Toys of a Forgotten Generation

I’m a member of Generation Jones — the not-quite-a-generation that fell into the crack between the Boomers and GenX — and furthermore I was never quite the same as those other boys. So some of my most beloved toys are a bit on the obscure side. Here’s a post about some of them.

I’ll start with what’s probably the least obscure of the lot, Major Matt Mason. “America’s Astronaut in Space” was made by Mattel beginning in 1966. I had just about all of the Matt Mason figures and toys, including the rare Captain Lazer (who, at 12″ tall, had plainly been originally intended for a different toy line). My mother gave them all to my cousins while I was away at summer camp one year and I’m still bitter about it.

Major Matt Mason

Zeroids were made by Ideal and came out in 1967. There were four of them, and not only did they have motorized rubber tank treads, they had arms that could be pulled back to throw things and interchangeable hands that gripped. Each one came in a box that also served as an accessory. They shared a snap-in electric motor with Ideal’s Motorific cars, which I also loved.

Zeroid

The Strange Change Machine came out from Mattel in 1967. This electrically heated toy came with these little compressed blocks of memory plastic, the approximate size and shape of butter pats, which when heated turned into monsters. The monsters could be re-heated and squished back into blocks using the crank-operated crusher.

Strange Change Machine

The AstroScope from Ohio Art (1970) included a light and two spinning mirrors, whose speed and direction could be controlled with the levers and knobs to project a variety of Lissajous figures on the screen. It was probably the loudest toy I owned, due to the two high-speed motors.

AstroScope

Super City from Ideal (1967) was a building set that consisted of square and rectangular frames, narrow columns, and corner blocks, all in white plastic, and a variety of panels (transparent, translucent, brick, and metal, plus pyramids and domes) that could snap into the frames. It had a rather limited aesthetic but was great for snapping together quite large structures quickly.

Super City

Finally, perhaps the most obscure of all, Mold Master from Kenner (1963) was a toy for making other toys! You would put pellets of plastic — or perhaps they were wax — into the upper chamber of this electric toy, where they would be melted into a liquid, which you would then squish down into a collection of injection molds. Once cooled — or perhaps sooner, if you were impatient and had a high tolerance for pain — you could remove the parts from the mold, snap them off the sprue, and assemble them into cars, trucks, and other machines. Then you could break them up and melt them again!

Moldm Master

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