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Toy Tuesday: View-Master

February 19, 2013

Last week I kicked off a new sometimes-weekly segment where I will flashback-up a toy from the era of my childhood.

And I so creatively call it — Toy Tuesday.  Read here if you missed out on the kickoff celebration that might have included free pairs of Romper Stompers for every man, woman and child or actually just a print-yourself poster of Russell Crowe wearing white suspenders.

Today I’m honoring the simple wonder that is the View-Master.


The View-Master was magical!  Here’s how it worked.  You stuck a round card of tiny slides into the View-Master.  You looked through it.  You saw a picture.  Then you clicked the lever.  And then you saw — get this — another picture.  And another — it just kept going!  Forever.  That’s the beauty that is a circle.  It never ends.  Amen.

Our View-Master was among the usual suspects of toys that ended up lying in the corner of the basement next to the toy box.  These were the toys flung out in search of other toys.

Sadly, I can remember only two of the reels we had for our View-Master.  The rest were probably lost, damaged or confiscated after being fashioned into ViewMaster_slideChinese throwing stars.  In fact, all of them were fashioned into Chinese throwing stars, which is why they became lost or damaged.

One reel we owned was some kind of directory of the wild animals of Africa.  Perhaps a lion.  Maybe a gazelle.  I seem to recall a zebra hiding in some tall grass.  No, I think now it was the wild animals of North America.  Yes, that’s right.  Perhaps a mountain lion.  Maybe a deer.  I seem to recall a moose hiding in some tall grass.  Okay so I don’t exactly recall what animals I saw.  But I am 100% certain about the tall grass.

The other View-Master reel I remember contained scenes from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Which is why I never had to visit Disneyland as a kid.  I had the View-Master slides, you see.  My parents were really thoughtful.

View-Master, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.


78 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2013 6:05 am

    When the View-Master was new, you could buy View-Master cameras that took stereo photographs that could be fitted into the reels. Can you imagine? It never caught on and soon the View-Master was just a kid’s toy.

  2. February 19, 2013 6:25 am

    Whoa. It really IS a circle of eternity! If only they had one with various pictures of Russell Crowe in some tall grass

    My daughter actually has one with a bunch of photos of Disney Princesses. She got it for Christmas, said “What am I supposed to do with this?” Looked inside, then threw it off to the side with a huff. Kids today. They just don’t know how to appreciate a good pointless toy anymore.

  3. February 19, 2013 6:31 am

    I always envied the kids who had View-Masters. I never did. Jealous. So jealous. I’d go in doctor’s offices and stare in wonder at the one crumpled reel they had and wish I could take it and all of its sick kid germs home with me.

    I rather like Darla’s idea of Russell Crowe in some tall grass. That would more than make up for all of my years of being deprived. ;)

    • February 24, 2013 2:33 pm

      I’m in the boat with muddledmom – not a previous owner of Viewmaster – that was a cool kids thing… I’m LOVING this new segment.

      • March 5, 2013 1:30 pm

        Santa Claus made an unfortunate mistake when he put me on the cool kids wish list. Somewhere in the world that Christmas, “Chaz” was probably wondering where his View-Master was.

      • March 7, 2013 9:18 am

        You’re too funny!

      • March 24, 2013 8:58 pm

        Aw, shucks.

    • March 5, 2013 1:28 pm

      I don’t know how the animals of the plains/desert/mountains would feel about Russell Crowe’s white suspenders.

  4. February 19, 2013 6:57 am

    Still have one in the basement. I know. I’m a dork.

  5. February 19, 2013 7:15 am

    I always kept one eye closed. I didn’t ‘get’ the 3D thing. To think of the epic battles from Star Trek II in 3D, or the adventures of Benji – man! I missed out on a whole dimension of fun!

    • March 5, 2013 1:31 pm

      The Adventures of Benji in 3-D? That scares me. I really don’t want to see the 3-D version of how Tiffany got knocked up.

  6. February 19, 2013 8:08 am

    I bought one for my kids with Toy Story and some other stuff. It was about as big of a hit as you’d imagine. Actually, just the other day my youngest was walking around with the view-master that he dug up from somewhere, but without any disks. When I asked what he was doing, he told me he was taking pictures. And then he proceeded to pretend it was a camera, making a “click” noise every time he pushed down the lever and pointed it at someone for a picture. Probably as good a use as just looking at silly pictures I suppose. Isn’t imagination wonderful?

    • March 5, 2013 1:35 pm

      I can’t believe he could even recognize it as a camera. He must’ve seen what one looked like on a PBS-featured archaeology dig.

  7. February 19, 2013 8:17 am

    I remember my Mary Poppin’s view master mastery. It was masterful.

    • March 5, 2013 1:36 pm

      I wonder if the Banks kids looked as pasty in slides as they do in film.

