Altamont, Feb. 27, 2014
Owning a small business is a lot of hard work. If the proprietors like what they are doing they will make it seem more like fun than work. In our case, it was a combination of both. We worked hard and had fun doing our work. When Jim, my husband, and I had the doll house and miniature store on Maple Ave. we spent many hours reading about new items to sell. We were constantly changing the displays and preparing to teach classes about making miniatures and dollhouses.
There were several side benefits about the business. Of course, we met many wonderful people who shared our love for the small world. Whenever we went to a museum we were able to see small items that great artists made for wealthy collectors.
The idea of miniature houses and furnishings goes back to royal families who had castles made and furnished with all of the beauty and opulence they were accustomed to having around their home.
Today, many dollhouses are made of plastic or wood for young children and are designed for play rather than for collectors. The Barbie Doll House is probably the best example that I can think of in that category. They are toys meant to be played with, not collected.
In order to keep up with the trade and watching to see what was new and coming in the following months, Jim and I would go to New York City to the annual toy fair. This is a show of toys by manufacturers from all over the world. Although we looked forward to the show we knew that it was going to be four days of walking on cement floors and trying to evaluate the qualities of different, yet similar, items.
The toy district is on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The major toy distributors have offices in there and their showrooms are nearby. Every floor of the building has toy offices with an aerial walkway to the next building for another four floors of offices.
Manufacturers and distributors who do not have offices in the toy building purchase display space in the coliseum or in one of two nearby hotels. You can understand why we were worn out after the show was over.
One of the offices we visited belonged to a new toy manufacturer. It had nothing to do with miniatures, but we had heard it was a wonderful new business building toys for children. The building blocks were called Legos. Legos, now a popular line of construction toys, is manufactured by The Lego Group, a company based in Billund, Denmark.
When we entered their showroom we had the breath taken out of us immediately. There was a miniature replica of New York City with all of its tall buildings waiting for us to walk among them. The streets, buildings and sign, were all built out of Legos. Because they were just being introduced, they consisted of multi colored, interlocking plastic blocks that could be taken apart and the pieces used to make other objects.
Like so many products, including toys, the idea started small and has grown very large. Lego began manufacturing interlocking toy bricks in 1949. Since then a global Lego sub-culture has developed, supporting movies, games, competitions, and six theme amusement parks. As of 2013, around 560 billion Lego parts had been produced.
The company’s product started with colorful interlocking plastic bricks and has added an accompanying array of gears, mini-figures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.
The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen who was born in April 1891. He was a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932.
In 1934, his company came to be called Lego, from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means play well. In 1949 Lego began producing, among other new products, an early version of the now famous interlocking bricks, calling them Automatic Binding Bricks.
The Lego Group’s motto is det bedste er ikke for godt which means roughly only the best is the best (more literally “the best is never too good”). This motto was created by Ole Kirk to encourage his employees never to skimp on quality, a value he believed in strongly.
The motto is still used within the company today. The Lego Group’s product line, introduced in 1969, is a range of simple blocks, which measure twice the width, height and depth of standard Lego blocks, and are aimed at younger children.
In 1978, Lego produced the first mini-figures, which have since become a staple in most sets. New elements are often released along with new sets. There are also Lego sets designed to appeal to young girls.
In May 2013, the largest model ever created was displayed in New York, made of over 5 million bricks; at 1- to 1-inch scale model of an X-Wing. Since the 1960s, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets with a variety of themes, including town and city, space, robots, pirates, trains, Vikings, castles, dinosaurs, undersea exploration, and wild west.
The Lego range has expanded to encompass accessory motors, gears, lights, sensors, and cameras designed to be used with Lego components. The motors, battery packs, lights and switches are sold under the name Power Functions. The Technic line uses newer types of interlocking connections that are still compatible with the older brick type connections. The Technic line can often be motorized with Power Functions.
As accustomed as I was to the name I was caught off guard when I saw a story entitled, Nature connects with blocks. A New York artist, Sean Kenney, assembled a traveling exhibition of 27 larger than life nature inspired sculptures. He used the Lego bricks to create a hummingbird sipping the nectar from a flower; a monarch butterfly; a red rose; a yellow and black bumble bee, a fox stalking a rabbit; a goldfish jumping in the water in the pond and other beautiful recreations of nature. The hummingbird and flower was eight-feet tall, the flower was seven-feet tall and the butterfly was five-feet across. Kenney used as many as 95,000 blocks to create a life sized polar bear weighing in at 400-pounds.
If you have a chance to visit this traveling exhibit, it will usually be offered by a garden club or a botanical garden. The pieces may be larger than life, but they fit beautifully in a natural setting.
Another opportunity to see some creative use of the blocks would be to see the new Lego Movie. This toy and all that has been created from the basic idea is proof that we are only limited by our imagination. What idea have you had that could be used to entertain, or help other people?
The next Altamont village board meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 4, in the community room.
The Altamont Fire Department is now selling tickets for their annual ball scheduled for Saturday, March 22. This is the fire department’s annual fund-raiser. Tickets are $30 each and can be obtained either by mail or stopping in at the village hall during business hours.
Cyprus Potentate’s Toga Ball is planned for Saturday, March 15, and will be held at the Garden Plaza Hotel in Kingston NY. Reservations must be made by March 10, with Kevin Costello at PO Box 152, Tillson, NY 12486 or online at The cost is $15 per person.
Beverly Harrington, Sandra Kisselback, Sheila Stempel and Anne Vlahos of Helderberg Chapter, Order of Eastern Star recently attended the funeral service for Lois Gould, a past matron in Schenectady. Lois’s daughter presented the group with Lois’s scrapbook containing many photos and her historian presentation from her year as matron.
Happy-anniversary wishes are extended to:
— Barbara and Kerry Peters who will celebrate their special day on Feb. 28;
— Barbara and Paul Costin on March 3, and
— Ernie and Joyce Rau on March 5.
Happy Birthday wishes are extended to Lucas Edson who celebrated his birthday on
Feb. 26. This was his fourth birthday.
Happy Birthday wishes are extended to:
— Kim Adams, Sharon Hildebrandt Blake, Harriet Durfee, and Eric Sager on Feb. 28;
— Mary Bosworth, Jessica Lynn Butler, Fran Gorka, Daniel E. Kelly, and Bernie Percoski on March 1;
— Becky Carman, Stephanie Lynn LeClair, and Laurie O’Neal on March 3;
— Chalotte Lawton, Diane Maclerio, and Marc Smith on March 4;
— Larry Adams, Jr. and Michael Joseph Arsenault on March 5; and
— Heather Buess, Erin Ciupek, and Wyett James Sluga on March 6.