Monday, January 2, 2012

Another favorite antique toy!

     2012. What a wonderful symmetrical year. Doesn't it look nice in printing? I am choosing to totally ignore all the ballyhoo about the end of the Mayan calendar. The Mayans just ran out of rock to write it on, that's all. Now with our computers, we can go on forever.

     This January 2nd morning, I am looking out over Lake Michigan. It is deceptively sunny. But the ornamental grass stands in our neighbor's border proclaim the 50 mile per hour winds roaring out of the northwest. A light layer of snow has blanketed our patio overnight. The Rose Bowl Parade is airing on TV. Just got a view of our Wisconsin Badger Marching Band going by while Al Roper is lauding the weather in Pasadena -- 72 degrees there. He is still bitterly complaining about last year's weather. "It was freezing last year! It must have been 40 degrees." I wonder if he realizes how this statement makes us Wisconsinites laugh. This year not only are our Badgers playing in the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks, but our fabulous Green Bay Packers have home field advantage in the playoffs. I would love to see Al Roper covering those games at Lambeau. Although with our recent high temperatures, who knows whether the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field will be frozen or not. We defeated the Detroit Lions yesterday with our backup quarterback, Matt Flynn. I am very happy for him. His performance will probably gain him a football team of his own. Though we as Packer Fans will hate to lose him, he will no doubt command a team of his own when his waivers come up next year. Go Badgers and Go Packers!!

     I was trying to decide with what topic to inaugurate this New Year. I decided to delve into my toy room again. I haven't done that for some time. Here is a description of one of my favorite toys which belonged to my mother.

     Hit Read More for a look at an interesting ANTIQUE TOY!

     In about 1930, my mother decided that she wanted a popular card game of that time for Christmas that year. The game was called Touring the Great Automobile Card Game. Well, the story goes that my grandfather had to make some drives to both neighboring cities of Rockford and Freeport on several occasions to finally find the game. It was much the same as current searches for the popular toys of the year, each Christmas holiday time. And yet it was very different. Grandfather probably drove his Model T Ford. A drive to either of those cities at 30 miles an hour probably took about an hour each way. And there was the cost of gas. Trips to these cities were not frequent events. In fact many people took an interurban rail line then that stopped in a neighboring community. And it was during the beginnings of the Depression so putting together the coins to purchase this requested game was a challenge. At any rate, my grandfather succeeded and here is my mother's original Touring game which I now own. You can picture that this age was a time of increasing use of the automobile. It was a time when people went on "Sunday drives" just to take their new form of transportation out. Driving would become a pastime in and of itself in addition to a way to get from one place to another.

     The game basically consists of a deck of cards. Two to six players can participate, the 4 or 6 players forming a team of two that serve as the "driver" player. The player or player team plays cards from his hand to Go, at a certain Speed, to try to achieve a certain number of mileage cards played, while opponents play cards on his Go card to try to slow him down or stop him. Examples of these obstructionist cards are: Collision, remedied by Hauled In; Out of Gasoline, remedied by Gasoline, and Go, and Punctured Tire, remedied by a just a Go card. The teams try to play mileage cards to add up to a 50 miles race, the first getting that combination of cards played winning the game. Apparently the game was quite popular in a progressive form, where several teams of players competed against each other playing at several different tables.

      The Wallie Dorr Company of New York first published this card game in 1906, selling it for 50 cents. Henry Ford developed and produced his first Model T Ford in 1908.So the Wallie Dorr game was a game of fantasy for most people. Automobiles were not common. I have an original Wallie Dorr game in my collection though the box is damaged by old adhesive tape placed on the box to try to repair it.  Parker Brothers Games purchased the rights to publish this game from Wallie Dorr in 1925 and the first Parker Brother edition is the one my mother wanted, pictured below. By 1925, Ford had sold 15 million Model T cars. The price of a Model T had come down from originally $890 to $240. Driving the "horseless carriage" was becoming more common, but still playing that early game was a fantasy.

The Wallie Dorr 1906 version
     As automobile technology improved and the speed of autos increased, these game
 cards and rules were gradually changed. The names of the delay cards changed, the mileage increased to 30 mile cards from 10 miles as the largest mileage denomination in the beginning, and the mileage requirement to win kept increasing. The graphics on the cards began showing more modern cars as the box covers did. The rules changed slightly to accommodate some of these new styles of driving and more modern car designs. I believe I have all of the forms of the game, except 2,  for a total of 7 external box designs, and at least 6 card designs. In some cases the backs of the cards remained the same but the mileage increased on the faces. The first card game maximum mileage card was 10 miles. It then increased to 30 miles, 45 miles, and eventually 75 miles per hour, (the latter called freeway) in the final version of the game. The years of the various publishings of this game are 1906 for the Willie Dorr Company, 1926 first Parker Brothers game, 1937, 1947, 1958, and 1965.

     In the 1965 edition, Parker Brothers decided to make a retro move. They put one of those old Model T's on the cover of the box and the cards are cartoonish but definitely modeled on cars from the 1920s and 1930s. There was a cardboard play tray also in the box though Mille Bornes put a nice sturdy plastic tray in to hold the drawing and discard piles.

     Wikipedia has quite an article on the game of  Touring where someone has listed all the box and card variations for every version and when they were published.

     I have always found the card faces amusing. They reflect the social history of the time. Let me get my feminist comment in here. On the Out of Gasoline card, the 1926 version (my mother's version) shows apparently the young woman driver with two of her friends inside the car which has run out of gas. Obviously the young woman is distraught, seated on the running board. But then in the two next versions of the game, ie a New and Improved version from 1926 and then a 1937 version, the driver who runs out of gas is male and in the 1937 version he is very distraught. Soooo -- I can't claim any chauvinistic concerns here. The absent minded who don't pay attention to the gas gage fall into both genders.

     I refer you to a wonderful website where the author has pictured some of the early card faces and made quite humorous comments.

     In 1964, Parker Brothers supposedly bought the rights to a French game called Mille Bornes, but the rules are remarkably similar to those of Touring. I think the question is who copied who. I do have one form of the game of  American Mille Bornes though I am sure there are other box and card designs. I also have a German form of the game called 1000 kilometres, published in 1961 in Munich. Though I can't read all the directions or the cards, the layout and the cards look almost identical to the American version of Mille Bornes. As Mille Bornes became more popular (and is still published,) in about 1975, Touring was phased out.

Mille Bornes had very colorful cards, and added a nice plastic card tray. 

The German version is almost identical to the French Mille Bornes. Even the cards are  the same.
     I am thinking that a progressive form of this game would be fun to play. We still take car tours today for leisure and look at the RV market and the number of people who live on the road, so to speak, stopping in their RVs. Indeed, our automobile is still high on the list of  leisure activities. We might still like to play a game recreating that love of the automobile.

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