You heard that right.
A bright red, completely retro, View-Master.
Last June (as in 2014), my Aunt June gifted two of these (plus a number of reels) to my kids, along with a selection of other previously loved toys and clothes.
I suspect they belonged first to my cousins – and then maybe one of their kids – as some of the reels had a 1958 copyright (like Heidi), then there were a bunch from the 1970s-80s, followed by some later Disney additions including 1989’s The Little Mermaid and the 1996 remake of 101 Dalmatians.
The View-Masters were pretty much ignored until one was pulled out of the toy box last week by my youngest.
Thus taking centre stage in the fight for whatever it was the other one was playing with at breakfast.
I quickly located the other View-Master.
And they were mesmerized.
They’ve spent the last week happily playing with them and putting all the Disney and Flintstone-themed reels in to watch.
It reminded me of one of the things I love about parenting: re-discovering the toys I loved as a kid as my kids discover them.
So I’m starting a blog series where I’m going to feature some of the toys I loved that my kids have also discovered.
This one is one of my eldest’s favourite Barbies from the Dolly Entourage.
For any Barbie fans in the house, it’s Kristyn from Barbie in the Pink Shoes (2013).
My eldest picked her out special for the blog series. We’ve posed her against an arts and crafts selection from last school year as a back-drop. My husband, the photographer, helped stage the photo.
So Kristyn and our whole family (well, except my youngest, who was busy playing with the View-Master) is proud to bring you our first featured toy in the series (which I fortunately don’t need to wrestle away from the youngest because we have two):
So in case the copy-write on the reels I have here wasn’t indication enough, the Internet quickly informed me that the View-Master had a long history before I ever discovered it as a child in the early 1980s.
Created in 1939, four years after Kodachrome color film made the use of small high-quality photographic color images practical, it wasn’t even originally targeted at kids. Instead, tourist attraction and travel views predominated early reels.
Now let me introduce Edwin Eugene Mayer, who, after serving in World War I, worked as a pharmacist in Portland, Oregon, where he built up a photography finishing business.
In 1919, he bought into Sawyer’s Photo Finishing Service with his family, and incorporated the business in about 1926.
Sawyer’s was the USA’s largest producer of scenic postcards in the 1920s, also producing albums and greeting cards.
As for the View-Master, it came into being after Mayer and business partner Harold Graves met with William Gruber, an organ maker and an avid photographer, in 1938. Mayer and Gruber had both developed devices for viewing stereo images, but Gruber had the idea of updating the device by using the new Kodachrome 16-mm color film.
The View-Master was introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and was intended as an alternative to the scenic postcard.
In 1951, Sawyer’s purchased Tru-Vue, the main competitor of View-Master, which gave them licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios, and thus started to produce numerous reels featuring Disney characters. In 1966, Sawyer’s was acquired by the General Aniline & Film (GAF). Under GAF’s ownership, television series were also featured, such as Doctor Who, Star Trek and the Beverly Hillbillies.
The View-Master is made today by Mattel’s Fisher-Price division. Throughout the years, there have been some 25 different viewer models, thousands of titles, and 1.5 billion copies of reels. However, the same basic design has remained, ensuring that every reel will work in every model.
And this, dear readers, is where I thought the story ended.
Until I read that in October 2015, Mattel will be releasing the View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer. You will be able to download an app, slide your smart phone into the viewer and “launch yourself through time and space.”
Which, regardless of what you think about that (but let me know!), is actually an even better way to end my first Everything Old is New Again post.
PS: If you are more comfortable with View-Master of old(er), might I suggest a surf on Pinterest?
You can do it while listening to this Paul Simon song I’ve been humming since I hit the musical key word:
What toys are your kids playing with that you loved as a child? Let me know!