Feature Article

50 Years and Still Building

by Melissa Minners

            On January 28, 2008, the LEGO Brick celebrated its 50th birthday.  It’s amazing to think about the fact that for 50 years, children all over the world have enjoyed creating and playing with LEGO Brick sets.  And never mind the children, think of all the adults in this world who use LEGOs to show off their creativity.  Huge cities, sculptures and more have been created by putting multitudes of LEGO sets together.  Contests are held to reward the most creative masterpieces created by LEGOS.  All of this stemming from a small plastic building brick created by Kiddicraft and perfected by a company belonging to a carpenter from Denmark named Ole Kirk Christiensen.  The company’s name – LEGO, a contraction made from the Danish words leg godt which translates into “playing well”.  It was later discovered that the word LEGO could be loosely translated into “I assemble”.  Clever use of the Danish language by that genius Christiensen, eh?  Despite much criticism and several returned shipments from a toy market refusing to believe that plastic toys would ever replace wooden ones, Christiensen continued to create these little plastic building block sets.  In 1958, Ole’s son, Godtfred, perfected the building block even further, allowing for more elaborate sets that could be used with one another.  Thus, a dynasty was born.

            I am among the millions of people affected by the invention of the interlocking building block.  My first LEGOs consisted of a male and female LEGO person and some spare blocks.  When I was a around seven or eight years old, I received my very first large LEGO set – a police station complete with a vehicle garage, police vehicles, a helicopter, policemen and police motorcycles.  My dad first helped me put this set together and I remember how much fun the two of us had doing it, proof that LEGO blocks aren’t just for kids.  After that first set, I let my imagination run away with me, building police boats, trucks, etc., including different variations of the police headquarters that weren’t listed in the instruction manual or pictured on the box the set came in.

            I received other smaller LEGO sets after that, but the next big set I received was a large red and grey truck with huge wheels – tons of fun to build and with more bricks than any set I had previously owned.  I was in my glee.  Once again, I let my imagination run wild and soon I was building boats, other vehicles, and more houses.  I just couldn’t get enough of my LEGOs back then.  I dreamed of owning Lego towns, fire department headquarters, castles and space ships, but those were a tad bit expensive and so, they were sets to only dream of but never own.  As I got older, I would help my brother out with his LEGO sets.  That way, I could have an excuse to play with them without actually admitting to playing with them.

            Then, it happened – the ultimate happiness for both Star Wars and LEGO fans – the creation of the Star Wars themed LEGO sets.  It was a dream come true.  Now an adult, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dress up my Star Wars book collection with a few Star Wars LEGO building sets!  The first set I purchased was the X-Wing fighter which included the fighter itself, a maintenance vehicle, Luke Skywalker, R2D2, a maintenance worker and Biggs Darklighter.  Having built that, I yearned for the Millenium Falcon.  Of course, that set was mighty large and cumbersome and cost quite a few pennies.  Thus, that set was put on hold in the hopes that some fine day I would have both money to purchase it and room to display it.  It’s still on hold.  In the meantime, I purchased the Endor Speederbike Set which included two speederbikes and speederbike troopers, some foliage, and Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi gear.  As the years passed and people noticed that I enjoyed Star Wars LEGOS, I received some other figures to add to the sets – Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and Darth Vader.

            Then came the Batman themed sets.  You know I just had to have one of those.  I received a Batman set which included the Batman and his roadster and Catwoman and her motorcycle.  It is now very prominently displayed among my trade paperbacks.  The invention of the movie theme sets was an incredible stroke of genius for LEGO.  Children would buy LEGOS from their favorite movies.  Adult fans would purchase these specially themed sets to dress up their collections as I did.

            The future of LEGO is amazingly bright.  As adults grow older, they remember how much fun it was to play with LEGOs and they purchase LEGOs for their children.  Since the LEGO company had the foresight to realize that little children like to put things in their mouths, they created sets specifically for younger children.  LEGO Duplo sets are designed with preschoolers in mind and contain much larger pieces to build with.  The variety of sets range from emergency rescue vehicles to doll houses to farm animals, race cars and more.  There are even themed sets such as Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train and more.  As their children get older, adults can choose from a huge variety of LEGO sets for their youngsters, including motorized sets for those kids who are technologically advanced.  Thus, children can grow up with LEGOs from a very early age, making LEGOs one of the most versatile toys on the market.

            Visiting the LEGO website, you will find that there are even more advanced sets planned for the future.  Thus, kids and adults alike are likely to be inclined to continue buying LEGO sets until the company decides to stop manufacturing them.  I, for one, have pledged to buy LEGOs for my children, if only to have an excuse to continue playing with them.  Long live the LEGO building block!!


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