And it was amazing how the time went by, as you put together towers and improbable flying machines, enclosures for your plastic dinosaurs, and more. Before you knew it, it was suppertime.
Of course, you had to have an imagination, to do this. True, the set came with an instruction book for making this or that; but it was more fun to invent things that weren’t in the book. The best part was this: until you actually finished putting something together, it never looked like anything. Just a bunch of girders, big and little wheels, and screws and nuts. It all came out of your imagination, by way of your hands.
Erector sets still exist, for those who want them. You can still get old sets like mine on eBay, if you want them. I comfort myself with the thought that they wouldn’t be selling them unless someone were buying them.