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A Classic Rochester Souvenir?

September 10th, 2012

Do you know what this is? Hint, it's not what you're thinking. You dirtbag. [PHOTO: Moldville.com]

Imagine it’s 1965 and your parents bring you to the big city of Rochester, New York to take in the sights and do some shopping in the world’s first indoor urban shopping mall, Midtown Plaza external link. It’s thrilling! All the people! The lights! The sounds! The experience is setting off fireworks in your little 6 year-old brain. What better way to remember this extraordinary day from your childhood than with a warm, six-inch high… fleshy colored…… What the #&@! is this?

The Clock of Nations in the Midtown Plaza atrium during the holidays. The kiddie monorail is passing by in the background. 2007. [PHOTO: Rochester City Hall Photo Lab]

Why, it’s a plastic model of the Clock of Nations you silly! Back in the day you could get one—made before your very eyes—out of a Mold-A-Rama vending machine for a couple of coins. The perfect thing for playing “Meet me under the clock” at home with your friends.

A typical Mold-A-Rama vending machine. In the 1950's and 60's these things could be found at parks, zoos, museums, etc. and popped out a wide variety of shapes and figures. [PHOTO: DavesBlogCentral.com]

William Bollman is a collector of vintage coin op games and arcade type stuff. His website, Moldville.com external link, is where I found this odd little Clock of Nations replica. There he sells molds of all sorts for about $5 each. Or, if you’d prefer to make your own unlimited supply of Clock of Nations molds to impress your neighbors, he’s got an actual Mold-A-Rama machine (and the moldset) available for just $29,000. Well worth it.

Bollman tells us he bought out a significant portion of the inventory of a former operator of these Mold-A-Rama machines years ago, including 85 vintage moldsets. “Yes, the Clock of Nations moldset was installed on a Mold-A-Rama machine and used as a souvenir vending machine presumably somewhere at the Rochester mall back in 1963″ Bollman said. “It was vended in plastic and at certain locations customers could also buy a small paint kit from a different vending machine and paint the toy for 25¢. RochesterSubway.com hasn’t been able to confirm the location of any such machine. Leave a comment below if you have knowledge of where this might have been.

If you’re too young to remember Mold-A-Rama, here’s a description of how the machine worked from a Chicago Tribune article external link:

The charm of the Mold-a-Rama is its mesmerizing and simple technology. In the left-hand corner of each machine, you see the mold each makes. If you want one…you pop your money in to activate the machine.
Four hydraulic cams start to move. The first and last closes the two sides of the mold together. Then another cam pushes plastic between the molds, followed by one that blows hot air in to make the figure hollow. Coolant then chills the mold because the figure was cooked between 225 and 250 degrees.
After roughly a minute, the two sides of the mold open, revealing your dinosaur or dolphin [or Clock of Nations], before the final cam, that operates the scrapper, pushes your mold forward and drops it into the holding bin. But you need to wait a moment: It is still too hot to pick up right away…

Maybe we didn’t get much of anything right in the 60′s, but we sure kicked some major ass when it came to making stuff out of plastic. Simply amazing. And this is what the Clock of Nations mold looked like…

This is the mold that produced these little plastic Clock of Nations souvenirs. [PHOTO: Moldville.com]

NYC has the Statue of Liberty. Seattle has its Space Needle. But you can keep that garbage. Rochester has the Clock of Nations suckas! Anyone who remembers Midtown Plaza or has passed through the ROC Airport lately has surely stopped to watch this magical clock do its thing. Check out the video below…

Before Midtown was demolished in 2010, the clock was moved to the airport external link. The clock was supposed to be donated eventually to the new Golisano Children’s Hospital external link where it would be displayed. But a representative from the children’s hospital told me the clock won’t be moving after all. The recession forced their plans to be scaled back, leaving the clock without a space in the new building. Oh well. Perhaps they have room enough for a Mold-A-Rama machine??

Related Stuff:

‘Rochester: A City of Quality’ (Film, 1963)

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 10th, 2012 at 7:53 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester History, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

11 Responses to “A Classic Rochester Souvenir?”

  1. Erik Stoneham says:

    I must buy one……

  2. UPDATE: According to Juni Moon on Facebook, this Mold-A-Rama machine was right in the center of Midtown Plaza near the clock. She was very young at the time but she says she remembers seeing the machine make them. She had a blue one.

