Memory Lane: Dinosaurs vs. Skyscrapers

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These were among my very favorite toys as a kid–Miller Co. wax dinosaurs. I’m so glad I still have two of them left–a big Stegosaurus and a smaller one. These wax toys had a regrettable tendency to break. I’ll bet the Dimetrodon’s and Triceratops’ tails broke off while they were taking this picture.

Our snow is turning into slush today–but not to worry, we’ve got some more snow in our forecast–and if I were ten years old, today I’d be building skyscrapers with our plastic skyscraper kit and working out stories involving dinosaurs and skyscrapers. We also had a Cape Canaveral play set whose rockets came in very handy when you had to defend the skyscrapers. A rubber-tipped Atlas rocket would take out even a Tyrannosaur with a direct hit. But I usually rooted for the dinosaurs, so they had spring-powered missiles, too.

Ah, the imagination! Cavemen lined up on the roof of a skyscraper, armed with rocks and spears, fending off a giant Pterodactyl, commanded by a plastic figurine of Davy Crockett–even the movies couldn’t match it. With Sir Lancelot riding out in armor to do battle with creatures he supposed, not unreasonably, to be dragons.

These stories could go on all the way to suppertime.

We didn’t need video games.

Memory Lane: Plastic Skyscraper Kit

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Nobody likes to go outside in freezing rain. A day like today brings back memories of a plastic skyscraper kit my brother used to have. It was nowhere near as fancy as the one in the picture above, but it had hundreds of pieces and it certainly sufficed.

My brother and I used to try to construct buildings that would use all the pieces in the kit. That would keep us busy for a while. You started with a composite wood base and built up from there. It had room for two skyscrapers, which we could connect with walkways. By and by the building would become inhabited by dinosaurs, cavemen, and wild animals, and adventures would follow.

The pieces interlocked, no glue involved, you could always take a building apart and make another one. That was the only way you could get the Brontosaurus out. Hours of fun.

Lego still exists, so there must be kids out there who have the attention span required to build an elaborate plastic skyscraper. Such a peaceful, soothing game to play! Grandma used to hope that one or both of us would grow up to be engineers who built bridges. She had to settle for plastic skyscrapers. And so did we–but they sufficed. They did indeed.

Memory Lane: The Sears Christmas Catalog

1959 Sears Christmas Book | Christmas books, Christmas catalogs, Vintage  christmas

What kid growing up in the 50s or 60s didn’t love this–the annual Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog?

I spent hours and hours with these. I mean, come on–what’s better than a day off from school because it’s snowing too hard, curled up on the sitting room couch with the Sears catalog?

Everything was in there! Even guns. But my favorite was the section devoted to assorted play sets–the farm, Cape Canaveral, the circus, dinosaurs, Wild West: wow, they had everything!

Animal World Farm Playset (12 Medium size animals in a bag) - Curious Kids

I do wish I still had some of those rubber-nosed rockets and spring-powered launchers from the Cape Canaveral play set. I still have farm animals, circus animals, and jungle animals–and dinosaurs, of course–from other sets. Reminders of sweet Christmas Past. Priceless now.

It’s been many years since I’ve seen a Sears Christmas catalog. Do they still publish them?

But my box of animals is still here, to bring to mind the people that I loved, and family Christmas at my grandpa’s house, and early, early Christmas morning, and my first sight of the decorated tree, the job my father did after he packed his kids off to sleep…

‘Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books’ (2016)

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These were some of my all-time favorite toys–the Golden stamp books.

Memory Lane: Golden Stamp Books

Of course, you had to have an attention span, and an imagination, to enjoy these. On each page was a short article to read, a line drawing to color with your crayons, and a full-color stamp to paste in.

I don’t know how old I was when my Grammie got me In Days of Old: The Story of the Middle Ages–ten, tops, no older than that–but I remember it as if I’d read it yesterday. The pictures and the text ignited my imagination, and to this day I’m still interested in the Middle Ages. Still learning.

I am so glad I didn’t have to settle for “Zombie Apocalypse” on some kind of electronic gizmo.

Memory Lane: the Magic 8-Ball

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Ask it a question, it’ll tell you no lies! That’s because it can’t, but never mind: it’s the Magic 8-Ball, invented in 1950 and still going strong.

My cousins and I had enormously good times with their Magic 8-Ball, asking embarrassing questions about each other and getting embarrassing answers. “Is Joanne in love with that creepy guy down the street?” “It is certain.” You get the idea.

