Fun Ho! History

Jumbo Toys - Made by McKenzie and Bannister

Dominion Die Castings Co. was started by Mr Bannister (Senior) and in the late 1950s moved premises to Patrick Street, Te Papa, Auckland.

It is believes that prior to this, the firm has its beginnings at the bottom of Cottage Hill near the Beaumont Street turn off, opposite Victoria Park. An interesting point is that there were at least five Foundries at one time in close proximity to one another.

Among the more successful products was the "Vortex" washing machine. Unfortunately, around 1960, the firm went bankrupt and the operation was closed.

Frank McKenzie and Peter Bannister, a son of Mr Bannister Senior, obtained much of the firm's equipment and formed their own company, McKenzie and Bannister, and commenced production of a range of aluminium die-cast hollow kitchenware, including 3-piece saucepans, barbeques, sandwich toasting tongs, and a variety of other useful domestic items.

It was about this time, in the early 1960s, that cast aluminium toy production started, evidently from the Patrick Street premises. Manufacturing was by Aluminium Gravity Die Casting with many of the dies being made on site by Peter Bannister who was a great innovator. It is known that among other equipment, he made a milling machine adapted from a lathe.

Among the earliest toys were Knuckle-bones which were made and sold by the thousands. An open Sports Car and a 'Clock' Money-box were also made, but were not quite so prolific. During these first 6-7 years of toy manufacturing, a Tip Truck combination with Articulating Trailer became extremely popular and peaked at 3000 units per year.

The best seller however was the "407" Tractor, with or without either a Front End Loader or Bulldozer Blade attached. In its best year, sales reached 6000-7000 which was a record. Trucks and Tractors were updated, as well as other toys being added to the range of Jumbo Toys.

Around 1970, a special range of toys were made for I. Yock and Co. Ltd., Wholesalers. These were marketed under an alternative name, and were recognised by an oval-shaped blue and white sticker with the brand "Joytime" suitably inscribed.

The range consisted of the Forklift, Road Grader, Road Roller, Earth Scraper Carryall, Articulated Ditch Digger, and a double axle version which was equipped with a winch and removable ramp instead of digging equipment to faciliate convenient loading of another vehicle.

However, all was not well, and in the early 1970s McKenzie and Bannister ceased to be and some of the toy moulds were sold to another firm, who later sold the toy dies to The Underwood Engineering Co. Ltd., the makers of "Fun Ho!" Toys.

Some of the more useable dies were incorporated into the Fun Ho! range of sand cast toys, being distinguished by their new catalogue name of "Fun Ho! Sandpit Range," which were marketed by Underwoods from about 1980.

Some of the original dies may be seen at the Fun Ho! National Toy Museum, Rata Street, Inglewood, Taranaki.

These sketchy details and the following pictures are admittedly incomplete and any further information would be gladly received for updating and publication.

- Barry Young, 2002

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