In the comments to the Burgie Beer UFO story, drkptt wrote: "I remember the Mold-A-Rama machines at the service plazas on the Florida Turnpike as a kid in the '70s. Here's a great story about their history and the last Mold-A-Rama service/sales man keeping his grandfather's business alive in Florida."
How can you resist?! You slip in your money — $3 at Busch Gardens, $2 at Lowry Park and MOSI — and watch the gee-whizzery thunk into place. That "H" stands for hydraulics. First, camshafts lock together two sides of an aluminum "mold": a cockatoo, T-rex, a girl on water skis, U-505 submarine; there are hundreds of molds available.
Polyethylene pellets, melted at 225 degrees, are injected into the mold. Air is blown into the sculpture (sounds like you're inside a bathroom hand-dryer now), making the once-solid toy hollow; if you look at the bottom of your sea lion, fighter jet, Harry S Truman, there are two holes, one for drainage, the other for a hold.
Coolant is then pumped into the mold, before that big dramatic scraper chisels free your prize, which kerplunks! into a sliding-glass chamber. The 3-inch toy is now hot and threatening — but fun hot, fun threatening! After all, you made it!
And now for the best part, the part you'll remember years later, when you're grown up and your kids are no longer kids and you have the gray hair to ponder things like this: that Mold-A-Rama smell. That clean, chemical whiff of your new souvenir.
It smells like July, like freedom, like Mom and Dad and summer and youth.
When our family would go to the Denver Zoo, the Mold-A-Rama was the most-anticipated attraction for me and my sister.