Friday, September 17, 2010

Your Toy Story -- director's cut

Our childhood toys are some of our strongest memories -- whether they're a scale-model train, a beat-up doll, or just a cardboard box and a kid's imagination.

The memories that readers shared as part of the Your Toy Story project are even better than I expected. You can read them (some with pictures!) below. I'll add a few more later, and you can see more in the comments on the original post. Some of these will also end up in the newspaper -- right now a story is scheduled for Saturday, but those things sometimes change when news breaks.

Thanks to everyone who participated; if you're just now hearing about this, add your memories in the comments. I'm also still taking submissions for another project; if you've ever not made the team, send me your thoughts on Cut Day.

Now to the toy stories...

Clancy the Roller Skating Monkey was the love of my life when I was about 3. I named him Glem Campbell (I couldn't say Glen, and Wichita Lineman was big on the radio).

"Glem" was about my size, plastic, with movable arms, and on roller skates. Hold his hand, and a button would allow him to walk beside you. Place his hat in his hand and toss coins into it, you could make him walk to you. Glem and I were inseparable.

For some reason, I told my husband and daughter about Glem a couple of months ago. That day, Bill spent three hours on the Internet trying to find him (more difficult because I could not think of the name Clancy; I could only think of Glem). Bill surprised me by bringing Glem home two weeks ago.

Though I'm 46 now, Glem brings a smile to my face every single day, and gives me the feeling that life should not be taken so seriously.
-- Melissa Hutchinson

My favorite toy growing up had to be my Hot Wheels cars. I had a few Matchbox cars, but Hot Wheels were the best in my opinion because they could roll on their own better and longer than any others. I had the plastic race track pieces also, along with a motorized “garage” which would shoot the cars out and around the tracks.

One of my earliest memories is playing with my Hot Wheels cars on the front step of my house. We had two steps out of brick and the stoop was, from my young perspective, a vast square of flat road rivaling the salt flats in Utah. Many of the cars had competitions to see who could jump off the steps and over the walkway to land safely in the soft grass, and many of the cars carried the scars of coming up short.

I can also vividly remember hours, days and weeks playing with the cars in the summer time around the trees at the lake house. We didn’t have a TV there, just loads of time and endless imagination. I had some Hot Wheels cars that matched classic pop culture of the 70’s – a “General Lee” Dodge Challenger, black ’78 Pontiac Trans Am with T-tops like in “Smokey and the Bandit”, and of course a few generic police cars that split duties as Roscoe P. Coltrane or Sheriff Buford T. Justice. The roots of the trees would provide the perfect landscape for country chases, hideouts and all sorts of other action scenes from the movies or shows I’d make up as I played along.

I still have some of the cars today and shared them with my own son, who is now 9. My wife and I had a daughter first, and were also hoping for a son but were going to be surprised again by not finding out before delivery. I remember many trips to the local Target during his first year of life where I would find myself groggily wandering into the toy aisle and pick up a Hot Wheels car or two for him when he got older. On his first birthday, I gave him a case full of about 30 cars of his own, and I believe he now owns over 200 different cars – none of which are in their original wrappers and most of which have their own scars from various close calls over the years.

My son has played with them for hours, days and weeks but also loves a lot of other distractions as he’s grown up a little. Just like I did, he’s now graduated more towards Legos and video games but does pull out the Hot Wheels cars to play with every so often.
--Doug Lang

I grew up right at the foot of Mt. Pisgah in Western North Carolina during the
depression. One of the few toys that I ever had was a doll called Betsy Wetsey. I
sold vegetables and flower seed packets to neighbors and extended family to earn this doll as a prize when I was about eight years old. After I sent off my order, it seemed to take forever for the doll to arrive in the mail. I was happy to walk the fourth of a mile to the mail box each day to see if the doll had arrived. When it finally came, I ran all the way home; I was so excited. Betsy came with a tiny
baby bottle, and when I gave her water she wet her diaper. After a few weeks of giving her just water, I decided to give her some milk as I thought she might be tired of water. Afterwards, Betsy always had bad breath from the soured milk. I still loved her just as much and enjoyed playing with her until I was too old to play with dolls. If I still had her, she might tell me that I gave her colic.
--Patsy C. McManaway

