Few things evoke memories of my very early childhood like Aurora’s “Prehistoric Scenes” model kits. Produced between 1971 and 1975, they were a series of “snap-together”-type models that required no glue.
Everything about them was cheesy — the box art, the simplistic model names (like “Giant Bird,” “Cave Bear” or “Armored Dinosaur”), and the bad paleontology. (Some herbivores below have sharp teeth, and some of the ads I found show “Cro-Magnon Man” and “Cro-Magnon Woman” living contemporaneously with the dinosaurs.)
None of that made a difference to me when I was not much older than a toddler — I was utterly mesmerized by these things. My older brother had a couple. (I want to say the mastodon, or maybe the tar-pits?)
I myself was the ecstatic owner of the “Saber Tooth Tiger” when I was five or six, I think. I might have been too young to have a model — usually, my parents more wisely bought me rubber dinosaurs to play with. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bought me that one Aurora model to sate me just enough to keep my hands off of my brother’s models. (Seriously, I had a very poor conception of ownership when I was very young.)
God, I loved that “Saber Tooth Tiger.” It might as well have been a real damned prehistoric cat. I remember running my fingertips over its teeth and claws, fascinated. I remember poring over the images of the other models in the box art, as though they were glimpses into another realm.
I carried the model around a lot and proudly brandished it, and I was thrilled to explain the name to anyone who would listen. I still remember taking it to my paternal grandfather’s apartment in New York City. (Those were special trips because I got to “ring the buzzer” in the building’s lobby to let him know my father and I had arrived. I also got cookies and milk at my grandfather’s place.)
Years later, when I was in grade school, I also received the “Armored Dinosaur” (the ankylosaurus). I quite liked it, but it couldn’t elicit the devotion I felt towards that legendary cat.