Tag Archives: vintage 1950s toys

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?


‘More Memory Lane: “Fury”‘ (2016)

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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.

https://leeduigon.com/2016/08/22/more-memory-lane-fury/

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.


Another Fantastic Gag That Didn’t Work

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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.

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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.


Memory Lane: Marx Play Sets

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?


Memory Lane: Marx Jungle Animals

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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.

 


Remember Monkie-Sticks?

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.


Memory Lane: Venus Paradise Colored Pencil Set

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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.


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