On the day of the outbreak of World War II Adam Słodowy was only 16 years old. During the German occupation, he first worked in an agricultural machine factory. Then, in 1944 he decided to join the Polish Army in Szczecin and became an artillery officer. From 1950 to 1958 he lectured at the Oficerska Szkoła Artylerii Przeciwlotniczej in Koszalin [editor’s translation: Officer College for Antiaircraft Artillery], and later in Wojskowa Akademia Techniczna [Military Academy of Technology], where he was awarded the rank of Major. Between 1961 and 1978 he was an editor for Naczelna Redakcja Programów Oświatowych i Dziecięcych TVP [General Council for Educational and Children’s Programmes of Polish Television].
Meanwhile, Słodowy was interested in tinkering. His exceptional talent for inventing and constructing remarkable devices out of everyday objects was discovered by Polish TV at the end of the 1950s. From 1959 to 1983 Adam Słodowy hosted his original show called Zrób to Sam (Do It Yourself). The very first episode – in which Słodowy told viewers how to build a birdhouse – brought him enormous popularity that continued throughout the show’s 505 episodes. Słodowy taught his young viewers how to be creative and self-reliant, and how to use materials in unusual ways.
Rope, cardboard, strips of wood, and plywood suddenly turned out to be useful for creating toys and various types of device. It is important to emphasise that in the 1960s and 1970s, when shelves in shops where empty due to the communist regime’s policies and products such as toys generally difficult to come by, Słodowy’s ideas were very clever and useful. A washing machine for dolls clothing made from two coffee cans, a metal strip, two bottle corks, a shampoo cap, a wire, a bicycle tube rubber, an electrical cable and two paperclips or a money box with a digital lock made of a spoke from a bike wheel and a coffee can – to mention just two.
Between 1973 and 1975, together with Roman Huszczo, Słodowy wrote the scripts for 20 episodes of the animated TV cartoon called Pomysłowy Dobromir (The Inventive Do-Gooder). The series is a story of a little boy who lives with his grandfather and a friendly bird. Dobromir [Do-Gooder], the main character, helps in everyday houseworks by creating devices which facilitate and improve the functioning of his household. In the second half of the 1980s Słodowy conceived another series called Pomysłowy Wnuczek (The Inventive Grandson) based on the same concept.
Apart from his work in TV, Słodowy published books on tinkering and motorisation, compiling his ideas previously presented on TV as well as describing new toys and devices. He authored books such as as Konstrukcja Samochodu Amatorskiego (The Construction of an Amateur Car, 1958), Podręcznik Kierowcy Amatora (A Manual for Amateur Drivers, 1959 – first edition), To wcale nie jest trudne (It is not so difficult, 1963), Budujemy przyczepki campingowe (Building Camper Trailers, 1965), Lubię Majsterkować (I Like to Tinker, 1973 – the book was translated into many foreign languages and over 560,000 copies were printed) and Majsterkowanie dla każdego (Tinkering for everyone, 1976).
In 1983 Adam Słodowy was awarded the literary prize of the Polish Librarian Association as the author of the most popular books in Polish public libraries.
Originally written in Polish by Agnieszka Sural, 31.05.2017, Translated by NC, updated: December 2019