I’m more than a little surprised that no one has trotted out the Magic 8-Ball to prognosticate this year’s political contests. Think of the money they’d save, just asking the 8-Ball. “Is Joe Biden all there?” “Please concentrate and ask again.” “Do those people on CNN ever tell the truth?” “Certainly not!”

In fact, it’d be instructive to compare the Magic 8-Ball to the various TV nooze analysts, scoring them for accuracy. I dare you to do it, MSNBC. Triple-dog dare you!

Memory Lane: the Sears Christmas Catalogue

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Another dreary, grey, rainy day–and me without a Sears catalogue.

One of my coziest childhood memories is cuddling up on the sitting room couch with the Sears Christmas catalogue: and there’s no school, because it’s snowing like mad outside.

I felt like Howard Carter peering into Tutankhamen’s tomb, who answered, when asked what he could see, “Things! Wonderful things!” Bikes and pogo sticks. Toy guns and real guns (not much chance of me getting one of those!). Erector sets and plastic models.

But for me the ultimate treasure was the play sets. Like this farm set.

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I wasn’t much for army men, but oh!–all those cool animals in the farm set. And my Grammy gave it to me for Christmas that year. I still have some of those animals. When I see them, I remember her. And her Christmas tree, every year in the same corner of her living room. I still have a few of her ornaments, too, including the elf who winds up on our tree every year.

Yeah, I know it doesn’t count as holy–unless family, and love, and delight are holy, too. Gifts of God, who is the source of every good gift we’ll ever know.

P.S.–And get a load of those prices! The whole 100-piece farm set for $4.99. I can’t imagine what a toy like that would cost today.

Memory Lane: Bounty from Sears

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During my boyhood, at just about this time every year, we received our Sears-Roebuck Christmas catalogue. Oh, boy! My brother, my sister, and I spent hours and hours marveling at the treasures depicted therein.

My favorites were the various play sets, featuring a whole bunch of little plastic figurines with a nice big setting for them. My brother would have loved the one pictured above! You not only get lots of little cars, but also this wonderful service station plus parking deck.

We had play sets for the Age of Dinosaurs, a farm, Cape Canaveral–you could put your eye out with those spring-launched rockets–an army base, and a three-ring circus.

And look at the price–$4.98 for the whole shootin’ match, or you can get the super-colossal version for $7.98. These items now sell on eBay for hundreds of bucks apiece. I remember when I wanted the dinosaur set and my father said we couldn’t afford it, five dollars was just too much. I wound up getting it for Christmas, and I still have some of the dinosaurs today. (Wish I’d kept those rockets, though!)

Oh, so many play sets! King Arthur and his knights, Ben-Hur and his chariot race, Wagon Train, Fort Apache, the jungle trading post–I used to get off on just reveling in the pictures in the catalogue.

Now, I do realize that such things have nothing whatever to do with Christmas, the real Christmas, but are really just add-ons to express the joy we experience at the birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Without Him it’s only a festival of Mammon. We do have to take care, especially with our children, that this is clearly understood. We mustn’t celebrate the gifts; the gifts are a celebration of Christ.

But I will stack up the 1959 Sears Christmas catalogue against any cultural artifact of this present time, and come out way ahead.

Memory Lane: Knightly Model Kits

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Behold the Blue Knight of Milan, a plastic model from the 1950s. This one looks a lot better than mine did when I finished it; but all that detailed painting was beyond my little-boy skills. My knight was lucky he could stand up without leaning on a lamppost.

Model kits were big in our house. And my mother was big on knights in shining armor, King Arthur, Sir Lancelot–for which I give thanks to this day: that was good for me!

So I had the Blue Knight of Milan  (I had no idea where Milan was), with his battle-axe; and my brother had the Silver Knight of I don’t remember where–was it Oklahoma?–and the Silver Knight had a nice big sword.

And I got to thinking, “Gee, I’ll bet we could really cut things with that sword!” So I tried to.

Imagine my horror when the plastic sword wouldn’t cut the little string of yarn–but the yarn sawed right through the sword. I had to glue it back together: the old “they’ll never notice!” theory. My brother did notice and he was not amused–although he did understand the need for scientific investigations such as that. He just didn’t understand why it had to be his knight who was the subject of said investigation.

I’ll bet you can still get one of these old model kits on eBay. I wonder if kids today can enjoy such things. Assembling a model takes patience and attention. And it’s quiet. Can we still do patience and attention and quiet?

Memory Lane: Build Your Own Birds

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! See the source image

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.”

 

Memory Lane: The Game of ‘Schmo’

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).

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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.

Schmo, anyone?