Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A somewhat brief and very incomplete history of 1980s ToyStoreSauruses in Denver (by someone who never lived there) part 1 of 2: Children's Palace

Much like a caveman being mauled by a Tyrannosaurus, my wife finds my hobbies incomprehensible and terrifying. So what I tell her is Roboplasticology-the study of ancient toy robot ads of long ago-is much like dinocheology, the study of ancient dinosaur bones. Famous real life dinosaur dinocheologists like Doctor Alan Grant have much in common with Roboplasticologists like myself. Just as dinocheologists dig through rock to find deeply buried fossilized dinosaur bones, I dig through countless reels of library microfilm searching for deeply buried photocopied toy robots ads. At the end of the day, Dinocheologists can put all their bones together and have a more or less complete Tyrannosaurus that tells them about the ancient world of dinosaurs. Much like them, I put my ads together to construct ToyStoreSaurus skeletons that tell me of the ancient world of now extinct 1980s retail stores that sold toy robots. ToyStoreSaurus is closely related to the enormous Wasteoftimeus Rex.


During Vintage Space Toast Tour Denver I was able to get a rough idea of what the 1980s Colorado toy robots scene was like. Much like the Jurassic Period, the 1980s were a time when now extinct giants thrived in the greater Denver metropolitan area-giants like Lionel Playworld and Children's Palace. Unfortunately the deadliest predator in the ancient world of ToyStoreSauruses was the dreaded ToysaReUs. Once a ToysaReUs Rex entered the retail environment it would mercilessly consume the sales of all other toy stores until they became extinct. This is exactly what happened in Denver. Denver in the 80s was a peaceful place where multiple Lionel Playworlds and Children's Palaces coexisted in harmony for almost a decade until the carnivorous ToysaReUs came along in 1990 and killed them all off within a year and a half.

21 October 198416 November 1984

But before the dark times, before the empire of Geoffrey Giraffe, there were five Children's Palace stores in Colorado with four of them being in or near the greater Denver metropolitan area. One of my goals was to track down and take pictures of the buildings that these stores used to be in (if they still existed). The first store opened in October of 1984 and was located at 5022 South Jellison Way in southwest Denver. It was followed within a few weeks by a store at 13686 E Alameda Avenue next to Aurora Mall. They both had their grand opening on November 17th, 1984. I was fortunate enough to find the buildings that used to be these first two Children's Palaces. It wasn't hard because the architecture is pretty unique. The Jellison store is now a gymnastics center and it's where I filmed VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR DENVERADO LIVE (part 1 of 3). The Alameda store is now a Dollar Tree.

Denver's first Children's Palace

Denver's other first Children's Palace

Unfortunately the buildings that used to be the other two Children's Palaces in Denver weren't as easy to locate. They opened in 1988 along with a store in Colorado Springs. One of them was at 7025 West 88th and when I drove there I found a gigantic Ross store that didn't look very Children's Palacey to me. The other location was listed in the ads as being next to the doomed Cinderella City, a mall in Englewood that has since been demolished. I drove around endlessly looking for that Cinderella City Children's Palace but I could not find a store that matched the architecture I was looking for. Either it was built differently, renovated, or demolished along with the rest of the mall. Also, I could be dumb and just didn't see it.

This is the store at the address of what used to be a Children's Palace

I was really grateful for Children's Palace because all throughout the mid to late 80s they ran Sunday sales flyers during the holiday season. Other stores weren't as consistent with their full color pull out ads, but Children's Palace always had something in that Sunday paper. Near the way end of the Transformers toyline in '89 and '90, Children's Palace could be counted on to still throw in some robots in their ads well after most other chains had dropped advertising Transformers completely. This helped me immensely while I was looking for those tail end Transformer ads amongst an onslaught of newsprint Nintendos and Ninja Turtles.


The end of Children's Palace in Colorado came September 15, 1991 when they closed their doors forever. If I ever go back to Denver for another Vintage Space Toast Tour I will check out the papers from that era to see if they advertised during those last lonely days. For now I am happy to have found a couple of ads from their heyday. One of my favorite Children's Palace flyers has a front page that proclaims "DISCOVER HOW MUCH LESS TOYS CAN COST!" and then right under that they have the Omega Supreme of GI Joe playsets, the Defiant Space Shuttle Complex which cost over $100. Oh, mighty Children's Palace I can almost still hear you roar.

