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Sunday, May 4, 2008: Coming back home from a family gathering in Wisconsin, Tom and Debbie decided to check out the Mold-a-Rama machines at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Debbie remembered these from her youth at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, and through the magic of the interwebs had found that the machines still exist in many places throughout the US.
Driving home to Indianapolis through Chicago is a major sacrifice, but it was worth it when we found our first M-A-R machine at the zoo.
Debbie fed dollars into the machine, impressed by the upgrade in technology that the machines now accept more than quarters. With prices a bit higher than they were in the 70s, this was a necessary upgrade. In the old days, these probably cost a quarter or fifty cents which would have taken most of Debbie's allowance. Now, the $1.50 price tag is just a tiny fraction of Debbie's allowance, I mean, take-home pay. It's great to be an adult.
The machine fired up, the two halves of the mold came together, ...
... very hot plastic was injected into the molds, ...
... and voila! The finished product -- a lovely gray elephant.
Tom got his turn at the red camel machine.
He had never seen a Mold-a-Rama machine before, but had heard endless stories about them from Debbie. He got to experience the sounds of the machine, the smell of the plastic, and the warmth of the figurines as the plastic cools to room temperature. It was good.
We photographed but passed on the rhinoceros machine.
Next up, the mighty black gorilla. Debbie had a Casey the Gorilla figure from Como Zoo when she was young. Where is it now? Who knows?
Here's a closeup shot of the molds.
And here is the finished product. ¿Quién es más macho? Tomás o el gorila? ¡Tomás!
We photographed but passed on the sitting lion machine. Debbie has a little problem with collecting, so it was therapeutic not to collect them all.
However, we were unable to pass on the beautiful white polar bear in the machine right next to it.
This was one of several machines located in the great outdoors with just an awning overhead.
Tom supervised the machine's progress ...
... until a more qualified supervisor came along to watch more closely.
We found another pair of machines and started with the lovely dolphin figure.
Figure completed and ejection commencing.
Tom is starting to appreciate the great joy of Mold-a-Rama machines. They're fun!
One more to go and then it's time to get back in the car to make it home at a decent hour.
Here's our little lion on his way to be delivered to us.
Our Brookfield Zoo menagerie is on display at home. The figures are cooled off now and the plastic smell has faded, but we'll always have the memories.

Friday, June 5, 2009: A year later, we were in Minnesota for a weekend, so we made a trip to Como Zoo.
This is where Debbie first fell in love with Mold-a-Rama, and we went looking for all the machines we could find.
This machine dispenses Casey the Gorilla. Debbie owned one of these as a kid.
Here's her brand new replacement for the one that disappeared long ago.
We found another machine and spent another $2. (Note that Como's prices were higher than Woodfield's $1.50 price tag the previous year.)
This one was dispensing yellow lions, ...
... including this handsome specimen right here that came home with us.
We found our next machine after seeing the sea lions, including the sixth sea lion to carry the name "Sparky." Debbie was in high school before she realized that the Sparky she grew up with probably wasn't the original one. Since the fifth one took over in 1981, and this is the sixth one, she probably grew up with Sparky the Fourth.
Of course, we have to get a Sparky the Sea Lion figure!
There's nothing quite like the thrill of seeing the machine jump into action.
Here's our very own Sparky! You can just imagine how warm and nice while it cools down.
Sadly, this machine was out of order, ...
... but at least we could peer in the window to see an example of what we could not have.

Friday, May 14, 2021: We were in the base of the Space Needle shopping for souvenirs in the gift shops that circled the base. What's this? A Mold-A-Matic machine! Take all our money!
A Mold-A-Rama machine by any other name would still smell as sweet - or more accurately, smell just as much of melted plastic.
There's the empty mold, ...
... and there's our perfect plastic Space Needle souvenir!
Of course, you must always hold it upside down as it is cooling.

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