Boomers Collected Classic Monster Models

The 1950s and ’60s saw the heyday of model building in the U.S., and Mister Boomer was, like so many boomer boys, in the middle of it. Having got the model-building bug from his brother, Mister B built model kits for airplanes, ships and cars of all types. Yet the models he most treasured long after they were fully assembled and painted were his monster models collection.

Model kits have been around for generations, but before the war they were primarily composed of balsa wood, cloth, paper and metal. After the war, plastics fueled the model craze because they could be easily molded into any shape and were inexpensive to make. Consequently, several companies vied for boomer boys’ attention, each specializing in their own genre. The Aurora Plastics Company entered the market with plastic figurines in 1950. The company was interested in gaining a higher percentage of the burgeoning model market against stiff competition from the likes of industry giants Revell and others, and in 1956 they found a way; that year, Universal Pictures released its classic monster movies for television broadcasts. The company acquired the rights to make models of the classic monsters that had been scaring people on the silver screen for twenty years. Boomers were already feasting on a movie monster and sci-fi craze throughout the 1950s, so Aurora had an audience ready to buy what they were offering.

In 1961, the first Aurora monster model — the Frankenstein Monster — rolled off the production line and into the boomer zeitgeist. The model was an immediate success and sold as fast as Aurora could make them. In fact, the models sold so quickly that the company had to keep production going 24 hours a day. At its peak, Aurora was making 8,000 Frankenstein Monster kits a day, each sold for 98¢.

The prospect of a Frankenstein Monster kit for just under a dollar opened up the market for boomer boys, including Mister Boomer. After the commercial success of the Frankenstein Monster, Aurora developed an additional 12 kits known as the Aurora Monster 13:
1962: Dracula and The Wolf Man
1963: The Mummy, The Creature (from the Black Lagoon), and The Phantom of the Opera
1964: The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde, King Kong, and Godzilla

The Salem Witch and The Bride of Frankenstein were also sold in 1964, followed in 1966 by The Forgotten Prisoner of Castel-Maré, to complete the monster set. Technically, the Forgotten Prisoner wasn’t a movie monster, but it represented a collaboration between Aurora and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

Mister Boomer collected ten of the classic movie monster kits, including Frankenstein, Dracula, Mummy, The Creature, Wolf Man, The Phantom of the Opera, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde, King Kong, and Godzilla. Plus, he added Superman and the Chamber of Horrors Guillotine, both released in 1964. The affordable price meant he could buy them himself from his savings, but most often he asked for specific ones for Christmas. After all, he would need to buy glue and little bottles of Testor’s enamel paint to finish the projects.

Mister B spent hours assembling the pieces and painting them. He set up an entire wall shelf in his bedroom to house his collection, removing Superman from his base and suspending him in flight by a string. The guillotine was especially impressive since it actually chopped off the head of the condemned man. And painting the blood and guts of the prisoner mounted behind bars on the Phantom of the Opera base was satisfyingly creepy.

In the 1980s, Mister B paid a visit to his old homestead, only to discover, like so many boomer boys before him, that his mother had sold every model — monsters, cars, airplanes and ships — at a yard sale. Is it any wonder that many boomers are buying the kits again in their golden years? So far, Mister B has resisted.

Did you build these classic monster models, boomers?

Boomers Played Pick Up Sticks

It’s funny how, as we age, memories from decades ago are triggered by everything from a smell, circumstance or in this case for Mister Boomer, a mundane act. Recently, while Mister B was emptying the dishwasher and putting away the flatware, he pulled the knives from the drawer in the door and flashed back to playing pick up sticks with his sister more than fifty years ago.

Boomer Sister loved games of all types, from card games to board games, skill games to games of chance. Inevitably, she would receive games for Christmas, and would constantly attempt to rope the family into playing the games with her. She was instrumental in getting the family to gather around Candy Land, Monopoly, the Game of Life, Mousetrap, dominoes, checkers, Old Maid, Uno, Yahtzee and more. One of the games she enjoyed in her early years was pick up sticks.

Pick up sticks is an extremely old game known by many names in different cultures. It has been called Mikado, Jackstraw and Spillkins, among other labels. Most historians trace its origins back to 12th century China, where sticks of ivory or bone were used to make predictions that were centered around one stick of a different color that was called the Emperor stick. No one knows for sure when or how it became a game for adults and children, but the simplicity of it may have had something to do with the spread through Asia to Japan. It is thought it spread to Native Americans over the Bering Strait, around the same time it was moving through Asia into India, and then Europe. Native Americans taught the game to English colonists.

Somewhere along the line, the sticks were made of wood instead of bone or ivory, making it much more portable and affordable for average gamers. Native Americans used wheat straws in their version. In each, however, the sticks were designated — usually by color — as having different points when they were retrieved. The highest-point value was associated with the Emperor stick, which was usually blue. In several countries that knew the game as Mikado, the name comes from the translation of the name as “emperor,” harkening back to its origins.

The general consensus is the modern-day version of the game came from Hungary to the U.S. in the 1930s. The name we know — pick up sticks — is thought to have been taken from the children’s nursery rhyme:

One, two, buckle my shoe
Three, four, shut the door
Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, a big fat hen

Boomer Sister usually played the game on the living room floor, which was carpeted with the sculpted broadloom of the day. This meant an uneven surface, increasing the difficulty level of removing a modern-age plastic stick without disturbing others. It was this scene that Mister B flashed back on, he and his sister stretched out on the carpeting, rising only to take their turn at dropping the sticks.

Did you play pick up sticks, boomers?