Loving dioramas

Last week, the second graders carried them carefully from the bus or car, through the main door, to their classes, so proud of their accomplishments. I watched in the main hallway with anticipation and truly as much excitement as their enthusiasm. I remember I was about their age when I built my first diorama.

During the early 1960’s, I was sitting quietly at the dinette table rolling tiny papers and painting them brown. It was a log cabin in a shoe box and the tiny rolls were logs for the fireplace. It took a long time, with little interruption to roll the logs and paint. In fact, the entire room was an effort because I was not good at art. No one in my family was good at art. But I loved making this log cabin. Maybe, because it was so much like setting up a doll house.

In the early 1990’s, I remember helping my own children; one was about actually building a tepee for an Indian habitat.  This was also during the days when the Pocahontas movie made it big in 1995. Actually, we had a Pocahontas birthday party for my daughter where they made their own cardboard paper dolls with markers, felt, glitter, beads, feathers; almost as big as each guest that came. But now, I am truly reminiscing off track.

Dioramas for school projects allow a great deal of creativity, inspiration and the materials available today are overwhelming. You can actually look at YouTube videos on how to make one out of a shoe box or display box. You can use needle nose pliers, any type of glue or masking tape though one student told me her family showed her how to use a hot glue gun, just for her diorama. She was scared but she did it without injury.

Most students used markers, crayons and some used paint to create their backdrop. Some cut up photographs or printed out photos online to add to their design. Some actually purchased craft trees of all types and one used blue marbles to show a water stream. Many used miniature animals and birds to highlight their scene. The birds actually flew, attached with string from the top of the inside of the box, not falling while the students walked down the hallways.

After seeing the children and dioramas arrive at school, I couldn’t wait to take pictures of some of them. I just had to see them again and again. I had to have something to remember. And I had to share with you!

I really do love dioramas. Maybe someone, someday, next year in school perhaps, will ask if I could help them build…..

 

Bargain town/South Chicago/Toys R Us

We would go to Steel City Bank in South Chicago and then Gassman’s clothing store for my mother to try on numerous outfits that took forever. However, if I waited patiently outside of the dressing room, our next stop would be Bargain Town. A slinky was only 68 cents! And walkie talkies were under 10 dollars, a lot cheaper than cell phones today.

It was Bargain Town where I remember the aisle crowded with my favorite colorforms; the Jetsons, Dress designers, Barbie, Crazy shapes and the Addams Family. If not in the mood, I would take my time picking out a paint by number. Generally, it was an autumn landscape with oil paints. The paint by number assumed a usual routine at home.

It was set up on a card table in the family den in front of the TV.  It was right before dinner that my Mother and Dad would have their 5:30 cocktail and I would be watching Garfield Goose along with spilling my creativity in front of me. I was allowed to have a small glass of 50 /50 soda.  Oil paint landscapes that would take me alot of time were always my first choice. They still are today. I have a winter and summer print I hang over my fireplace during the appropriate seasons.

After Bargain Town, we would head to the new Jewel in South Chicago before we went home, now CVS pharmacy.

According to That’s It, back in 1948, Charles Lazarus – the founder of Toys”R”Us, opened his very first store in Washington, D.C. called Children’s Bargain Town. It wasn’t until he opened his second store almost 10 years later that he adopted the name we’ve all come to know and love. And that is how the legacy of Toys”R”Us began. Bargain Town also offered nursery items, cribs and baby furniture as well as bicycles. Bicycles cost about 30 dollars. And crown pools that you could set up in the backyard were under 100 dollars.

In the 1990’s, my children could walk to the nearest Toys R Us and for my son, anything Power Rangers would work. My daughter loved board games and art sets; her eyes wide as she studied the massive collection.

The company has been in the toy business for 70 years and operates around 800 stores in the United States and around 800 outside the US, although these numbers are steadily decreasing with time. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. on 18 September 2017, and has also filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

Charles Lazarus, 94, no longer held a stake in the chain and founded the company 70 years ago, just passed away last week. His passing was one week after the company announced it will be forced to shut down its U.S. operations. Many believed that he was the king of toys.

Check out A Tribute to Children’s Bargain Town USA Toy Store in Chicago on Facebook

Now, back to my painting. I even have an easel now!