2021-09-24 21:00:03 UTC
By James R. Hagerty, 9/17/21, Wall St. Journal
In 1959, Reuben Klamer pitched his latest toy idea to
Milton Bradley Co.—a kit that would teach children to
create art. The company nixed that idea but asked him
to try to dream up a board game.
The result was The Game of Life, inspired by The Checkered
Game of Life, invented a century earlier by the company’s
founder, Milton Bradley. The new game, introduced in 1960,
proved a long-running success story, now owned by Hasbro
Inc. Taking on the immensely popular Monopoly game, Klamer
sent players along twisting paths rather than down straight
avenues & used a spinner instead of dice to determine
whether their life choices pay off.
Mr. Bradley’s 1860s game is grimly moralistic; intemperance
leads to poverty & gambling to ruin. Klamer’s version is
more about making career choices, buying insurance,
investing in real estate & saving for retirement.
Klamer, who served as a U.S. Navy officer during WWII,
tried the air-cargo & advertising businesses before
recasting himself as an inventor of toys & games.
Among his many other creations were a version of the hula
hoop, Tupperware Busy Blocks & a cotton-candy maker. He
teamed up with Art Linkletter, a TV & radio personality,
who endorsed some of Klamer’s products, including
The Game of Life.
Klamer died Tuesday at his home in La Jolla CA. He was 99.
His own game of life, he said in 2012, “has been one rocky
road after the other, & every once in a while I get a hit.”
Reuben Benjamin Klamer (pronounced like “claimer”) was
born June 20, 1922, & raised in Canton OH. His parents
were Romanian Jewish immigrants. His mother worked as a
seamstress, & his father was a dealer in used barrels.
At Ohio State U., Klamer was on the debate team & earned
a business degree. He signed up for a Navy officer-training
program during WWII & served in combat on amphibious
landing craft in the Pacific.
After a brief period working for an airfreight company,
Klamer founded his own advertising firm & promoted Gold
Rivet jeans. In 1949, he joined Ideal Toy Co. & worked
in sales. He later became a manager at Eldon Industries,
where he handled design, marketing & sales of toys. In that
job, he found success with a line of Big Poly trucks & other
toys made from polyethylene & promoted as being unbreakable.
By the late 50s, he had his own toy-development firm based
in Beverly Hills CA. In 1962, while watching his son Jeff
use a discarded medical syringe to spray water at his
friends, Klamer came up with the idea for a toy, the Hypo-
Squirt, that blasted water more than 20 feet. In 2005, he
was inducted into the Toy Assn’s Hall of Fame.
Klamer is survived by 4 kids and 3 grandkids. His two
marriages ended in divorce.
In recent months, he was putting finishing touches on a
memoir and looking for a publisher.
A few weeks ago, a friend of Klamer alluded to the
possibility that he might soon be heading to heaven.
“I don’t have a reservation,” he quipped.