PA2013_039.jpg Puzzle. Gunnar Berger & Son. Collection of Puke Ariki (PA2013.039).

This puzzling toy was produced by Gunnar Berger and Son Ltd, for Texas Toys. Gunnar Berger was a Swedish immigrant to Eltham, who moved here with his family in 1950. Gunnar’s interest in living in New Zealand was piqued after seeing a Swedish newspaper article reporting on whey being dumped into streams around Eltham. As a trained industrial chemist and engineer, Gunnar knew lactose could be extracted from whey, and after successfully pitching an idea for a lactose factory in the small central Taranaki town, he and his family made the move to the other side of the planet. However, it was Gunnar’s next innovation that really made his name in New Zealand and around the world. His inventive spirit and love of Meccano toys prompted him to design a range of beautifully crafted and challenging toys and puzzles in partnership with his family, which he named Texas Toys.

This puzzle is one of his inventions, and is made of native timber. The lactose factory was quickly left behind as Texas Toys went from being a hobby in the Berger’s basement to a full-blown company with the business taking over the power pole factory on Bridge Street, Eltham in 1962 and then expanding again to the Mountain Road Dairy Factory in 1971. Gunnar and his family tapped in to a need for good quality educational toys, and sold many of his designs to schools in the region. This later developed in to mail order around New Zealand, then on to Australia, Sweden and the USA. However, the arrival of the Rubik's Cube and rising fuel and postage costs in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to falling sales, and the factory closed in 1983. Gunnar kept inventing through his retirement, and his later projects included a revised theory of the universe, where he calculated his own theory on the formation of the planets.  

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