A little chat about Life
Grad’s creations entertained and educated generations.
Reuben Klamer created The Game of Life, Tupperware Busy Blocks, Fisher-Price Preschool Trainer Skates and Gaylord the Walking Dog. But that’s not all: The 1944 Ohio State graduate is responsible for more than 200 toys and games that entertained and educated kids around the world.
At 92, he continues to innovate and regularly visits the Columbus campus to talk with students in Fisher College of Business. A father of five and grandfather of two, he lives in La Jolla, California
Here, Klamer talks about his sources of inspiration and other topics.
On the inspiration for his life’s work
Children are the most wonderful people in the world. There is nothing more beautiful. They’re very innocent, always asking questions and just delightful. There is a sort of magic to children — the things they say at an early age and, as they grow older, the interesting things they do. I love children. I love being around them.
On a serendipitous experience
I created a selection of small, four-and-a-half-inch dolls. When you squeezed them, they gave a squeak. I had the line designed, but I didn’t have a name for them. One evening I was having dinner with my family, and my daughter, Pamela, who was a joy in my life, was acting up at the table. I had to chase her around the table two or three times. So I finally said, “Come here, you little pipsqueak.” And then I said, “That’s it! That’s the name for my dolls.” So that’s what I called them. I watched my children play and listened to them. I had them test games for me, and they had a lot of fun doing it.
On his favorite creation
The Game of Life, of course. The basic factor of the Game of Life is that it’s a down-to-earth game. It teaches children many aspects of life as they play it. It’s a great family game. The interaction of the parents and children is marvelous.
On his favorite toy by someone else
I very much enjoy Lego blocks. They are No. 1 in my book. They teach children to build, to create.
On the need to think on your feet
Here’s an example. I had a meeting with some of the top Tupperware executives. They wanted to have some toys they could sell in a Tupperware system at parties, and they gave me the assignment. I didn’t have a product yet, and I was going to meet one of the executives for breakfast in Beverly Hills, and I thought of Busy Blocks on the way to the appointment and drew it for him on a napkin. The guy bought it on the spot. That doesn’t happen very often in our business. Busy Blocks were very simple. It was a simple toy, with — for example — a “D” on one side and a silhouette of a dog on the other side. The child would open up the block, which had a “living” hinge, and there was a little figurine of a dog inside. Busy Blocks were sold in more than 50 countries and in tremendous volume.
On the popularity of today’s video games
Video games are too violent — the more violent the better, as far as the producers are concerned. I don’t like them. There are good things about the systems, and the technology is marvelous, but the violence is out of hand.
On the first of his annual trips to campus in 2010
I returned to campus after being away for more than 60 years. Seeing the campus was a great thrill for me. I may have a mind full of problems on my way to Columbus, but it clears up immediately when I hit the campus territory. It’s a great thrill for me to be there on our campus and talk with students. It’s wonderful. I’ll do it again anytime I can. I intend to make it at least an annual visit.