Bobo was much bigger than me, but I loved how he took all kind of abuse and popped right back up. He seemed to be perpetually blown up and always in good shape despite the abuse. I wonder if my parents replaced him a few times and didn't tell me... he did seem to last longer then my other toys. I teach elementary school and I sometimes troll the toy aisle for treats and I don't think I have seen a blow up punching doll in a long time. Has the political correct movement wiped them out because they promote violence? I don't feel like I'm violent and Bobo and I had regular knock down drag out sessions.
--Laura Phelps Brosi

My sister and I lived with my grandparents due to my parents' divorce and Mama had to work far away. She could not come for Christmas but she sent a large box of goodies for us. I don't know how old I was, but one year my best toy was a Teddy Bear and next favorite was a large bar of dark chocolate - I ate the chocolate as fast as I could, then threw it up all over the Teddy bear -- goodbye Teddy! I'm 72 now and have never forgotten that Teddy.
--Sandy Blume

Long before video games, around 1968, my favorite toy(age 9-12) was my electric football game. I would go to my room and relive many an exciting game as I had the Los Angeles Rams and the Minnesota Vikings(they came with the game). This game not only took me into the fantasy land of NFL football but also helped hone my skills as an amateur announcer.I would sit for hours playing, staging, drawing up plays and executing the now famous "tuck rule." At the time I didn't know what it was
called though. I also purchased more teams, Oakland and Kansas City, put a gold Eagle decal on the 50-yard line(very patriotic) and after hours when it would get dark I put a small spot light above the field and had"night games." The players have long been lost in one of our moves but the field lives on in my shed covered up in a box. I'm now 51 and still cherish those early memories of NFL football in simpler times.
--Jeff "Pantherman" Pintea

In the 1930’s when I was a child most children’s favorite toys were Shirley Temple dolls, Elgin bicycles, or Flexible Flyers. Not mine. I loved my old, ordinary roller skates. These were not the skates we know today with their fitted, laced up boots and attached skate mechanisms. We might wear our metal skates out, but they could always be adjusted to fit. We attached them to our leather school shoes with clamps at the toes adjusted with a skate key and leather straps around the ankle. Every kid wore a skate key around the neck on a grimy string so the
skate could be put back on when (not if) it came off. Many a day I came home from school and spent a couple of hours skating up and down the hill in front of my house.

I grew up on Westminster Place, a long one block hillside street with sidewalks. There was at least one skating rink in Charlotte, but this was during the Depression of the 1930s and I never went there but once. I just loved skating up the hill to the top, then flying down the whole length of the street at full speed. What a sense of freedom! Then I would get rid of my childish energy stored up from sitting at a desk all day by forcefully skating back up the hill and doing it all over again. And again.

Falls were an expected part of the whole activity. The sidewalks were not even, sticks and dirt were often lying there and skates would come off. My knees were skinned up over and over. Knee scabs were common and red Mercurochrome decorated my legs more often than not. I did not care. I certainly was not the only one with this badge of honor. Many of my classmates had the same. I had scars for many years and probably could see some now if my eyes were better. I am now 82 years old and have many, many happy memories of my growing up years. But few experiences equal the exhilarating feeling of rolling at full speed all
the way down my hill on a beautiful afternoon.
--Betty Ervin

I grew up poor, and one of my few toys was a pre-Barbie doll. I would play for
hours dressing her in the clothes my mother knitted and sewed for her. My favorite outfit was a black silk gown and white angora evening sweater with mini-buttons. As I visited my dying mother at home in 1998, I came upon her button box and the card of leftover buttons. I shared my fond memories with my mom, and we cried. The doll and clothes, like her, are long gone, but I can't get rid of the buttons.
--Sheila Peltzer

My favorite childhood toy I received for Christmas in 1972, I believe; I was in first grade! It was a Flip Wilson/Geraldine rag doll with a pull-string. Depending on which side you turned it on, you'd pull the string, and it would say hilarious
things. The sad part is, I only remember the things Geraldine said, like 'The devil made me wear this dress," and "I smell a rat, and it's coming from your direction!" The coolest thing is a friend of mine found one on eBay a few years ago and that was my Christmas present some 24 years later. One of my best gifts ever, to say the least.
--Kevin Grooms

My favorite toy was a car dashboard manufactured in 1961 called a ‘Playmobile’.
It looked like the dashboard of car in miniature. It had working lights (on the dash), working windshield wipers (you can see in the picture that they are ‘on’ as I am driving the car), turn signals, and horn... Red dash with a white steering wheel and lots of Chrome. It had a key and when you put the key in and turned it the ‘car’ came to life and the ‘motor’ came on. It looks very much like the dash of a real 1963 Eldorado I now own. Wish I had a better picture of it but alas none was taken except from this excerpt from 8mm home movies.

