Saturday, September 20, 2014

Remember These Toys...?

Back in the day when no one said we couldn't play with stuff because it was dangerous, we had some really cool toys!

Heck, we even played in the dirt...with sticks and the like...and rode bikes without wearing helmets! I'll bet that more than a few of us even went so far as to swim in some nasty ol' drainage ditch...without chlorine or even adult supervision! Man, we took some crazy chances back then, but the best thing was the awesome toys!

 The Most Dangerous Toy In The World (Cost $50)


By Debra Kelly on Thursday, September 18, 2014

A.C. Gilbert was the founder of one of the largest toy companies in the world—even if you don’t know his name, you know the toys he created. While many of the Gilbert toys, like the Erector set, were educational toys that would result in a few pinched fingers at worst, others ranged from bizarre to downright deadly. Their microscope kits came complete with insect parts, while their Gilbert Kaster Kit allowed kids to use molten metal to pour their own die-cast figures. And we can’t forget about the Atomic Energy Lab, which came with a few different kinds of uranium and instructions for mining your own.

Today, most toys come with rounded edges, safety features, bright colors, and warning labels for all those pesky bits that they couldn’t get exactly 100 percent harmless. There are consumer safety warnings, there’s extensive testing done to make sure no one’s going to accidentally hurt themselves with whatever they’ve just gotten for their birthday . . . and parents can buy things assured they’ve been checked and double checked and rechecked again.

It wasn’t always like that, of course. Toys used to be epic.

Especially those made by the toy giant A.C. Gilbert. Named for its founder, the company was a leading toy manufacturer between 1909 and 1964. One of their first toys is perhaps the most iconic: the Erector set. The idea was developed by Gilbert when he was on a journey by train, and passed the time by watching men erecting power lines to run the brand new electric trains. It was just one of many toys that he designed to be fun and educational, most with an angle toward teaching kids all about construction, architecture, science, and physics.

Fortunately, this was before the days of warning labels.

For only $6.50, kids could purchase the Gilbert Kaster Kit. The machine allowed them to make their own metal-cast figurines and toy soldiers, simply by heating a bit of lead to 200 degrees Celsius (400 °F) and pouring it into the molds.

There were a number of different microscope kits for sale, and kids could choose from those that included things like bits of minerals to bits of insects, all ready for examination under the microscope. And we certainly can’t forget their chemistry sets. Quite the contrast to today’s chemistry sets (some of which, bizarrely, advertise that they’re so safe they don’t even contain any actual chemicals), the Gilbert chemistry sets had all the fun stuff. Kids could experiment with mixing and heating chemicals like sodium nitrate, ammonium chloride, and cobalt chloride—some even included different types of cyanide.

Then there was, of course, the Gilbert Glass-Blowing Kit, which allowed boys who were interested in creating their own test tubes and beakers to try melting and shaping glass from scratch—blow-torch required.

The Gilbert U-238 had a rather short-lived run, but its inclusion of four different types of uranium makes it one of the most ridiculous of the Gilbert toys. Kids could learn how to use a Geiger counter (also included in the kit), play with the miniature cloud chamber, and read all about radioactive materials in the included books. Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom tells kids all about how nuclear energy is made, and there was also another booklet that gave kids a crash course on how to find their own uranium.

(There was a reorder form included if your attempts at finding uranium in your backyard failed, and you still wanted a few more tries at the Geiger counter and cloud chamber.)

It also urged kids to go out and find those new uranium sources, because the government was going to pay for them! It would have allowed their parents to recoup some of the hefty $50 that the kit cost in the first place. But really, who are we to put a price tag on learning?

Does anyone but me wonder how we ever made it this far? Seems that somehow we did, despite all the foolish stuff we did, the dangerous fun toys we had, and the fact that kids just being kids wasn't such a bad thing. Simpler times, my friends!

Once again it's coffee in the kitchen.Fresh peaches and cantaloup anyone?


Chickenmom said...

Toys were fun back then! I had the steel Gilbert Chemistry set that had all the little bottles of real chemicals. And the microscope set, too. Can't remember how many grasshoppers and flies gave up their lives to science! Save me some peaches - I'm on my way!

JO said...

I had the the Gilbert Chemistry set too. Then I ruined the top of the dresser and it was over. My dad thought it was funny but mom had other ideas about my experiments.

They say more rain headed here today so far it is really nice out. I'll take a refill please

Anonymous said...

I would have loved that U-238 kit :-) :-) :-) I don't think it ever made it over here though. I had one of those chemistry boxes and that was probably the funniest toy I've ever had :-)

Yes how did we survive?

Have a great day!

Mamahen said...

I never got to have any of these cool things....Too many kids not enough money in those days...but hey I have no regrets...Fresh fruit always a winner :))

Rob said...

That was all before the legal industry found they could make money off day to day life.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
So many of the fun things we did would be illegal now days! At least they would have pulled some of them off the store shelves.

Thanks for coming over!

Hey Jo...
Parents didn't have much of a sense of humor when it came to ruining the furniture!

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping in today!

Hey Christer...
Chemistry sets were a popular thing back then. Guess today the folks in charge are afraid that we might accidentally blow something up.

Thanks for coming by this morning.

Hey Mamahen...
I reckon that the price was a bit steep for many families back then.

Still, we managed to have a lot of fun somehow, right?

Thanks for coming over!

Hey Rob...
Always legal folks around to ruin a good thing.

Thanks for the visit this morning!

Dizzy-Dick said...

I had the chemistry set and the erector set. Don't think that I ever saw the one for sale that had the uranium. If I had, I would have probably asked Santa for that one, too.

Bob Mc said...

I'm old enough to remember, or to old to remember much anymore. :) Had the erecter set and chemistry set. Seems like everyone had them.

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
I figured you would have liked the uranium set. Too bad it slipped by without being seen!

Wonder if Santa glowed after delivering a boatload of those?

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Bob...
They were really popular with the kids back then...and probably with Dads as well!

Thanks for coming over today!

Wade Herod said...

I still have the electric motor with the transmission (you could shift the gears, reverse and everything). Really cool. Probably why I became an engineer. :)