22 November 198704 December 1988


Anonymous said...

Damn. I never realized that the Defiant was so much $$$. It was even more than Fort Max!!!
I can understand the big aircraft carrier being super expensive even at the time but what makes the Defiant so special? Did it have all sorts of gadgets and gimmicks or something?

Anonymous said...

We had one Children's Palace in Erie, PA and it has also long since gone the way of the dodo. I want to say our Toys R Us arrived around the same time, perhaps earlier, maybe 1988 or so.

But the best local toy store was Toy World, later Mac's Toy World, where they actually obtained some of the main-in Transformers like Powerdashers, Omnibots, and Reflector and sold them in store. It's a carpet store now, I think.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

The USS Flag was comprised mostly of flat plastic panels and a tower whereas the Defiant was a very detailed gigantic playset with multiple vehicles and accessories. It was crazy intricate. I can't imagine the Flag cost anywhere near as much to produce.

It would probably be a lot of fun to sit down and talk to Mac or anyone who worked at his ToyWorld. I wonder if they'd have stories to tell.

Anonymous said...

On the east coast, Children's Palace was known as Child World. If I remember correctly, the last thing my family bought there was an Atari Lynx in 1990.

Heavyarms said...

If it makes you feel any better, the ToysaReUs Rex in my hometown died about 10 years ago. I think its a Rehab Center...uhh...saurus, now.

Anonymous said...

Eh, I'm not too impressed. I still would take Fort Max over the Defiant if my parents were willing to spend that kind of money on myself or my brother back then. Kind of a funny story here:
I only knew one person who actually bought Fort Max in '87 and he was my older brother's friend. He mowed lawns or something like that when he wasn't in school and he spent some of that money on Fort Max right after he came out. His parents were angry that he would spend that much money on a toy when he was getting too old for toys anyway (he was fifteen at the time) so they made him return him. Man oh man though he looked like he was about to cry and he stormed upstairs throwing a prissy/sissy fit that you'd never expect a (non-emo) teenage guy to throw. My older brother and I were really trying to contain our laughter basically thinking "wow, I've never seen anyone act like such a sissy/drama queen over a toy before."
Years later it turns out that my brother's friend actually was gay so I suppose the drama queen fit doesn't seem as weird in retrospect.
Man oh man though, my brother and I just got to see the box (as his friend was about to return it) and that was enough to convince us that it was the most awesome thing we'd ever seen. If I could get just one more transformers toy before I die and it could be any transformer it would be Fort Max. I have the RiD Brave Max but the fugly color scheme just really wrecks it for me. I was able to get over it at first but the longer it stood on my desk the more the color scheme started to look like a cheesy biglots KO. I thought about painting it in the Fort Max colors but then a relative pointed out "then you couldn't resell it at a good price."
So now he's just sitting in my closet in his box. ($600 NIB if anyone wants him).
As for the point of your blog itself, I never really knew about TRU putting any of the other toy chains out of business in the 80s because we've pretty much always just had the TRU and a Kaybees in my area when I was growing up. My brother (who is your age) might remember some of those other toy stores you mentioned though.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Sexual orientation has nothing to do with the anguish he must have felt at working hard for something and getting it, only to be denied by some fucked up values system his parents had. Maybe they chipped in, but even then instead of letting him make his own mistake (like you made with Brave Max) they caused him more hurt and pain. He was a man who thought he was working hard towards a goal and had it pulled out from under him. Especially during teenage years this can be emotionally devastating. It sucks that you guys couldn't have been better friends instead of nearly busting out laughing at the guy.

Anonymous said...

Truly, Fort Max is the Omega Supreme of Transformers

Unknown said...

Awesome memories! :-)

I had worked at Child World (sister company to Children's Palace) from 1986-1992, when the chain closed.

I'm surprised at how little information is out there regarding CWCP... just a few blogs/forums such as this, and a few images.

I'm trying to change that - visit - there are links there with ALL the former store locations.

Child World / Children's Palace may be history - but I'm hopeful its memory can be kept alive.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Good luck, Dan! I hope you can keep your site active for a long time. It would be great to read your personal recollections of your experience.



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