My family and I have spent the past two weeks both in a minivan and on a cruise ship covering much of the United States. In fourteen days we drove 4,200 miles across ten states (eleven if you count Oklahoma, the state I live in) and also visited Alaska and Canada via the cruise ship. It was a wonderful, amazing vacation.

On the way home the four of us drove through Yellowstone National Park. It was the first time any of us had been there, and we were amazed at all the wildlife we saw. Although we saw no bears there, we did see wild bison, elk, mountain goats, wolves, and deer on our way to visit Old Faithful. As we were leaving the park, my wife and I mentioned that Yellowstone could really benefit from some Mold-A-Rama machines!

Mold-A-Rama machines made their debut in the early 1960s. My first exposure to them was at the Oklahoma City Zoo, which still has several of them. Mold-A-Rama machines are vending machines that create plastic vacuum-molded toys while you wait.

At our zoo (and I suspect many others), the machines are strategically located by the animals they represent. The gorilla machine is located just outside the primate exhibit, for example. I don’t remember how many different machines there are, but as a kid I remember wanted to collect them all. Along with the gorilla, I also had a lion, a tiger, a dolphin, and an alligator, among others. Each mold is a single color of plastic, and comes out of the machine not hot enough to burn you, but pretty hot (at least to a little kid).

The only Mold-A-Rama molds I have seen are animals (mostly found at zoos) and vehicles (mostly found at museums). There’s a tractor available at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. There are 10 different ones available in the Henry Ford Car Museum in Detroit.

Unfortunately for us, there were no Mold-A-Rama machines available in Yellowstone National Park, and we will have to rely on our pictures and memories to remember all those animals!

For more information on Mold-A-Rama machines, check out Mold-A-Rama-ville, which has some great pictures of vintage molded toys.

Thanks to Flickr users Jinx! and kclockhart for the photos.