Don’t be fooled by these unprepossessing little pieces of plastic. Sure, it looks like the easiest model in the world to assemble. But wait, there’s more!
This is the parakeet from Bachmann Birds of the World, vintage 1959. And if you can do a good job of following the instructions for hand-painting it… voila!
I kept my finished model parakeet at Grammy’s house–mine was painted blue and white instead of green and yellow–and it never failed to turn heads, sitting on its perch in the living room. It was very realistic!
I kept my scarlet tanager at home. There were many birds in this series, but I didn’t get into collecting them. I sorta wish I had, though.
Toys for kids, featuring the development of manual skills, learning to follow directions, and patience in working toward a goal–yeah, tell me you can get that with “Zombie Apocalypse.”
Just in case there isn’t another Democrat “debate” for a while, here’s something very similar to tide you over–the game of Schmo (http://www.craycraygames.com/?p=800).
Remco produced this game in 1959. How well I remember those commercials! “I’m a schmo, and that ain’t good…” The object of the game was to see how could be the biggest nincompoop, or schmo. Events within the game featured forgetting one’s pants, stepping into wet cement, and other schmo-like misadventures.
I expect I’ll be sitting in a doctor’s waiting room while you read this.
This is the toy that served me when I played “Fury”
A 1950s American middle-class childhood–I wouldn’t trade it for gold.
Fury was a long-running TV show about an orphan boy, a horse nobody wanted, and the healing power of love.
If you showed up in Hollywood with a script like this today, they’d think you’d lost your mind. Or they’d buy it and then find some way to make it dirty.
But for those of us who knew and loved this show, way back when, the memories are sweet.
Comic books in the 1950s advertised for all sorts of incredibly cool things you could send away for–X-ray glasses, Sea Monkeys, this little doohickey you could put in your mouth that would let you throw your voice like a professional ventriloquist… genuine authentic foot-locker full of these pitiful flat plastic soldiers…
And the Joy Buzzer.
This little treasure, you wound it up and hid it in the palm of your hands, and when your victim shook hands with you, he’d get a loud buzzing shock that’d make him jump a foot in the air. We thought it might’ve been electric, but when my brother and I got our Joy Buzzers, we quickly discovered there was no electricity involved. In fact there wasn’t much of anything involved. If you and the victim really tried on purpose, you could get it to buzz. But usually nothing happened.
At least these things weren’t expensive.
To this day I remain skeptical of the worth of goods and services advertised in comic books.
I loved those play sets by the Marx Toy Co.! I didn’t have any of these carry-all cases, but I did have the Cape Kennedy play set when it was still called Cape Canaveral: and boy, those spring-powered rockets! You could actually put a dent in your ceiling. Like, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” But the threat was obvious even to us kids, and nobody shot his eye out with a Nike missile.
The commercial also shows Fort Apache, Noble Knights, and Boot Camp play sets. My favorite, not shown, was Dinosaurs and Cave Men.
These toys set my imagination on fire. For a while there I wanted to be a toy maker when I grew up, so I could design some really far-out play sets. But in the meantime I rejoiced in setting up the little plastic figurines and turning the set-up into a story.
Have they quite succeeded, yet, in putting the imagination into deep freeze? Would kids even know what to do with a play set anymore?
I remain hopeful: just give them time, and they’ll figure it out. Human nature as God created it, good and bad, will not be denied forever.
P.S.–Where did my video go? Can any of you see it?
Boy, oh, boy, did I love these when I was a little boy! Marx jungle animals–I still have dozens of them in my toy box. I think I was five years old when Aunt Millie gave me my first little set of them.
I used these as characters in “stories” that went on all summer, or all winter, or whenever. I gave them names and put them in adventures. Some of those pictured above are newer than any of mine, but ten of them are originals from the 1950s.
Sometimes my brother or my friends would join me in playing out these little dramas, and sometimes I played alone. Once I started getting dinosaurs and cavemen, too, the stories got more exciting. Lost treasures, nasty big game hunters that had to be dealt with, lost worlds full of monsters–whatever popped into our heads, often inspired by a movie or TV show, we used. Unusually, I rarely played with little army men. I was committed to the animals.
Do kids still do this kind of play? Or has it all be buried under a mass of video games? I don’t know. Maybe some of you have children or grandchildren who use their toys to act out stories. Careful–they might grow up to be fantasy writers.
This was an educational toy from the 1950s: Monkie-Sticks. Except for this one picture, above, of an unopened pack, Monkie-Sticks has slid into oblivion. But some of you must have had them!
What did you do with them? Why, you built things with ’em! The sticks linked together, end to end, and the little monkeys (“monkies”) provided four-way links. My friend David and I played with Monkie-Sticks by the hour.
On a dreary rainy day like this, with everything an hour late because of stupid Daylight Saving Time, and no way to remedy it, I kind of wish I had a pack of Monkie-Sticks. Hey, come on over! We’ll build really drafty little houses for my toy dinosaurs and cavemen.
So there you were, expecting a real wowser of a snowstorm that would have kept the schools closed on Monday and led to a glorious day of sledding and snowball fights–but all it did was rain. What to do with your Sunday afternoon?
I loved these Venus Paradise pencil sets. Each set came with a raft of colored pencils and a bunch of pictures to color by number–always with a wonderful result, if you didn’t make careless mistakes. The pictures we got back then were complicated and it took a couple of hours to color one in. But it was worth it!
I don’t think these are available anymore, and I wonder if kids today would have the patience to enjoy them. After all, it’s not electronic. And no mayhem. Just really nice pictures of ducks flying over the cattails in a marsh, or a scenic covered bridge on a sunny day in the fall–stuff like that. All you needed was a pencil sharpener, and a bit of peace and quiet. There are still some similar toys around, but once you fell in love with Venus Paradise, nothing else would do.
I’ve still got some of the pencils, but the pictures are, alas, long gone.
There used to be a lot of toys like this–toys that got you to use your imagination: and your hands, too. Among the greatest of these was the erector set.
With these toys, you start with just a bunch of parts that don’t look like anything, and with your hands and your brain, you turn them into something. What could be cooler than that?
All of the kids in my family got their start on my aunts’ erector set that they had when they were kids. I’m happy to say my brother still has ours.
My brother and I got this toy for Christmas once, sometime in the Fabulous Fifties: Tudor Electric Baseball.
The ball was a tiny white magnet which you “pitched” with a kind of catapult, aiming for a tin sheet representing the batter. Behind the sheet sat your opponent, who, when he heard the ball stick to the other side of the screen, smacked his side with a spring-operated plastic bat. If the ball landed on a circle marked “hit,” he flicked a switch and these little plastic guys with strips of celluloid on their bases ran around the basepaths, accompanied by a loud buzzing sound as the whole gameboard vibrated energetically. The basepaths were thick cardboard guides. Without them, the runners would have dashed all over the place in a kind of brownian movement.
If this sounds complicated, that’s only because it really was complicated.
Our friend “thewhiterabbit” had an Electric Football game. He soon gave up trying to make any sense of it.
Colorforms Baseball, which we also tried, had no electricity–only a dial on a spinner which, when spun, would stop either on an out or some kind of hit.
I have a feeling this toy cost my parents a fair amount of money. We dutifully played it until the day we somehow lost the ball. It was a very noisy game, and lots of times you’d smack the tin sheet and the ball would just fall off and you’d have to have a do-over. Or sometimes you’d smack it and the ball would just stick there.
But it’s the thought that counts!