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March 7: Every Boy Wants a Remco Toy

Lawrence Bush
March 7, 2017
Isaac Heller, co-founder with his cousin Saul Robbins of Remco Industries, which converted military surplus material into action toys (Remco was a redaction of “remote control”), died at 88 on this date in 2015. Remco’s products included the Dick Tracy wrist radio, the Whirlybird helicopter, the Barracuda atomic submarine, the Johnny Reb cannon, Mr. Kelly’s Automatic Car Wash, Beatles action figures, Star Trek action figures, and Lyndon Johnson and Barry Goldwater action figures (which didn’t sell). “Every boy wants a Remco toy,” said the company’s television commercials, adding a sotto voce tag line, “and so do girls” after the company introduced a line of dolls. It’s market remained boys-being-boys, however, with an emphasis on military themes. Heller sold the company in 1966 and went into commercial real estate, creating Heller Industrial Parks. In 2013 he donated $1 million to Cooper Union, his alma mater. To see some of Remco’s television ads, look below. “Ike was born on a farm [in Ellenville, NY] in 1926, attended grade school in a one-room schoolhouse without electricity before moving to Brooklyn in 1938. After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, Ike bought some army surplus radio parts, set up shop in the basement of his brother-in-law’s store, and built . . one of the prominent toy companies of the 1950s and 1960, at one time employing 5,000 people.” --The News Funnel

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.