Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Lost World

I don’t want this post to sound like a typical “in my day” rant of an aging gen-x’er, but…kids these days, am I right?  Sorry, there I go.  Let me start over…

I found this large, plastic dinosaur at an estate sale last weekend.  It's a replica of a Corythosaurus and stands 5 inches tall.






For some reason, it triggered memories of a childhood spent playing with plastic figures: dinosaurs, Cowboys & Indians, superheroes, and even farm animals.  Dinosaurs battled each other and sometimes even the cowboys and superheroes in a sort of “Valley of The Gwangi” re-enactment.  Crossovers were not uncommon and all environments were backdrops, from our outdoor flower garden to our swimming pool to the sculpted green carpeting lining our home.  Complex scenarios were created involving dialogue, plot twists, and tragedy and triumph that sometimes spanned days or even weeks.

When my kids were younger, I tried to get them interested in playing with army men and action figures, but for some reason that kind of play just didn't interest them.  They did like to play with Legos, but mainly the sets that came with instructions that left little room for deviation.  And these days, even that has given way to the mindless tapping of "Cookie Clicker" and the like on their tablets or flipping through pictures and videos on their phones.  They do like to play "Minecraft" which at least offers them some outlet of creativity, but I wonder (and worry) about the world I had that they are missing out on. Will the next generation have the creativity and ingenuity of a Jobs & Wozniak or the imaginative storytelling ability of a William Joyce or J. K. Rowling?

Of course, the answer is, "of course".  These are concerns parents have held about their children for eons.  An article in the July, 1856 issue of Scientific American raised its own concerns about the inferior pastimes of children:
A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages...chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises--not this sort of mental gladiatorship.

And if you'd like to go back further, Horace wrote in 20 B.C.:
Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more
corrupt. 
If we (and I) are honest with ourselves, while we rage about "kids these days", what we are really lamenting is our own youth and the worlds we've lost.

***Update

Thanks to reader mwschmeer, this dinosaur has been identified as a Mold-a-rama Dinosaur.  Essentially, these were vending machine dinosaurs you could buy for a quarter at various amusement venues and were molded while you waited, kind of like the squished penny machines you see today.  I assumed the opposite side of the base from the "Corythosaurus" name said the same thing, but it actually says, "Sinclair Dinosaurland".  These dinosaurs were also distributed at Sinclar gas stations during the 1960's. 

6 comments:

lady M said...

Sigh - youth is wasted on the young.

Tom said...

One of my favorite lines from "It's a Wonderful Life", Lady M.

mwschmeer said...

That, sir, is a Mold-a-Rama toy!

http://mentalfloss.com/article/55241/brief-history-mold-rama

You used to be able to get them at the St. Louis Zoo back in the 60s and 70s.

Tom said...

Cool! Thanks mwschmeer! That would make sense since I live in St. Louis! I'm sure my brother collected these too. I recall a grey Tyrannosaurus around the house when I was little.

mwschmeer said...

"Sinclair Dinosaurland" was Sinclair's exhibit at the 1965 World's Fair in New York:

https://www.sinclairoil.com/history/worlds_fair_01.html

After the fair, the dinos were offered to several museums around the country. The Corythosaurus ended up in Independence, KS, after the fair:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-3AAhurI4I

And this guy here has an entry, where he says that, yes indeed, the figurines were made in Mold-a-Rama type machine:

http://martinpowell221bcom.blogspot.com/2011/04/remembering-sinclair-dinosaurs.html


So, you might actually have something of value there!

Tom said...

Interesting. I read about the World's Fair exhibit and was wondering how the ones sold there tied in with the ones offered at the gas stations. And thanks for the links! I love stories of vintage Americana like that.

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