  8. Emily Liston permalink
    February 19, 2013 8:32 am

    I think we had some Magic Kingdom reel, and Winnie the Pooh, but can’t be certain. I loved to read the teeny tiny captions in the little window between the eye holes. Good times, man.

    • March 5, 2013 1:37 pm

      It’s a wonder View-Master didn’t create a generation of cross-eyed children.

  9. February 19, 2013 9:18 am

    I loved my View Master. Seemed all of the reels were claymation movies like your picture. Is that Pirates of the Caribbean? I didn’t remember a U-boat in that story.

    • March 5, 2013 1:41 pm

      The jury here seems divided on whether the View-Master was a hit or a miss or something that was thrown at them by a sibling and hit them or missed them.

  10. February 19, 2013 9:18 am

    I wish I could turn my blog into a series of View Master cards. Yes. It’s good to have goals.


    • March 5, 2013 1:43 pm

      Ooh, ooh! Best business card ever! Print yourself on View-Master cards! I think my life’s path has just been paved today.

  11. February 19, 2013 9:51 am

    I think I had the creepy animatronic pirate one too. And I’m sure I had the random wild animal safari grass one. And who knows what else. I remember dozens and dozens of those stupid things. And we’d sit there forever clicking through the slides. Why. Then again, it’s not any more pointless than some of the games they play on the Wii. And it’s cheaper!

    • March 5, 2013 1:45 pm

      I had so much fun with my View-Master that I hardly remembered I wasn’t actually having fun.

  12. February 19, 2013 10:11 am

    I had a babysitter who had a view master. I played with it for about 5 minutes and wondered what the point was.

    My mother-in-law bought one of these things for one or the other of my two older kids. It was abandoned in about 20 seconds. I didn’t blame them. Some things are too good for us, I suppose.

    • March 5, 2013 1:47 pm

      The last line of your comment should be embroidered on a pillow. View-Master, we didn’t deserve you.

  13. February 19, 2013 10:13 am

    I love it! Looking through the view master was like running away for a little bit.

    • March 5, 2013 1:48 pm

      Exactly. Running away minus the bag-packing and joining the circus part.

  14. transformednonconformist permalink
    February 19, 2013 10:20 am

    We had one and tons of the discs. It seemed new one showed up at every birthday and holiday. We had discs for every movie that came out in theaters.

    Dolly Parton looked great on the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas reels.

    • March 5, 2013 1:51 pm

      No fair. Okay, now you’re just bragging. If you tell me you owned The Jerk on a View-Master disc, I’m going to retroactively hold it against you.

  15. February 19, 2013 10:29 am

    I actually loved my Viewmaster as a kid. So much so, one year for Christmas I got the TALKING Viewmaster! It was epic! Or at least until the batteries started to go, and then the talking would get slow and creepy. I just remember wishing they had Star Wars reels. Maybe they did, they just didn’t sell them in rural Iowa. I still had fun with it though.

    • March 5, 2013 1:55 pm

      I remember a Teddy Ruxpin who got creepy like that once. In general, most talking toys will at some point go bad, begin talking creepy and try to smother you with a pillow while you sleep.

      • March 5, 2013 2:05 pm

        The creepiest was a Big Bird doll my daughter had as a kid. The eyes had some kind of light sensor so when you covered them and uncovered them again, he’d say “Peek-a-Boo!” When the batteries started to go, he would just randomly start saying “Peek-a-Boo!” from anywhere in the house with no warning or provocation. Have THAT when you’re alone at night. *shudder*

      • March 5, 2013 2:06 pm

        I just now wet my pants.

  16. February 19, 2013 10:50 am

    I loooooved viewmaster. I never knew about the deluxe model.

    It’s weird because I remember it so vividly, yet – kind of like you say – as soon as I try to say what actual slides I had, I got nothin’.

    • March 5, 2013 1:57 pm

      Interesting how we all remember the contraption itself but not so much the slides. It’s as if we might’ve been just as happy with an empty View-Master with nothing to view.

  17. February 19, 2013 12:07 pm

    Our first View Master had Adam West Batman (some Catwoman episode) and Mammoth Cave National Park. They really had a good range of subjects.

    • March 5, 2013 1:59 pm

      Yes! I remember the Batman one rather well now that you mention it.

  18. February 19, 2013 1:58 pm

    The Viewmaster really was magical! The only reel I can remember is The Incredible Hulk. There was a lot of green going on there and green was my favorite color.

  19. denverkris permalink
    February 19, 2013 2:59 pm

    Reblogged this on DenverKris and commented:
    I thoroughly enjoyed mine when I was a kid :). I used to hate it when my little sisters would mess up the “discs”!

  20. February 19, 2013 3:45 pm

    I loved my common Viewmaster, but I also had a Talking Viewmaster that was about a foot high and red, and you had to depress the large button with two fingers just to hear it croak out the audio on what sounded like a warped record. “The zebra is well-camouflaged on the African plain…”

    • March 5, 2013 2:04 pm

      Audio/View-Master — seems like being on one of those really boring tour bus rides with the guide who talks through his nose.

