Toys of the Past: Funny sounds, smiling faces, fun golf

Some of the most fascinating stuff in the Effie Hopkins collection is the junk, the ephemera that I’m sure she didn’t give more than a second thought when she was tossing it in the box.

Effie, you may recall, was a Pleasant View farmer’s wife who saved newspaper clippings. About 6 cubic feet of her collected clips were donated to Union Station and I’ve spent the last two years sorting, pondering, and enjoying.

In addition to news clips of current events, politicians, movie stars and the like, Effie saved a few of the random things that most folks toss as the years go by.

Really, who needs this junk?

We do. Mundane stuff from the past is most interesting today because it is usually what gets tossed.

Among the masses of clips I found these three items: A picture, a golf score card, and a Hostess Bread ad with a piece of chain?

Yeah, weird.

The golf card is easy. Apparently on aug. 29, 1962, someone played a round of miniature golf at Lagoon. The course was a fixture but was taken out in 2009 to make way for one of the new high-adventure rides the park leans towards these days. Why play golf when you can be turned upside down 200 feet in the air?

The names of the holes are fun: Tee off, Billiard Shot, Flower Hole and, of course, the Loop-the-Loop guaranteed to lose your ball in the pond nearby.

Who was playing? the initials of the players don’t help. Effie had a son, Donald, so maybe that’s the D, but who was B? Her daughter was Virgie.

Then there’s this picture with two women. Can we assume that the older woman is Effie? I’d like to.

According to the back, the picture was taken at Lagoon on June 10, 1961, so visiting the amusement park was probably an annual event for the Hopkins clan. Effie died in 1965.  I wonder if that is her daughter next to her with the classic 50s and 60s pearl choker.

The back of the picture says it was taken by a Photomatic machine, produced by the International Mutascope Corporation. A mutascope was a  type of movie picture viewer that showed you a “movie” by flipping through cards as you turned a crank, and the Mutascope Corporation manufactured a lot of arcade machines of various types. You can read more about them here (click.) 

A Photomatic

These Photomatics were the Polaroid of their day. You could see them in stores, bus stations and like. When my kids were small I took them to K-Mart, which had one, along with a stack of quarters and have four or five strips of photos of each of us made. All framed, they made a funky collage.

Modern photo booths are digital. The Photomatic machines used chemistry to produce actual photographic prints after you sat down and watched the light flash at you four times. The process took a couple minutes to complete before your prints dropped out. The machine delivered the finished print in a cheap metal frame (this one is rusting) so the mechanics inside must have been pretty interesting.

Finally is this Swiss Warbler bird call.

I remember these things being sold at novelty shops and off of racks of cheap toys at the grocery store.

Considering the age of this one, and obvious rust, I’m a little leery of trying it, but I did find a  Youtube video (click) of someone allegedly making one work. The instructions say to balance it against the roof of your mouth with your tongue. I have a vague memory of trying one as a child and succeeding only in spitting it out as I blew.

This one was part of the post-war stream of cheap junk produced in Japan and flooding American drug store toy shelves until the Japanese got smart and started producing high tech computers, cameras and cars.