Memory Lane: Plastic Skyscraper Kit

Image result for images of plastic skyscraper kit

Nobody likes to go outside in freezing rain. A day like today brings back memories of a plastic skyscraper kit my brother used to have. It was nowhere near as fancy as the one in the picture above, but it had hundreds of pieces and it certainly sufficed.

My brother and I used to try to construct buildings that would use all the pieces in the kit. That would keep us busy for a while. You started with a composite wood base and built up from there. It had room for two skyscrapers, which we could connect with walkways. By and by the building would become inhabited by dinosaurs, cavemen, and wild animals, and adventures would follow.

The pieces interlocked, no glue involved, you could always take a building apart and make another one. That was the only way you could get the Brontosaurus out. Hours of fun.

Lego still exists, so there must be kids out there who have the attention span required to build an elaborate plastic skyscraper. Such a peaceful, soothing game to play! Grandma used to hope that one or both of us would grow up to be engineers who built bridges. She had to settle for plastic skyscrapers. And so did we–but they sufficed. They did indeed.

37 comments on “Memory Lane: Plastic Skyscraper Kit

  1. I’d love to have one of those now — although Iggy might decide to play Godzilla and knock the pieces around.

    Actually, I’d rather do anything — even count coffee grounds or dig hair out of the sink drain — than what I’m doing this afternoon, which is preparing my taxes. The Federal form went pretty quickly, since I no longer itemize, but the Ohio forms (note plural) are driving me crazy. Why is a state tax return so much more complicated than a federal return? More bureaucrats to put on the payroll, or what? My Federal return is one sheet of paper, printed on both sides. My Ohio return is FOUR blinking forms, four full sheets of paper, printed on both sides. And the three auxiliary forms, all stuffed to the gills with items that have nothing to do with me, require only one or two items each that I MUST include on the main form. Insanity! Furthermore, there’s an extra form that people who file paper forms must fill out — a little incentive to use their online filing system, which I don’t want to do.

    Maybe I’ll go count some coffee grounds after all. Anyway, this is why I won’t be commenting much for the rest of the day.

    1. We haven’t been able to start our taxes yet because the forms and booklets are delayed in the mail. Meanwhile, let’s hear it for mail-in voting!

  2. I know exactly what you are talking about. It is one more way of wasting money in several different ways. They like to appear busy, but actually, they are only making us busy

  3. I had a Girder and Panel set, which was made by Kenner and similar in some respects. You could build elaborate structures with red girders, and then snap on walls made from vacuum molded panels. The girders were nuclear hardened and could stand up to anything I could throw at it, but the panels soon gave out, and I was reduced to making oil refineries. 🙂

  4. Sigh. I envy all of you who had these neat building sets. All I had were Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. But I did make some really nice log cabins that had a striking resemblance to modern (i.e., 1940s and ’50s) suburban housing. 🙂

    We had wonderful toys in those days. I suppose Legos serve the same purpose today, but it seems to me we had more varieties of toys in those days — especially those that produced things, things we could actually handle, not just evanescent screen images. (The Old Fogey now shuts up and returns to her Sulking Chair.)

    1. I agree — and not just because I’m an Old Fogey. The old toys not only gave us something tangible to handle, but also allowed us to pour our own imagination into what we were doing, not just be forced into doing whatever the programmers had decreed. Also, we could mostly work at our own pace, even pause at times to contemplate what we were doing and what we wanted to do — or undo — next. Some of the toys even produced useful things, for example, the toy ovens that could really produce little cakes, or the model kits that yielded flyable planes or decorative cars or animal figures.

      And, of course, there were always the pickup sticks, the jacks, the “spaldeens” (Spalding rubber balls), the broomstick bats for softball, the clothesline jumpropes, and all the other means of amusing ourselves outdoors and indoors. I think the only things modern kids exercise are their thumbs.

    2. Why did we ever give up childhood? What fun my mother and father had, teaching me to hit a pitched ball! And when I could finally do it well–ahhh!

    3. That’s interesting, because I was terrible at hitting a ball, so my parents worked with me. Thereafter, I was a a true slugger. 35 years later, I found myself in a pickup game and even though I hadn’t hit a ball in decades, I contacted the first ball pitched to me and sent it flying. Apparently the lessons I learned, way back in third grade, had stayed with me.

