This, of course, was one of my favorites
How I loved these Golden Stamp Books! Especially on a rainy summer day: sitting on the grass rug on our back porch, coloring the pictures and pasting in the stamps.
Of course, you have to have an attention span, to enjoy these. You had to be able to sit and do something quietly, maybe humming or whistling to yourself, content to sojourn in the world of the imagination. No cell phones, smartphones, iphones, etc.
It was bliss.
Did you have one of these? Wow, Roy and Dale and Trigger and Bullet–
Roy Rogers was a movie star, but when I was a boy he had a hit TV show, too: and most TV shows that made a hit with the kiddies wound up getting merchandised as lunchboxes. That was back before School Officials (aka education fat-heads) took it upon themselves to tell parents what they could or couldn’t put in their children’s lunchboxes. To paraphrase King Solomon, better a little snack-pack of Oreos served with love, than a Real Nutritious Tofu Vegan Feast doled out by a school bureaucracy.
So Roy and Dale were joined in the lunchbox parade by Zorro, Gene Autry, Wild Bill Hickcock, Rin-Tin-Tin, Davy Crockett, and a host of others. Not one of whom ever dropped the f-bomb on national TV, or bragged about being an atheist, or was a stooge for left-wing politics.
Gee, I can still hear Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails” at the end of each episode of their TV show. Let me see if I can find that for you…
Before the advent of video games featuring blood and guts flying all over the screen, children had to be content with benign, peaceful, harmless games–like this one.
Remco put out “Melvin the Moon Man” in 1959, and it was a hit. My parents got it for us for Christmas, and it was simple enough for all three of us to play: my sister, age 4, my brother, 7, and me, 10. If we had had a cat, he probably could’ve played, too.
You spin the handle of the unique Tumblebum dice glass (that, and the colorful graphics, were the game’s big selling points), and your plastic Spaceman traveled around the United Craters of the Moon collecting Moonbucks. The one with the most Moonbucks wins. No tactics or strategy involved. Just follow the map according to the roll of the dice.
I don’t know what Melvin cost in 1959, but it’s selling on eBay today for up to $150. In 1959 anything over $5 was a major expenditure for my father which my mother would have to weigh carefully. They really must have loved us to buy us silly stuff like this.
And that’s what makes this memory so sweet.
Before I venture into the murky waters of the news today, let’s look back on something a bit more pleasant.
Colorforms got started in 1951 and has sold over a billion sets since then.
Do you remember the original Colorforms from the 1950s? I woke in the middle of the night last night, from a dream of falling down the stairs, and for some reason “Colorforms” popped into my head.
What you got was a lot of pieces of thin, soft plastic in assorted shapes, sizes, and bright colors, and a black background that they’d stick to: and you’d arrange them to create pictures. I don’t know if you can still get this old basic Colorforms set, that relies so much on the user’s imagination. Colorforms stays in business by dint of tie-ins with hit TV shows, movies, and other aspects of the wider culture: so you can buy vintage Colorforms sets tied in with old TV shows like Welcome Back, Kotter or The Dukes of Hazzard. I think I prefer the little squares and circles.
Colorforms also tried to get into the paper dolls business, but the problem there was you had to take the designs they gave you. It seems there’s a good reason for paper dolls to be made of paper.
As I rode my bike today, I passed two people, standing five feet apart, texting each other.
Yeah, it’s little squares and circles for me.
When I was 11 years old, I was crazy about these toys–the Dr. Seuss Zoo from the model company, Revell. This ad is from Life Magazine in 1959.
The great thing about these was, once you owned several different models, you could mix up the parts any way you pleased and create all sorts of new critters. The parts were interchangeable from kit to kit–a great way to sell lots of kits. The downside was that the little knobs that snapped into holes had a regrettable tendency to snap off.
These toys exercised your imagination–and your hands. Nowadays they’d probably be too advanced even for college students, but kids in 1959 had a lot of fun with them. Oh–you did need the ability to sit quietly in one place for a few minutes while you made what you imagined take shape.
