Saturday, September 5, 2015

Memoirs: The toys I grew up with

Photo credit: Leigh Goessl
Growing up in the 1970s was a lot of fun. In those days we didn't have many bright, flashy, blinking or video-centric games the kids of today play with, but even though our toys were simplistic in nature, we had some pretty nifty toys.

Most of the toys I grew up with were made of durable wood. Our parents didn't have to worry about breakage and replacements over the course of time, and boy could these toys withstand some rough play. A few of these toys are still manufactured today, but they don't seem to be able to compete with the electronics and plastics that fill the toy shelves today. It does make me smile though to see a few retailers bringing back "retro items" in those simple boxes.

It seems like only yesterday my siblings and I used to take our brilliantly colored wooden blocks, augment them with Lincoln Logs for extra finesse, and sit for hours building architectural wonders which grew into small cities. In between tall buildings we developed towers and other structures with our Tinker Toys for additional flair.

I also have warm recollections of going to visit our great-aunt and playing Pick-Up Sticks. In those days, even the Pick-Up Sticks were made of wood; the excitement of concentrating and trying my hardest to grasp a stick without moving the others was always thrilling. I actually found my old set (one of the few toys to escape the donate pile) a few years back and I immediately brought those home. 

Colorforms were another wonderful pastime, I can recall how fun it was to take those sticker-like characters and magically pose them in the scenery; my favorite was "Snoopy", although "Wonder Woman" was pretty neat too. All we needed was that piece of cardboard with those small plastic pieces to create stories and our imaginations took us through all sorts of adventures as we strategically placed our colorforms across the mat.

One of the fondest memories I have is of my best friend and I trekking our Charlie's Angels dolls into the woods and setting up camp. We craftily found ways for our dolls go on fearless adventures, climbing through the dangers of the woods to fight crime and solve mysteries. In our campsite we used fallen leaves as blankets, and we tied twigs together to create cots for them to sleep in between excursions. 

As much as I loved playing with those dolls in the woods, the rustic surroundings weren't exactly glamorous and I desperately dreamed of the Charlie's Angels' Hideaway House. Our family didn't have a lot of money and I knew it was a distant wish. I'll never forget the year that there was a big package under the Christmas tree with my name on it and when I had opened it, it was the Hideaway House! To this day I have no idea how my mother managed to find the money for it. 

Santa does indeed work in mysterious ways. My dolls and I were very happy and proud to have a home to relax in after battling the dangers of the woods.

Today, as I browse through the toy aisles, plastic toys with digital enhancements dominate the shelves. While they have a certain appeal and attraction, they just don't hold the same magnetism the toys of yesteryear did. Kids quickly move on from one electronic fad to the next and modern toys don't hold their attention the way those charming wooden ones held ours.

Before one fad ends, another one has already begun, and last year's "hot" toys are quickly forgotten, the majority of toys today aren't "timeless", although there are a few out there that still exist.

For my son, it was all about the PlayStation then later the XBox, but every so often he'd sit down with his baby sister and play with brightly colored blocks. As I watched them build their own architectural marvels together, I'd sit back and quietly smile. Despite all this wild technology progress happening, some things just don't change.

What were your favorite toys when growing up?

No comments:

Post a Comment