Remco Toys

Isaac Heller ENG’52 founded Remco Toys on a workbench in his brother-in-law’s basement fitted with a few tools and supplies he’d bought from surplus stores: aviator goggles, steel planking, field jackets, parachute chords, and hundreds of other leftovers from wartime production. Among them were a case of earphones, which he attached to 25 feet of wire, fit them into tin boxes, and sold as toy walkie-talkies. They slowly gained popularity, and by 1948 Mr. Heller bought a used car and took on his cousin Saul Robbins as a partner.  

By the mid-1950s, Remco produced one hit after another: a scuba diving US Navy commando, Frogman; a Movieland Drive-in Theater with cars, a marquee, and a filmstrip that showed “Have Gun Will Travel”; and the Whirlybird Helicopter, with moving rotors and a cable and hook that could be lowered for emergency rescues. The company’s name, derived from “remote control,” became synonymous with toys that reflected mid-century American culture, from toy trucks and planes with moving parts to car washes and Beatles figurines. The company’s tag line, “Every boy wants a Remco toy… and so do girls,” became a mantra of American children throughout the 1950s and ‘60s.   

Early on, the cousins grasped the power of television. Heller wrote in his 2013 memoir, “The era of grandma going into a toy store and asking the storekeeper to recommend a toy was gone. The kids made their own selections, and we advertised directly to them.” Besides being a major sponsor of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Remco produced its own television ads taking hours to produce a one-minute spot. When the Fab Four arrived in New York, Heller immediately traveled to London to sign a licensing agreement for Beatles dolls. “We sold hundreds of thousands of Beatle Dolls, to the extent that we ran out of black acetate yarn for hair, and then made green-haired Beatle Dolls, red-headed Beatle Dolls—everything sold!” 


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