Retro Coin Op Synopsis
Forget about buying pre-made souvenirs. In the future (and by “the future,” we mean “the 1950’s”), true souvenir connoisseurs would make their own, courtesy of an ingenious device with an unfortunate title: Mold-A-Rama.
The freakishly cool-looking Mold-A-Rama machine was invented in the mid-50’s by a man (nay, a legend) named Tike Miller. The idea was this: injection molding that you could watch from start to finish, winding up with a groovy plastic figurine, all for a bit of chump change. A pipe shot liquid hot polyethylene up into the mold, while a second pipe blew a stream of air into the mold’s inside, keeping the melted plastic stuck to the molded shape and leaving it hollow on the inside. Antifreeze pumped through colored hoses cooled the mold down, leaving it slightly warm and still funky-smelling as it dropped down the chute and into your loving arms. All the while, gauges and colored lights kept you up-to-date on what was going on inside the machine, and a light-up timer let you know how much longer you had to wait until that molded gorilla was yours.
Sure, it was nice to have the cheap souvenir, but for most of us, at least half the fun was watching your mold be made. It was a memorable experience for at least three of the senses: the sight of the working machinery through its plastic bubble shell, the smell of the liquefied plastic, and the touch of your still-steaming new toy (the sound was nothing to write home about, and tasting your plastic sculpture was purely optional).
Mold-A-Rama thrived at tourist hot spots like zoos, museums and theme parks. You were more than likely on vacation, after all, and as long as mom and dad were already shelling out major cash for ludicrously overpriced food, you might as well hit them up for a quarter to make your own plastic giraffe, submarine or Frankenstein’s Monster.
Literally dozens of Mold-A-Rama designs were pressed into service over the decades, from zoo animals to steam trains to Abraham Lincoln to the Hollywood Bowl. The Mold-A-Rama brand changed hands over the years, and the novelty eventually wore off for many. Despite the downturn, Mold-A-Rama machines can still be found in various locales (they now go by “Mold-A-Matic”), still demonstrating the wonders of injection-molded plastic trinkets.