LEGO’s 50th ….

January 28, 2008

Today is apparently the 50th anniversary of the “LEGO brick,” and a screenshot of Google’s homepage today reflects that:

Lego Google

My brother and I played a lot with LEGO. We had a great-uncle who actually worked at a factory that made them, and Dewey would frequently supply the children of the family with boxes of Lego building blocks. Dewey would also build somewhat elaborate houses and trains out of Lego. Every family had a Lego brick house made by him, and his house especially had several. He gave my mother a Lego house that still sits on her dresser, my brother a white 3-car train, and me, a red train. It sits on the bottom of my book shelf at this very moment, and is probably a good 35 years old or more.

My brother and I would build houses, towers, and oddly surreal Seussian platforms that extended up and over and around. Sometimes we had an odd assortment of Lego and Lincoln Logs. We built boats, ships, and things I don’t remember. This was before Lego came up with “kits” so you had to use your imagination a bit more.

Most memorable was what we called “ramjets.” These were usually assembled with layers of bricks, stuck atop one of the 4 x 7 ” platforms (around that size anyway). They looked very much like space ships or submarines, pointed in the front sometimes, with prongs like ray guns coming off. We would make them about 4 or 5 brick layers high, and make the whole thing as solid as possible with more bricks inside, and then compact it all together, pressing down on it all with our full weight. The more compact, the better. This was for survival. You see, the purpose of a ramjet was to smash another ramjet to bits.

When we had completed our projects, we would sit across from one another in the living room, because it had a wooden floor, and hurl our individual ramjets at the other, sliding them across at high-flung speed so that they slammed together in the middle of the room. When they hit there would be an explosion of flying Lego blocks all around. Our mother would find Lego behind furniture and under the couch for days after. Sometimes the ramjets missed completely and instead hit a wall or a piece of furniture (or the other person, which, as you can imagine, hurt like hell, especially when getting hit in the knee or shin while wearing shorts. Worse still was if the count was off, and someone jumped the gun and hurled their ramjet at the other, smashing the other person’s fingers that still held his own ramjet).

Yes, it was destructive behavior, and somewhat of an antithesis for my own fairly quiet childhood. In fact, I’m almost certain my brother was the one who came up with the fascinatingly destructive ramjet idea.

My mother still has a large box of Lego in the closet. It’s sad to see how many pieces have gone missing from that grand treasure trove. Mom pulls the box out when she has the grandchildren and great-grandchildren over. Sometimes I’ll even mess with them myself when she does, as does my brother.

Alas, “ramjets” are a thing of the past though. The living room is now carpeted.


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