As a "certified pre-Boomer" I had 8 of these; slot cars and the panel/girder stuff were missing. Slot cars came after I had moved on to focus on electronics and chemistry as did the Legos mentioned by so many others, and I was never exposed to Girders and Panels. I was much more into Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and Erector sets in my pre-teen years. I had several Gilbert sets, and became so involved that my friends and I built a fully equipped chem lab in my basement. One of those friend's father worked for Bell Labs, and got us a huge amount of surplus lab gear from there, until we had a REAL chem lab (analytical balance and all!), and BUCKETS full of early transistors (rejects from the submarine cable repeater program). By the time I was 12, I had an open account with Central Scientific and split my allowance and lawn-mowing income between them and Radio Row in NYC. My initial exposure to the commercial Estes rocket stuff was when I was in college, and worked as the Electronics/Science counselor in a summer camp in Lake Placid. Before that, my friends and I would build our rockets from scratch, using many different propellants. I had Lionel 027 gauge model trains (also in the basement), with 2 engines: one exactly like the picture in the slide show, the other a CAST IRON steam engine from the mid-1930's that I inherited from one of my uncles.
On the electronic side, I built Heathkits, Eico, EF Johnson, and Dynaco stuff. I've been a ham since 1957 although presently inactive, and am a Life member of ARRL.
I finally chose electronics over chemistry once I figured out companies would pay me to design electronics, but blowing stuff up, not so much! Now a Life Member of IEEE (when I joined, it was the IRE).
A later toy using a mold was the Mold Master. Plastic was melted in a cylinder, a mold inserted below, then a plunger pushed to force the plastic into the mold. There were various sets. I had the road construction set, with a bulldozer, trucks, little men, etc. The plastic was reusable if the toy broke. Great fun in a sandbox. Another case of potential burns, but like the lead, we quickly learned how to handle it. Might have helped develop some common sense.
I owned all of them, built 5 or 6 Heathkits, made my own circuit boards and homebrew projects too. My Favorite toys though were my Erector sets. I collect them today and other Gilbert Science kits. Beyone the toys shown, I was also a fan of the Mattel Thingmaker and Cox Shrike and 049 powered airplanes. Built RC models aplenty, crashed a few. Lots of Estes rockets and was a NAR member for 6 years.
I'm a Scoutmaster today and used Ramsey kits to teach Electronics Merit Badge. Simple little noisemakers the kids soldered up and hooked up to my Oscilliscope. They were stunned, had no idea they could "Make" an electronic gadget. Taught them how to weld too. There is a huge deficit in city youth practical skills that shows up in newbie Engineers who do not know how to do much but calculate. The industry needs to drive the academics to fix this.
Laughing over here --- we would build the Revell Model Battleships and float them in a short trash bushel filled with water, but put a light skim of gasoline floating on top to re-enact burning battle scenes. Amazing how many kids in the 60's routinely played with gasoline! Shame on us!
What about foundry engineering? I had a toy with molds for lead soldiers, a ladle and an electric burner. I learned that touching the lead with your fingertip to see if it has cooled off enough to open the mold is not a good idea. Can you imagine someone today selling a children's toy that involves molten lead? The toy soldiers also had guns so that would promote violence and probably warp a young boy's mind. Mr. Machine was also a classic, complete with a wrench so it could be disassembled and reassembled.
I'm with you – our country has suffered under Sue-Happy 'victims' refusing to take their own responsibility. ( a million dollars for spilled hot coffee; give me a break.)
The "now-dangerous" toys from Kenner and Mattel were great; Remember Creepy-Crawlers-? They encouraged 5 year olds to pour a liquid polymer from a bottle into a lead mold cavity and bake it to solidification. Once we perfected that process, they next came out with Creepy crawlers you could actually EAT; Mattel's Incredible–Edibles. I had all those toys as my first entry in the world of mold-tooling.
Sometimes I think today's kids will suffer if they don't land a career that involves watching a screen of some kind ,,,, Looking forward to next weeks' posts, Rob -- Thanks!
I had the Kenner Girder & Panel and was in awe of the thin flexible window panels because they were so much more realistic than building with tinker-toy pegs & spools (,,,the toy that sat un-played-with; banished to the island of misfit toys!) I built many a skyline with Girder & Panel as a kid. Funny, never had the erector set, but knew friends that did. ( Can't believe LEGOs weren't included ! )
I agree with you. I believe I too bought the wooden airplane. I was amazed at how simple pieces of lighweight wood can be shaped to fly - early signs of becoming an engineer. I also had the slotted racing set, endless hours of fun.
I owned or played with almost all of those toys as a child. I had the Girder & Panel set, but it was red instead of blue. I had a chemistry set and I wanted an alcohol burner for it. I took a baby food jar, put a hole in the lid, put a shoestring in it and filled it full of gasoline. The thing exploded and filled our basement full of burning gasoline. We got the fire put out, but I decided that electricity was safer. That set me on a path to becoming an electrical engineer.
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