Fridge Box Time Machine

Hi all,

This week’s post is mixture of play-text and personal narrative. As well as being very special to me, the story of my Fridge Box Time Machine is one of my clearest early adolescent memories of play.

Fridge Box Time Machine

Me: (Art Class, year 5) Miss, can I please make a Time Machine for my end of year project?

Miss Art Teacher #1: No, we’re making clay pots.  Grab a lump of clay and go sit down.

Me (Art Class, year 6) Miss, can I please make a Time Machine for my end of year project?

Miss Art Teacher #1: No, we’re making masks. Grab a handful of feathers and go sit down.

Me (Art class, year 7 with new glorious teacher): Miss, can I please pleeeease make a Time Machine for my end of year project? I’ve wanted to do it for agggeees.

Miss Art Teacher #2: Well no, we’re making miniature theme parks. Why don’t you join a group and see what the other girls think about a Time Machine ride in the theme park?

Me: (determined to twist this one’s arm). But no, it’s not supposed to be miniature. It’s supposed to be life sized and you can get into it and you can turn the dials and there’s like a screen that turns and you can pick the time that you’d like to visit, like dinosaurs and stuff. It’s really really great Miss. Pleaaase. My Dad can get me the fridge box to make it with from the back of the Retra-vision. Did you know they just throw them out? I’d be recycling!

Miss Art Teacher #2: (a deep breath) I’m sorry darling; the project is to make miniature theme parks with a group. You’ll learn a lot of important things working with other people. (Pulls me aside out of earshot of the other girls). Is there something wrong? Are you having trouble finding a group to work with?

Me: No, Katie said I can work with her. I just really want to make my Time Machine. I’ve had the idea for ages since my dad made a dry boat out of a fridge box for a dry boat race my mum organised.

Miss Art Teacher #2: Look I can see there is a small group over there with only three girls. Do you want to work with them? I can have a chat with them and see if they will include a Time Machine ride.  Does that sound ok?

Me: Well, no because then it would be miniature and you wouldn’t be able to get inside of it. Please miss it’s the last year of school until high school and I really really want to make my Time Machine. Please please please.

Miss Art Teacher #2 (a defeated sigh) Um, well ok……

Me: -YES!

Miss Art Teacher #2: BUT! Listen… I’ll hold you to the same standards as the other girls who are working in groups. You have to do all the work on your own, while they can help each other out. Do you understand?

Me: (too busy performing celebratory dance to hear her) Yes, Miss it’ll be great. I’ll come in at lunch and morning tea to work on it.  Thank you thank you thank you! Yayyyyy… (Yelling across the room) KATIE! Guess what? I get to make my Time Machine!

I really was desperate to make that Time Machine.

As promised, my dad sourced a used fridge box from the skip bin behind our local Retra-vision, just as he had done when making his dry boat.

If your dad didn’t make you practice dry boat racing in the back yard and you are wondering what a dry boat is, please allow me to explain. A dry boat is a kayak shaped cardboard frame with no floor and no roof, so that 3 or 4 people might stand inside it. They secure the floppy frame to their bodies with flimsy shoulder straps and race other equally ridiculous looking, yet fiercely competitive dry boaters by running towards a finish line. Boat shoes not required. Captain’s hat optional, but preferred.

Now back to my Time Machine…

I dragged that cumbersome cardboard from mum’s car to the Art room where it would be transformed into my precious Time Machine. I sliced the front panel with a box cutter to make a door which swung back and forth. By sheer coincidence I chose to paint the outside of my machine very near to a police box blue, even though I had never heard of Doctor Who. The outside though, was not important; just as it is for The Doctor, the inside of this time travelling cardboard contraption mattered most. Recall the scene between my Art Teacher and I; being able to physically get inside the Time Machine was essential to the concept.

For the interior, I had originally envisioned a kind of movable scroll made of two elongated toilet rolls, such as the ones inside a roll of paper towel. Attached to the toilet roll ends would be a long piece of 90s computer paper (you know… the type with perforated seams, the likes of Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas banners in 90s office environments). On the paper would be hand drawn scenes of immense historical significance (well significant to a 12 year old me anyway); Dinosaurs, Moon Landing, 1950s American Milk Bar, trip to Disneyland 2 years before, my birth, day my dog arrived, and so on in that fashion.

Unfortunately the scroll didn’t work out… two much engineering needed, I suspect. Instead the crudely drawn historical scenes featured on the inside walls of the box, surrounding dials which could be swivelled to point at any particular moment in time. The idea was that pointing a dial towards “Dinosaurs” and pressing the big red GO button would catapult the inhabitant back to said Dinosaur time. A pretty straight forward new law of physics if you ask me…

Like the other girls in my class, I had to present my art project on the last day of school. One by one the superb looking miniature theme parks were revealed, and we were given tiny tours of their moving parts. There were ghost trains, ferris wheels, roller coasters, water slides, and swinging pirate ships. Everything was creatively presented by girls who seemed so proud of their itzy-bitzy art.

I was last to present and I was really excited. My presentation, however, was not as grand and impressive as I had imagined it would be. I dragged my blue cardboard Time Machine out from the storage room where it had been hiding and stood proudly next to it ready to give the class a time travelling tour! Before I opened my mouth to speak I heard sniggering and then this:

Posh Schoolgirl: What’s a Time Machen?

Me: What? No it’s a Time Machine.

Posh Schoolgirl: No it says machen… you’ve written Time Machen. (the laughing is getting louder)

Me: No.. I.. what do you mean? It says Machine.

Posh Schoolgirl: Machine is spelt M-A-C-H-I-N-E not M-A-C-H-E-N. Time Machen! (even more laughing)

Me: (horrible weight of embarrassing realisation forms in the pit of my stomach). Um… I..

Miss Art Teacher #2: (tries to save the day) It’s ok, we can fix the spelling mistake later. Keep going with your presentation, we all want to see what your Time Machine can do.

Me: Um..Ok.. Well..

I gave the tour of my Time Machine (now forever known amongst my school friends as the Time Machen –pronounce ma-ken). I showed the girls how to use the dial and the GO button; I encouraged them to climb inside for themselves and try it out. I insisted that they close the door behind them when they enter. Some were uncomfortable and anxious about the small dark space. The girls were not really interested; they were not as excited as I was. Why? I wondered at the time. I think I know now… Let me explain.

I had forgotten to communicate the absolute most important and essential working part of my Time Machine:

The Time Machine does not work UNLESS YOU PRETEND.


When I would climb into the blue box and close the door behind me I’d choose a time to visit and then stand in there for ages imagining what was happening on the outside. In my mind the world was spinning and warping, twisting and bending until every little piece settled down and the surrounds had become those of the past or future. I’d imagine the world I was about to bravely step into. I’d seen Back to the Future and a Treehouse of Horrors The Simpsons episode so I was well aware that I had to be very careful not to tread on a dinosaur egg, bump into my future self, or bet on the Melbourne Cup; lest I drastically change the course of history.

I’d forgotten to tell the girls about the importance of pretending when it came to using my Time Machine. Well… at the time I thought it was implied!

 Time travel isn’t actually possible my friends, especially in a fridge box; of course you have to pretend!


oxoxox AF

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