    4. Harmon Killebrew was a brand-new star back then, and my mother urged me to watch him closely. But my heart belonged to Willie Mays.

    5. Harmon was awesome.

      There was another Twins player that I was quite impressed with, during the same era. I won’t mention any names. Years later, I found myself having a meal with him, as part of a larger group of people. As it turns out, he was deeply in debt. Basically, I was eating supper with one of my heroes, and as it turned out, he had fallen on hard times, having had no idea of how to manage the fleeting wealth of his few years of fame. It’s sad when you meet one of your heroes and end up hoping that they don’t try to borrow money from you. 🙂

      It’s sad. He wasn’t a loser, but he was someone that had one talent; playing baseball, and he was relegated to minimum wage jobs, once his sports career had ended. That’s a real problem for sports figures, because many of them have no follow-on once the easy money of their sports career goes away.

      The same thing happens to musicians, BTW. One day they are playing concerts for big money and a few years later they are struggling to survive. It’s hard to step down like that.

    6. I think I know whom you mean. We’ll leave his name out of it. Too bad he didn’t play for George Steinbrenner. He took care of his players if they found themselves in need.

    7. It was very sad. 15 years before that, I would have given anything to have met him. Then, I heard a friend mention his name, and his name was quite unusual, so there was no question as to who they were talking about. I ended up at a gathering and found myself sitting across from a very ordinary man that had been a household name, in mid sixties. As best I recall, he barely spoke. Later on, I found out that his glory days were far behind him and that he was barely surviving. Fifteen years later, he had passed away, in his mid fifties.

    8. It was a very sad story. I think that he might have been getting some very poor advice. Since that meal, I have come to the conclusion that some of the people who claimed to be his friends probably did him no good. Not necessarily with any intention of exploitation, but just a case of a guy with that wasn’t prepared for success and allowed himself to be influenced by people that were in no position to be passing out advice.

    9. Indeed. It’s tragic, and hardly unique. He made $40,000 in 1966, and that was a lot of money, back then. Managing a large budget can be tricky, and I doubt that he had good advice. Besides that, he had limited English skills and probably didn’t understand much of what he heard. When I met him, he was quite retiring and certainly didn’t come off like a Major League MVP. The Twins had been an underdog team, until ‘65, and that year, they had three outstanding players. Even people who weren’t into baseball were talking about the Twins, that year.

    10. It was really sad. His name was on everyone’s lips in ‘65. He had a short streak of absolute brilliance and we were all ready to crown him as a hero. Then it slipped away. It was really a matter of coincidence that I ever ran into him. An older friend of mine was acquainted with him, but I don’t think that they were friends, by any stretch of the imagination. I was invited to a dinner where several people would be and I was quite surprised to hear that Zoila was going to be there. I was expecting that he’d be dressed to the nines. But he was average, quite quiet and seemed thankful to have been invited. I recall greeting him, but that was the limit of the conversation.

      In retrospect, and now knowing the full story, I wish that I would have told him that I remembered his accomplishments. Chances are, he would have appreciated being reminded of better times. I truly had no idea, at the time. all I knew, he lived in a big house and had driven there in a new Corvette.

      Throughout my life, I’ve met a number of my “heroes”. Invariably, they have turned out to be human. It’s easy to assume that famous equates to rich and carefree, but that’s not always the case. Even when famous people are wealthy, they still have the same day to day problems that we all experience. Two days ago, I had a belly ache. Had I been rich and famous, it wouldn’t have mattered. Even the rich and famous face the same problems as the rest of us.

      Every time I have met a famous person, their public image shattered almost instantly. I met a very famous musician, seen on TV every weeknight, and found him to be a nervous, high strung fellow. On TV and in front of tens of millions of viewers; cool as a cucumber, but in person; his nickname should have been Itchy. Some famous people are painfully shy. I suspect that, in many cases, the ones that seem snooty and standoffish are simply trying to escape the social pressure of fame.

