Monday, December 16, 2013

Mascon Toy Co. article – Oct. 28, 1968 Part 1

Christmas is coming, and kids are naturally thinking of the toys that Santa Claus will bring.

But did you know that for decades, many of the toys that Santa brought – at least those that weren't manufactured by his elves at his shop at the North Pole – were made right here in Lorain? That's right, for many years The Mascon Toy Company was located in Lorain, Ohio. 
Here's a great article written by Bob Cotleur explaining it all. It ran in The Journal on October 28, 1968. It's kind of long, so I'l present it in two parts (and buy meself some time to prepare some other seasonal blog posts!)

The Mascon Toy Co.
Fred Donnell: He Makes Toys – Part 1
Staff Writer
FRED DONNELL, Lorain toymaker
"I PLAYED GOLF for three years, but gave it up. It's too frustrating for a seven-year-old mentality and if you don't have that seven-year-old mentality in my business, you're out of business."
The speaker is not a seven-year-old. His name is Fred L. Donnell and he's a toymaker. Since Jan., 1963, he has been president of Mascon Toy Co., division of Masco Corp., Detroit, and the largest single maker of toys for pre-schooler's in the nation.
The speaker is serious.
He is also soft-spoken, darkly handsome and has the affection for toys one usually associates with a man and his dog, or a woman and her makeup. He lives toys, although he got into the business 24 years ago "as a toy salesman for a jobber. At the beginning it was just a job. But over the years I became infatuated."
HE HAS A WALL library of toys in his office. As he talks about each, he takes it from the shelf and makes it work. You get the feeling you'd like to play with each yourself. The fascination creates that urge and suddenly you aren't as old as you think.
"We try to build time-occupancy into our toys. Mother buys the toy hoping she can get enough time to wash the dishes, mop the floors or get supper started. If you capture that (time occupancy) you've triggered the child's imagination."
"Toys aren't 'educational'. That's a lot of bunk, it takes three to make a toy educational: the tot, the toy and mother or grandfather. But a toy for pre-schoolers must stimulate imagination, create experience. If the challenge is too great, it's bad. Give a four-year-old an electric train and he'll wind it up with a kick. He's frustrated. He can't make it work."
Donnell picked up a stubby airplane complete with a pilot. He "zoomed it through the air with appropriate sound effects.
The toy had a string. He put it on the desk and pulled it. The oversize propellor went 'round and 'round. You could see what he meant.
"We built this plane with stubby wings, a fat body, moving parts and a pilot. Look again and see what else it is. It is a racer. The pilot is the child, or his daddy. The plane gets a name as well as the pilot. That takes imagination, but the child has it."
HE SHOWED an ice cream vendor's truck. Three oversized popsicles were stuck in the truck body. [Blogger's note: That's the toy shown in the black and white photo.] Each would only fit in its own slot. He said it was a coordinate toy, one that a child could figure out while he was selling mom or dad an ice cream bar or popsicle.
"We build these toys of 'Rigital' plastic. It's a special plastic and vastly different than what the industry offered originally many years ago."
He threw a toy hard against the floor. It bounced, fell back and waited to be picked up.
"That's the reason we offer an unconditional guarantee against the toy breaking for a full year," he said. "And we'll replace the toy even if the child leaves it under the rear wheel of the family's station wagon."
I'll post the other half of this article tomorrow. I think it's pretty fascinating; I had no idea that toy manufacturers put so much thought into the products they made.

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