When Richard Varchetto was eight years old, his mother, Lucy, bought him a small set of American Plastic Bricks. These bright red and white bricks brought him hours of enjoyment.
"My father passed away suddenly that year," Varchetto said. "He worked at the water treatment plant for the City of Elkins, and he died at work. It was devastating, and the bricks helped keep me occupied."
Over the next few years, he said his mother bought him two larger sets of the bricks.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Elkins resident Richard Varchetto constructs a city containing more than 30 buildings using American Plastic Bricks. Varchetto purchased the vintage bricks throughout 2012 and began construction of his city in November. American Plastic Bricks stopped production in the early 1960s.
"I really enjoyed building homes and buildings from the instructions in the kits," Varchetto said. "It was also fun to build items I designed myself."
American Plastic Bricks were a toy creation of interlocking uniformly-sized red and white bricks pieces. They also had white plastic windows and doors, and green cardboard roof panels. They came in round containers with metal lids and bottoms, and contained a detailed construction booklet to assist in the construction of buildings and houses.
The bricks were first manufactured by Elgo Plastics and then by Halsam Products, both companies in Chicago. American Plastic Bricks models followed true bricklayers' practices and are scale miniatures. The company stopped selling the bricks in the early 1960s, probably because of the introduction of Legos in the United States.
Varchetto said he always dreamed of having enough bricks to build the city pictured in the American Plastic Bricks instruction and design manual. As he grew older, he stored his well-used bricks, where they remain.
While on E-bay in 2012, Varchetto said he found people selling American Plastic Bricks, and his interest in the bricks rekindled.
"I started bidding on the bricks, but was out-bid on my first try," Varchetto said. "I purchased enough bricks - about 7,000 red ones and 7,000 white and other bricks - enough to build the city."
Varchetto said he is in his "second childhood" and has time to enjoy some of the things from when he was younger.
"One man I talked with described this time as our eternal childhood," Varchetto said, chuckling.
After securing his bricks, Varchetto sat down and began constructing his American Plastic Bricks city.
"My goal was to be completed by Dec. 1," Varchetto said. "I would work on the buildings while I was watching television or a movie. It was relatively trouble-free."
Varchetto said he is proud of his city and his favorite building is the school house.
"The school house was the hardest to build because it has so many windows," Varchetto said. "There are white lintel above all the windows and it was tedious."
He said he plans to design and build more buildings, including one he has designed.
"It is a 3-foot-by-6-foot building with three stories and garages," he said. "I am looking forward to getting started with it."
"I will put them aside for a while after that, until the spirit moves me again," he said. "I want to definitely put up a village again during the Christmas season."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.