Growing up in Toledo, Ohio and being only 3 hours away by car, we would try to get back once a month or so, and definitely at Christmas. When we were first married, we would alternate where we would spend the night between my husband’s family home and mine. They were very different, primarily because my family had three dogs. The first two were good dogs, the third peed in our open suitcase. And on my husband.
Anyway, once we had children, we wanted to take them somewhere and learned that “Children’s Wonderland” was at the rec center. Children’s Wonderland was (and still is I believe) an animatronic and moving figures fake snow glitter blinking lights Christmas destination. There were pretend skaters, raccoons around a campfire, Santa’s house, and for real Santa!
Visiting Wonderland quickly became an annual tradition even when the kids were a little old for it.
Why did we keep going you ask? Well, the holy grail of grails was at the end of the dream adventure into wonderland. The exit lead us into a cafeteria. They had two-dollar hot dogs and chips and pop. As good as the two-dollar hot dogs were after steaming on a moving steamer for a couple hours, that alone would not have lured us into the transformed rec center with teenagers (I think I enjoyed it more than they did but they had to go with us even though they probably would have rather watched “The Price is Right” with Grandma.) No, there were treasures in that cafeteria that put the two-dollar hot dogs to shame. You see, against the walls were about ten “Mold-a-Rama” injection molding machines. For only a dollar (or so) you, yes you, could have a plastic memento of Christmas!
This was accomplished by putting money into the machine of your choice to get either the reindeer, the angel, a snowman, Santa, a train or some other Christmas symbol. Sadly (or not) none of the machines formed a baby Jesus into a plastic tchotchke.
Apparently the Mold-a-Rama machines are found at zoos and other “tourist attractions” like Children’s Wonderland. I looked into it a bit and found this alligator wrestler one at Gatorland in Florida.
The best thing about the machines is that when the item dropped out, it was HOT. And it smelled like burnt plastic. Well, duh, how did you think they made them? Christmas magic? We would toss the plastic hot potato back and forth in our hands until it cooled. If we dropped them a dent may form in the angel’s wing or omething. Then we took them home, hoping that they would hold up. One year we tried to paint them but when we put the Christmas stuff in the attic the paint all cracked. It was too much, and we never again messed with the naked beauty of injection molded cheesiness.
Similar to the crushed penny machines, these machines needed maintenance now and again. One year we happened to arrive when the owner/maintenance/injection molding cheerleader and self-appointed crusader was working on a machine. He told us all about the life of an owner/maintenance etc person and how much fun Mold-a-Rama injection machines were. Apparently his father did it before him so he grew up in the business and took it pretty seriously. He told us that he services from Ohio to Florida. He then invited us out to his van to see something.
Don’t worry! This was back in the 80s, and he didn’t offer us candy so it was OK! He opened his van where he had random injection molds representing the various nuances of Christmas in other states. One such mold was a stingray from a Florida machine.
He gave the boys the blue stingray so they could experience diverse Christmas culture because apparently stingrays pull the sled in Florida. We never saw him again, but we knew that we could rely on the very best in injection molding support. Our family continued to go to Children’s Wonderland until they closed for a few years. Now they are open with limited hours. I noticed they have a new machine…a polar bear! I might have to make a quick trip to Toledo!
I feel the need to mention the ugly sweater parties and such…I have just spent six hundred or so words being snarky. But I never snark about sweaters. I just feel like when we make fun of what people wear we are not being kind. All sweaters are beautiful in the eyes of the wearer so far be it for me to criticize what anyone wear. If someone’s vision of beauty is a little over the top for me to wear, who cares? OK I’m off the soapbox.
As for Chester, he is happy even though there is no snow yet. I’ve been giving him these fish oil and other mysterious stuff tablets designed to fight stiffness. He’s just a little stiff now, groans a little, kind of like we do when we try to get up out of a chair or off the floor after putting water in the Christmas tree stand. He still enjoys his walks and trips to Bigby’s coffee drive through where they gave him a pup cup of whipped cream.
Honestly, spoiled rotten. Have a good week and may injection mold machines pop up in your neck of the woods!