  21. February 19, 2013 4:34 pm

    I remember our View-Master, but what I remember most about it wasn’t its colorful pictures on an endless loop. I remember my brother throwing it at me in the back of my mom’s station wagon. The small scar on my forehead helps me remember the 3 stitches it took to close the gash.

    • March 5, 2013 2:08 pm

      I’m surprised the toy companies never recognized that any toy weighing more than 10 grams will eventually be used as a bludgeoning device.

  22. February 19, 2013 6:00 pm

    I put a viewmaster of my Christmas list last year. Still waiting. But, I did find a site where you can make your own reels. Completely awesome. I think ‘Secret Santa’ will have to get that for herself next year. :)

    • March 5, 2013 2:10 pm

      I thank you for this breaking news. I cannot wait to make my gravatar photo into a 3-D View-Master disc.

  23. February 19, 2013 6:44 pm

    Wow! You’ve got a regular movement going here.

    I remember having a viewmaster. I have a vague memory of hiding in the closet with a flashlight looking through it.

    I’ve come out of the closet since.

    • March 5, 2013 2:12 pm

      I’m trying to lead a cult. I think you’ll see by my photo that I have a hypnotic personality.

      There’s no reason to hide away that kind of awesomeness. We’re all friends here.

  24. February 19, 2013 7:50 pm

    I didn’t have a View Master. Therapy starts next week, after the next toy you profile that I didn’t have, either.

    • March 5, 2013 2:14 pm

      Soon I will profile “lumps of coal” (and other things Elyse got from Santa). I promise I’ll find a way to incorporate your childhood.

      • March 5, 2013 4:06 pm

        You will be out of material way too fast. For more topics, how about “toys elyse stole as a child.”

  25. February 19, 2013 7:52 pm

    I LOVED our Viewmaster like whoa. I felt that it was a “fancy” toy, “fancy” in that instead of watching Grape Ape on the TV, I could just look at pictures of him on the Viewmaster. What an invention.

    • March 5, 2013 2:16 pm

      Cartoons on TV were slightly better. It’s amazing how the movement of the images is what makes them more fun. If you would’ve tried running while looking through your View-Master, it’d be a pretty close call.

  26. February 19, 2013 8:34 pm

    It was probably in 1955 that I Viewmastered the wonders of Yellowstone Nat’l Park in my grandma’s parlor. The county museum in one of Angie’s home towns has an ancestor of the Viewmaster (a stereopticon) on display.
    It looks like the one here:

    According to this web site “Queen Victoria took a fancy to the stereoscope at the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851”
    I personally saw her fawning over that one.

    • March 5, 2013 2:29 pm

      My grandfather had one of these on his bookshelf. I do love that View-Masters have such a fancy-schmancy scientific name. It makes me feel, um, smart.

  27. February 19, 2013 8:40 pm

    One of the most boring toys ever invented. More boring that the guy that you could draw a beard on with magnetized little black shards.

    • March 5, 2013 2:26 pm

      I thank you for reminding me of the bald man with the hair clippings toy. I always wondered if there was more to it than that.

  28. Emily permalink
    February 19, 2013 10:10 pm

    I had a red View-Master, just like the one in the picture, with three massive Ziploc freezer bags full of Sesame Street slides. It was my favourite toy EVER as a child. :)

    • March 5, 2013 2:23 pm

      For whatever reason, I was hoping you’d go on to say that you stored them in a freezer. You know, to help preserve them.

  29. February 20, 2013 7:54 am

    Ah. I enjoyed many a majestic safari with my View-Master. All the wilderness, just right there in my eyes.

    • March 5, 2013 2:21 pm

      You could tell people you spent your childhood in Africa and you wouldn’t be lying. That’s a beautiful thing.

  30. February 21, 2013 6:53 am

    I had, like, some nature… I think maybe like the grand canyon and desert mesas or something. Looking at it was cool, but not as cool as going “wow, a picture! Daddy, look! Look!” and forcing my parents to look at it forever.

    • March 5, 2013 2:20 pm

      With the invention of the View-Master, it’s a wonder that any of us ever took vacations again. Or went outside.

  31. February 22, 2013 9:54 am

    I’d be curious to know what would happen if a parent gave that to their kid as a gift one year. What would they think of it? But I do remember it, what adventures! :)

  32. April 10, 2013 11:47 am

    Reblogged this on naseer.mohamed.

  33. June 27, 2013 7:41 am

    I don’t know what we were thinking. We bought our kids one with several pretty cool reels thinking it would be hours of fun and fighting in the car, but it just doesn’t compete with toys of “today”. Such a shame. My first one was from a Disney trip in the late 70’s. I used it whenever I needed to dream about going back to Disney one day, which we never did. Better than a photo album.


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