Friday, July 8, 2011

Remember the View-Master?

"Moooom, I'm bored".  There's nothing to do!"  How many times did you utter that phrase growing up?  I rarely got bored as a kid (AND as adult, thankfully!) but there were times when there was either no one to play with (and I was sick of my sister) or it was a rainy summer day or some such.

These are the times my mom would tell us to "Go find something to do".  This is when Jen and I would bust out those toys we hadn't played with since March.  Sometimes, that meant the View-Master.  

Did you have a View-Master growing up?  Chances are, you did.  Being a child of the Seventies (I was born in 1968) our slides consisted mainly of Disney characters, and I do recall one of "Twas the Night Before Christmas".  This wasn't always the case, though!

The View-Master was formally introduced at the New York World's Fair in 1939.  According to Wikipedia, the main slide subjects in the beginning were of Carlsbad Caverns and the Grand Canyon.  The device was initially meant to be an alternative to the scenic postcard.  These original models were made of Bakelite - how cool is that?  They were also used during wartime for personnel training.

The View-Master as most of us know it only came to be in the Sixties.  Over that next decade is when production of the scenic disks slowed in favor of the aforementioned kid-friendly disks, like I had.  Another thing I discovered when researching the View-Master is that 1977 is a benchmark year for collectors - apparently the film used in the disks after this year was of rather poor quality and the images would turn red over time.  Yep!  They sure did!  That's what happened to mine and my friends'!

If you read further into the Wiki entry you'll find that the 80s and 90s weren't so kind to the View-Master.  They finally ceased production of the scenic disks in 2008 but you can still buy Discovery disks and others.  View-Master is now owned by the Fisher-Price division of Mattel, after it was bought and sold about four times during these decades.  Personally, I can't believe it still exists at all, what with all of the electronic toys vying for kids' attentions!  If a Nintendo DS and a View-Master were put in front of an 8 year-old, which one do you think he or she would choose?  I suppose there's always the Amish market.  :D

Ah, but the innocence and wonder of the mid-century still holds true in these lovely brochures! :D  Aren't they wonderful?  It makes me happy to think that all it took to hold a kid's attention in 1959 was a battery-less plastic toy with interchangeable disks.

I have only done one piece of art featuring the View-Master, but I modestly admit it's one of my favorites that I've ever done.  It's also good to know that if we ever have some sort of electronics meltdown that there'll be kids' toys that are still usable.  Hooray for low-tech!


  1. Mel! This is wonderful. I didn't have a ViewMaster when I was young. I wanted one, but just didn't get one. Then I was diagnosed with a lazy eye and the eye doctor prescribed one! Imagine! He gave me exercises so that I could strengthen my near and far sight and it worked! I didn't need glasses! Thanks for the story. You're amazing!

  2. Viewermasters were COOL. But I loved this even more:

  3. Thank you so much, Annie! I love the View-Master because it's one of those formerly ubiquitious toys that I fear will be lost to the ages. Time marches on, I guess! :D I'm glad you had such a fantastic experience with it - surely it helped shape your life! :D

  4. WOW! Chris, I had TOTALLY forgotten about that F-P movie viewer! I really wanted one of those. I think my friend down the block had one, hence the envy. :D Thanks for the nostalgia trip! :D