Fans of the classic toy Erector sets from throughout the country will be in Akron this weekend.

This marks the first time the A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society — so named after the original manufacturer of the old-school building kit — has held its national convention in Northeast Ohio. Dayton is a previous Ohio city to host the convention.

Society member Greg Bilek, of Doylestown, said a clincher for landing the national gathering is the fact Akron is home to the Goodyear Blimp.

One of the most iconic and sought-after kits from the toy's heyday in the 1930s was one to build a replica of a Zeppelin.

"Among the reasons they let us host this in Akron is we were able to arrange a tour of the blimp hangar," Bilek said.

The society will host a free open house from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Johnson United Methodist Church Family Life Center, 3409 Johnson Road, in Norton, where members will show off their creations that include blimps, carousels and Ferris wheels made of the metal kits.

There will be pieces and parts available for visitors to make their own creations.

Other vintage toys made by the manufacturer including magic sets and electric trains from 1913 to the 1960s will also be on display.

Bilek said A.C. Gilbert was known for authenticity and what would be considered downright dangerous now for kids to play with.

One kit contained lead that kids would melt to make metal soldiers.

There also was a super-hot kit to blow glass.

And the chemistry kits contained radioactive material.

"They pushed the envelope," Bilek said.

The Erector set was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

For those who loved the Erector set, Bilek said, each metal box held endless possibilities.

"I had an Erector set as a kid," he said. "And I still have that set today."

 

Craig Webb, who lacked the patience needed for an Erector set, can be reached at cwebb@thebeaconjournal.com.