Much better for kids than zombie video games.
They’re not as innocent as they look! These little figurines represent Dinohyus (aka Daeodon), a huge, monstrous, pig-like mammal of prehistoric times. They came in a set of prehistoric mammals as prizes in boxes of Nabisco Wheat and Rice Honeys, way back when. They fascinated me then, and they still do now. God created a lot of way cool animals we don’t see anymore: He didn’t stop with dinosaurs. These giant hogs don’t lose much by comparison with dinosaurs.
Why are they extinct? Has God preserved them somewhere else in His creation? We just don’t know. Maybe someday we will, and this part of God’s plan will astound us.
Now let me see if I can find another image–they’re all best-guess reconstructions, based on a pretty fair number of fossil skeletons–that will impress you more than these little toys can do.
Definitely not an animal to mess around with!
See that beautiful palomino horse, rearing up on his hind legs? It was a popular toy in the 1950s, and I still have mine, and it’s still beautiful. They came in two different poses and several colors. In fact, I still have half a dozen of them. Each one came with a cowboy, a rather fragile saddle (that’s the green thing, and I’m afraid none of my saddles have survived), even more fragile reins and bridles, and a very tiny hat for the cowboy’s head. I still have one of the cowboys, but no hats.
My animal box that my father made for me is full of plastic horses of all different shapes and sizes. Like a lot of kids of that era, I was horse-crazy. On rainy days, indoors, or sunny days in the sandbox, I trotted out my horses and put them through adventures. What with all the westerns on TV at the time, that wasn’t hard to do. And the hours drifted by so pleasantly.
Castles made of my mother’s books, looming fortresses of sand–my horses had their work cut out for them. But those stories I made up for them always came out all right in the end. Soon I left off making up western stories and had my horses interacting with lions, elephants, and dinosaurs.
I wish I could line them up and take a picture for you. If you’re my age, you might spot some dear old friends among the crowd.
Remember these? “Bill Ding Blocks,” they were called, made of wood and brightly colored. They were also called “balancing clowns.” Those strangely leering little figures were supposed to be clowns. And if you were patient, with a light touch, you could set them up into all sorts of improbable arrangements. I used to play with these with my friend, David, next door. We were little more than toddlers at the time, and improbable arrangements were beyond our powers.
Bill Ding Blocks first came out in 1911. In the early 1960’s the company that made them was bought and the product discontinued, but the owner believed in his product and eventually bought back the rights to it. Today they’re manufactured in China. It does seem a shame not to make these in America.
David and I enjoyed these unusual blocks; but I think if we’d looked more closely at the faces, we might’ve had second thoughts. Happy memories, though. Happy low-tech memories.
It’s 1958 and you’ve just acquired a Marx Dinosaur set, complete with an assortment of cavemen. The little fellow pictured above is one of them. There are also cavemen throwing rocks, walking around with clubs and grinning placidly, making stone tools, and cavewomen preparing supper. It was 1958 and we were not required to show transgender cave-bipeds. etc.
Anyway, you’ve got cavemen and they ought to have a cave. Otherwise the dinosaurs will get them. No cave came with the set, so you had to provide your own.
My cavemen lived in caves made of my mother’s books, Grandpa’s beautiful stone building blocks, upside-down shoeboxes… and sand. The sandbox was the best place for caves, mountains, volcanoes, and forts. You did run the risk of losing a caveman or two, because these figurines were really quite small: that determined-looking spearman up there is only about an inch tall, albeit he’d be taller if he’d only stand up straight. I know exactly how tall everybody is because I still have my cavemen, except for those few who, for all I know, are still somewhere at the bottom of the sandbox in the playground next door. Uh, no, wait–they’ve expanded the school to swallow up the playground, and there is no more sandbox. Kids don’t play there anymore.
Is it already too late to teach children to use their imaginations?
I think God will help us if we try.