I'm not quite sure how it happened but by the end of 1956 I was dinosaur crazy. It was probably a convergence of influences. There was a Life book of Natural History that I'd earlier got as a birthday present from Uncle Fred. That had reproductions of the panorama that I now know is a 110 foot long mural at Yale's Peabody Museum called Age of Reptiles, by Rudolph Zallinger, who was born in Irkutsk, Siberia, of Austrian and Polish parents, lived in Manchuria, then lived in Seattle, graduated from Seattle's Queen Anne High School, ended up at Yale, and painted the mural while studying art there. The internet is awesome.
A 1970 US postage stamp honored the mural (right).
Another influence was Disney's Fantasia. I never saw the whole movie until I got to graduate school but bits of it wound up on TV, including the setting of evolution up to the end of the dinosaurs to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
Then there was Alley Oop, who was big in the 50s. What kid wouldn't want to ride a dinosaur? The comic strip character eventually got a stamp of his own in '95.
I'm not sure, but I might have also encountered Turok, Son of Stone, 18th Century American comic book Indian lost among honkers in some weird time-displaced cavern the size of Rhode island.
Anyway, the result was that I needed dinosaurs for Christmas, 1956. They would be necessary, so that I might have them. They would be plastic, of course, because the real dinosaurs all died out, as we all know, 65 million years ago, but they would have to mine. I had to have a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Brontosaur, a Triceratops, and a Stegosaurus, at the very least.
I think Freud called it the Latent Stage. I wasn't entirely there yet but I was on the precipice. It would improve my grades eventually, for a while. With girls, it's usually ponies.