Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Celebrating the 1960s: Toys

link Staff photo: Tony Bullocks

Editor’s note: This decade is the 50th anniversary of the 1960s. We’ve asked area residents to list some of their memories.

Trademarked in 1962, Mattel’s Vac-U-Form allowed children in the 1960s to melt a piece of plastic and mold it into a whole new toy: A car, a boat, a dog, a house or a turtle, to name a few creations.

Because of its hot plate, the Vac-U-Form would never be sold as a children’s toy today; but for Clovis Community College Cultural Arts Director Christy Mendoza, the toy was a favorite of hers growing up in the 60s.

In fact, she had more than one oven-like toy.

“I began with one oven. Then I had two, and eventually I obtained another vacuum-type toy maker where you put in these plastic sheets and pressed down until it cooked the new shape,” she said.

She would make 3-inch Tarzans with a Thingmaker — a melt-plastic-over-a-hot-plate toy that was part of the Vac-U-Form set.

The Thingmaker involved using a liquid substance called “Plastigoop” and heating it over an open, electric hot plate oven.

Once hot, Plastigoop, which came in various colors, was then molded into a rubbery shape.

“You cooked (the Tarzans) until they were nice and rubbery,” Mendoza said. “Tarzan was my favorite because he wore less clothes so there was less to paint.

“I envisioned a whole army of these little naked men. I could paint them any color I wanted. ... My sister says I was quite obsessed with the cooking.”

The Thingmaker was never meant to be hers; she said she stole the contraption from a sibling, who received it as a gift.

“I took it over because it was too cool,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza’s favorite toys from the 1960s include:

1. Mattel’s Vac-U-Form (1962)

2. Mattel’s Creepy Crawlers (also known as Thingmaker) (1963)

3. A space helmet (”anything to do with space exploration was fun,” Mendoza said).

4. A rubber astronaut (”I think his name was Major Matt Mason”) (Mason was introduced in 1966).

5. Projectile-type toys

6. Action comics featuring Superman, Supergirl and Wonder Woman; as well as Classics Illustrated comic books. Mendoza said she still has these.