Saving Christmas

Posted: 30 November by Brett Hoover in Alumni
Tags: ,

This isn’t exactly ‘hot-off-the-wire’ news, but I would bet that most of our readers don’t know that an independent film production company is developing a 3-D feature film based on… the Erector Set.

I suspect that many don’t know what an Erector Set is, so here is a brief explanation. I don’t know what it is like now, but in the 1970s it was a dangerous children’s construction toy. It had edges as sharp as scissors and many kids in my neighborhood constructed weapons from the maze of metal.

It was a wonder that none of us ever put an eye out. And it comes as no surprise that Dr. Jack Kevorkian designed his first assisted suicide machine with an Erector Set. And by now, if you have gotten this far, you must be asking, “Where is this going?”

The developer of the Erector Set was an Ivy League trackster. A great one at that. Yalie A.C. Gilbert was a 1908 Olympic gold-medal-winning pole vaulter and a two-time world record holder in the event. His Wikipedia page claims that he set a world record for consecutive chin-ups — 39 — as a 16-year-old.

One hundred years ago now, watching construction in New Haven and New York as a collegian, helped inspire the creation which would make him a multi-millionaire. Also known as ‘The Man Who Saved Christmas,’ his story was immortalized in a 2002 movie starring Jason Alexander.

Back in Salem, Ore., is A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, a tribute to the hometown hero who launched imaginations with a number of educational toys.

  1. Greg Page says:

    Gilbert actually tied for the 1908 Olympic gold with Edward Tiffin Cooke Jr., Cornell ’10.

    I’ve read various accounts of that competition–by rights it seems clear that Gilbert won, but the officials declared two co-winners (and three bronze medalists).

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