    Thanks Juni!

  3. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Rather unrecognizable at first, upon reflection this mold seems to be a combination of the Clock of the Nations in the foreground and the Totem Pole atop the clock, appearing to be in the background of the clock when viewed from any direction. For simplicity’s sake in the mold, the curved doors are closed for each nation’s clock diorama.

    The tall Totem Pole was installed in the early 1970s in the corner of the atrium area by the section of Midtown Plaza that led to Broad Street. I believe that it went to Artisan Works.

    Incidentally, Broad Street was not an original street of Rochester. Creation of the subway in the old Erie/Barge Canal route in the 1920s led to the deck above the subway that created West Broad Street for about a mile. However, South Avenue was the eastern limit of Broad Street then.

    Part of the late-1950s deal with the City of Rochester to create Midtown Plaza was that the City extend Broad Street to the East, passing by Midtown Plaza. The Midtown Plaza owners retained the air rights over Broad Street, at least in the Plaza section.

    Plaza customers and Trailways bus patrons were provided access from this new Broad Street, as was the Midtown Plaza Wegmans for access to its loading dock. This new street also provided access via Atlas Street to the service tunnel under Midtown Plaza, which now runs all the way west to the Riverside Convention Center.

  4. Douglas A. Fisher says:

    Correction to my prior posting: Much of the enlarged Erie Canal became the Barge Canal. However, the Erie Canal route that ran through the City did not become the Barge Canal. The newly-created West Broad Street ran atop what was the former ERIE Canal route that had become the subway in the 1920s.

    The new (Barge Canal) route to the south crossed the Genesee River in South Park (!), now called Genesee Valley Park. Frederick Law Olmsted had designed South Park, and his firm, then run by his son, was commissioned to redesign the park to accommodate the new canal route.

    The Court Street Dam was reconfigured to create a higher water level of the Genesee River, in order to match the water elevation of the new Barge Canal route. This section of the now-deeper canalized river became a busy port for Rochester, as barges could interface with railroad lines along both sides of the river.

    This section of the Genesee River remains part of the Erie Canal system to this day, enabling boats from the Erie Canal to reach Corn Hill Landing.

  5. Bob says:

    The Totem Pole that was at Midtown is now located at the Seneca Park Zoo at the entrance to The Rocky Coasts area.

  6. @Douglas, I just received one of these molds in the mail from Moldville.com. After further review, I’ve determined that those are the clock’s bells at the top, not the totem pole. You can see the bells I’m referring to in the video (above) at about 19 seconds in. There are a couple of globe-like things at the top. The bottom globe is broken in half and has 8 bells in it.

  7. Mary says:

    I HAD ONE!!!!!!! It took a while to get (I think 50 cents) out of my father. I loved watching the machine work and the way the model felt and smelled. I don’t know what happened to it. I was nine years old.

  8. Check out this one Moldville sent me last week. Wish I could have seen it being made. Feels more like wax than plastic to me.

  9. Karen says:

    Midtown was demolished?!?!? (I grew up in Henrietta, but now live in Cincy). Has something else gone up in its’ place? I think I was only there twice, but it was w/ my Dad who had lots of memories of the place.

  10. @Karen,
    It’s sort of a long story. But yes. Most of the Midtown complex was demolished except for the framework of the tower and the Seneca Building on the corner of Main and Clinton. Paetec was originally going to build a 40-story skyscraper on the site for their headquarters. So the state paid for most of the demolition and abatement. But then the economy tanked and Paetec scaled down their plans. Then they were bought by a company called Windstream. But Windstream is headquartered in Alabama or someplace, so they’re not going to build anything on the site. But somehow the corner building and the tower are being refurbished and turned into office space, apartments, or something. Windstream will move some of its employees into three floors of the corner building. Who knows what will happen with the rest of the site. Right now it’s a big pit. And work on the tower has sort of stalled. The saga continues…

  11. Jamison says:

    I lived in Rochester for a year, and I loved seeing that crazy clock whenever I flew in or out of the airport. I’m actually glad to hear that it’s not going to the cancer center (seriously, is putting a clock that plays music every 30 mins in a place where sick kids are trying to rest really a good idea?). The airport suits it better, a piece of Classic Rochester for people to see when they visit.


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