      I had a mental image of a baseball player and when I met him, that image collided with reality. The flaw was not in my hero. I can accept some blame, because I had a very superficial understanding of matters, but the real problem is the nature of fame, in our present world. It’s common to assume that fame equals wealth; that fame equals significance; that fame equals integrity; that fame is important. But one of those things is true.

      Fame can, in m any cases, be exploited to make one wealthy. “Rich” and “famous” seem to flow together almost automatically, and there’s something to that. However, fame really comes down to publicity. Sometimes it is unexpected, but in most cases it is actively sought, because it can be usually converted to income. But publicity doesn’t mean that a famous person is really all that socially valuable. We can all think of examples of famous people that have acted foolishly and made a mess of their lives and wasted their fame.

      In the case of Zoila, he was a pretty decent ball player and had moments of greatness.I don’t think that he squandered his opportunities in any way, but even though he was very famous for a short time, his opportunities were limited by circumstances far beyond his control. Sadly, the language barrier made it hard for him to do anything beyond play baseball. Had he been able to work in sports broadcasting, he might have had a much longer career arc.

    11. Somebody should’ve hired him as a scout.
      I would rather not meet my baseball heroes. I prefer them remote, figures of legend. Well, OK, some of my friends and I struck up a casual friendship with Horace Clarke, Yankees’ second baseman. He was a nice man: introduced us to his wife and child. The Hoss was regularly fried in the NY sports media, so he was glad to have fans, any fans. We used to meet him after the game and have a few laughs for a few minutes.

      But see, he wasn’t famous, he wasn’t larger than life. He was just Horace. And he was going to be all right when his career was over: he went home to the Virgin Islands and raised his family.

      My heroes, though–no, I don’t want to get too close to them. I don’t read about their personal lives. When Hank Aaron died last week, that was a shock to me: in my mind, he was still a superman in his 30s. I know that’s unrealistic, but magic is only where you find it.

    12. Many of my heroes played guitar, and I’ve met many of the famous post-war Jazz guitarists. Now, Jazz guitarists are not usually so famous that they can’t walk down the street without being pestered, but a handful of them have been known to have inflated egos. For the most part, however, they were very down to earth, ordinary guys. Joe Pass, who won Grammys and played solo concerts in large concert venues, saw himself as a tradesman, of sorts. Just like a plumber or electrician would come to your house with their tools and ply their specialized trade, he would walk onstage in front of thousands of people, open his toolbox/guitar case, and play Standards. He was successful, but it never went to his head, at least as far as I could tell.

      Johnny Smith was another great and, at heart, a soft spoken guy that just happened to be a scintillating guitarist. Almost all of the greats that I met were like that. They were hugely talented, but anonymous, except to a narrow category of fans. With the glaring exception of one person, they were just like anyone else, and didn’t expect any more adulation and fame than the guy that fixes furnaces, or the plumber.

      It sounds like Horace Clarke was that sort of a guy.

    13. A good egg, he was. And just after I wrote that post to you last night, I looked him up to see what he was doing nowadays and discovered that he died last year.

    14. It’s a real shame to see the people we admire leaving us. Virtually all of the old school guitarists I admire have passed away. Their names are all but forgotten and their music is familiar to very few people of the current generation.

      Taking a step,back, I guess it serves as an object lesson regarding the ephemeral nature of life in this fallen world. No matter what our accomplishments may be, time passes and we end up forgotten. The “greatest generation” of WW II sacrificed to prevent the world from falling into darkness, but people under 40 barely know that they existed. The heroes of our younger years are sadly forgotten by almost everyone.

    15. “ but also allowed us to pour our own imagination into what we were doing, not just be forced into doing whatever the programmers had decreed”

      That’s a major statement, and right on the money. The virtual environment of computer based games can be astoundingly complex, but it is the world of the programming team that created the game. One thing I have noticed is that a lot of younger people see, to lack imagination, and I suspect that the reason is because the imagination used in their play had been supplied by the games they played, instead of coming from within.

    16. It’s hard not to believe that our imaginations have been stunted on purpose, to keep us in line for whatever the Morlocks want to do to us.

  5. And my balsa wood cardinal and robin, along with my balsa wood glide planes, will strafe your dinosaurs — nyah nyah!

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