Sunday, January 23, 2011

1-23-11 Toys

Of all the things I can get nostalgic about, toys are at the top of the list. I see pictures of them and am instantly transported back to the house where I played with them, furniture and cabinets often towering over me as I lost myself in my imaginary escapades with my toys.

I love clicking through the various Christmas Wish Books, page by page, that you can find on Flickr. A lot of the toys in my memories are easy to find. Others, not so much. The ones I could find are linked to their commercials on YouTube.

I have to start with the yellow teddy bear that had a music box in his tummy that you could wind up from the key in his back.

Jackpot photo: first birthday netted the round musical bear, the chatter phone, and the Change a Tune Toy Piano that had a block in the top you rotated so that when you pressed on the keys, depending on the block facing front, you produced that song.

A couple of years later I got to graduate to the "real thing" with a two and a half octave stretch.

And the tried and true baby dolls, including the little guy on the right who was perpetually yawning and filled with sand.

Did anyone else have a ride-on Chiquita banana?

I played with this one so much as soon as I saw the picture I spotted the missing piece. There should be a little stack of logs that set on the center section of the train. The brown tracks had these hole and tab ends that fit together and easily broke off, derailing your train every time.

Only $8.85!! Hours of school fun! Except I always remember not having enough letters to spell much of anything. . . Lots and lots of Fisher Price Little People memories, either with my own sets or playing next door with Julie and Shelley and Sissy.

And how I loved the record player with those brightly colored deeply grooved plastic "albums" that played such hits as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." The teaching clock was another favorite. Every FP toy on this commercial I remember playing with.

I loved my old steel cash register so much, it went with me on family vacations to the woods. I think I was selling acorns to squirrels here. . . Oh, and remember the red and white checkerboard shoes from Foley's? There they are!

The Rite-Hite Kitchen, perfect for hiding away from your domestic duties:

And Dressy Bessy back when you had to actually learn how to tie shoelaces (they switched her shoes to velcro in the 80s).

My faithful Wonder stallion:

The Playskool Computer:

And the Playskool car that Julie next door had.

Mystery Blocks -- I have searched the internet high and low with every search trick I know. The best I could come up with was a listing on ebay, which also didn't know what to call these things, but these are definitely the match to the ones in my picture. 6 sided plastic blocks that had: colors, numbers, alphabets, words, animal pictures, and shapes. I'm really tempted to buy this set just to have them again.

There they are in my messy room splayed across the floor. They originally came in a cardboard case, just barely visible on the far right. I would swear the box appears to say Plays. . . kool? Nothing comes up in a search.

I can't remember whose grand idea it was was to give me a bowling set for Christmas, but I'm sure all the older people in the room were ready to strangle them. You spent way more time setting them up than it took me to knock them down. (Cousins Walt and Christy were wrangled into it at first.)

Snoopy Viewmaster!

Rub-a-Dub Dolly, made to stand up to endless baths without disintegrating or leaking disgusting green liquid from her pores.

Ah, the beloved doctor's set. I think I am three here and yet I remember so clearly having a meltdown because my parents didn't let me take my brand new doctor's kit with me to church the next evening.

Tinkertoys!! Never before has a toy promised so much and made me so mad when it wouldn't go together. I'm clearly smiling BEFORE starting to try and construct a tower on the tin.

And Weebles, the only toy I still collect; I'm only missing the Invisible Man Scotch Tape giveaway weeble, and Wrinkles, the blue camel from the Raggedy Ann and Andy set.

Weebles and the Etch a Sketch on the 4th birthday with Julie and Shelley:

The Treasure Island Weebles Set, Christmas '75:

Also from Christmas '75: Walking Baby Loves You had squooshy rounded hands that you could press to activate rods in her legs to make her do a very fancy Nazi goose step walk with you.

And the Holly Hobbie Gazebo!

And then, as elementary school set in, the toys became less cuddly, but no less fun. Colorforms!

Spirographs! A lot of these things are connected to the weeks I had to spend at home being sick. One year, it was almost a month with mono, another year it was almost a month with pneumonia. Anything I could do curled up in bed, watching Josie and the Pussycats was a winner in my book.

Then there was the advent of electronic games in the later 70s. Merlin played (gasp!) SIX different games!

And 2XL, the 8 track quiz master I was desperate to have. I think he was a last minute addition after I begged. I think Mom and Dad had already blown the budget on the 10 speed bike and Smaller Homes and Gardens dollhouse, but there he was under the tree waiting for me.

And on the low-tech front, Stay Alive was one of my favorite board games. Who couldn't love a game hawked by Vincent Price?

I also went through a Muppet phase where I wanted to be the next Jim Henson. I think in the end I owned Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Rowlf. I remember putting on plays with these guys, including an excellent Kermit lip-sync to "It's Not Easy Being Green."

And finally, the race tracks. When I was about 8 I remember sitting in the front room of Aunt Dot's house with Walt who pulled out his 1969 Hot Wheels Super Charger Race set and a case full of shiny, pristine Hot Wheels. There was a house on the track with rollers powered by about 6 giant D batteries that, when running, sounded a whole lot like a lawn mower. The cars would run through the roller and get shot out the other side with such force they would race around the long loopy orange plastic track with plenty of power to spare before getting shot through again. Walt gave me that set and all those cars that day. He was 12 years older than me and we didn't have a whole lot of things to bond over, but those Hot Wheels were the exception.

So a few years later, Christmas was all about the electric set. The Tyco Night Glow Super Duper Double Looper Race Set! No more roaring noise that drowns out all conversation. The cars' headlights lit up! And the whole thing glowed in the dark. Nirvana.

After the race set years, the toys faded into the background and the latest fashions, books, music, and other electronics (Atari, pacman flip phone, walkmans) became the main Christmas gifts. How very depressing.


  1. Wow--- I so remember those plastic mystery blocks and have searched for them everywhere, also! :( Thank you for so many wonderful memories here (Snoopy Colorforms, Weebles Treehouse, I even still have my Merlin toy that my 8 year old daughter plays with now. haha!) This is great.

    1. Hi Emma! Thanks for reading! The mystery blocks turned out to be PlaySKILLS and they are often on ebay in varying conditions. Currently : Happy Memories! :)