My grandmother gave it to me because I was fascinated with her 1961 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. This is me at the steering wheel in Nov 1961.
--Bill James (Mecklenburg County commissioner)

Are you telling me that plastic rosary beads and a white bath towel weren’t every
six-year-old's favorite toy? Perhaps the Catholic school I attended influenced me. But I dug wrapping that white towel around my head like a nun’s veil and draping those rosary beads around my neck. I loved playing school.

It didn’t matter that most of my students were plush or plastic. There was no prejudice in my class. It didn’t matter what breed of animal you were or if you were a cute, new doll or a worn out, old doll. Everyone was welcome. I just wanted to teach.

I adored lining them all up, calling role and checking them off, here or absent. I taught them everything I knew, which couldn’t have been too much at that age, but it was more than they knew.

I’d scribble on my chalkboard, erase it, hush them when they became noisy and scribble some more. I could play school for hours. I still love learning and passing it on. It’s true, some things never change. We still are who we were once upon a time, before we grew up and lost ourselves.
--Karen Tomas

Sometimes a mother does something over and over. She doesn’t know why. But then, one day, it all becomes clear when the pieces come together. Time would tell. Piece # 1: I had a typical mother's wish. One day I wanted to give my children a special gift – something that would be significant to them - a treasure. I looked in shops for years.

Piece # 2: Nightly, after tucking in the children, I would make a quick sweep of the upstairs playroom, picking up toys and books, placing them back in boxes or on shelves. Inevitably, the question came up what to do with the mismatched, broken, and lone toy items. For some unknown reason, I could not throw them out!! I did not know why, but instead I tossed them into a bag I kept in the “Closet of Dreams” (art supplies, dress up clothes, etc) . After 8-10 years that bag had grown into 3 large trash bags!

Piece # 3: There on the bedside table sat a 3” clock mechanism that we needed to replace in an old family clock stand. One day, I kept thinking, I would get to that. Meanwhile, the clock part, now relocated to the office desk, sat many years waiting for its mission.

Piece # 4: Standing in the check-out line at Marshall’s, bored and impatient, eyes wandering. There it was! Over on a sales table – an odd tower shaped box, 6 x 6 inch and 2’-2” tall, crowned with a roof top shape, and a tall door on one side – it was storage for CD cases. It went into the Closet of Dreams.

The kids, now in high school and off on separate spring break trips, offered me some precious time alone. I spread out all of the bags of broken toys on the work table, started picking through the junk, and selected the best. Cutting a hole in the back of the tower box made a perfect place for the clock face…Voila… a miniature grandfather clock! Then I started creating synthesis with the glue gun. This timepiece was going to say something else!

Headless Barbie doll figures, a whirligig, California Raisins, Old Maid cards, one Micky Mouse earmuff, Pez containers of Garfield, Bugs Bunny, curlers, cars, Lego men & blocks, a Barbie head with a Mohawk hair cut and a ring in her nose, Dracula teeth, Dr. Spock ear, a kazoo, Transformer arm, a troll, farm animals, a train caboose, a hamburger yo-yo, a flashlight, plastic French fries, heart beads and rings, space water gun, army man, guitar, skateboard, lipstick container, My Little Pony, monster drawings, dress-up earrings, naked Ken doll with only his pilots coat on, hinged snake, a watch, eyeball, Olympic coin, motorcycle, sunglasses, magnet letters, airplanes, baseball cards, crayons, YMCA Indian Guide metal, palm tree, NC tourist spoon, Santa Claus eraser………all came together in a
unified whole.

It is amazing to see teenagers forget their composure, squeal with delight, and laughing together with their old friends while sharing the memories this clock holds.

And now, with them out of college and in their own homes, the new problem stands – who gets the clock?!!
--Lindsay Daniel

My favorite toy, which I received as a Christmas present when I was 6 years old, is a Marx Electric Train set. Marx was the low cost producer of electric trains, for folks who could not afford the expensive Lionel brand. My folks were not well off, my sister and my parents and I lived in my grandparents' attic after WWII and money was scarce.

I kept the train and tracks in a cardboard box, and got it out many times during the year, and set it up on the wood floor in the attic and played with it for hours. Although the train was inexpensive, it was bulletproof. Click clacking around the figure eight pattern, sparks flying, acrid smell of ozone in the air, the occasional electric shock (in the time before the Consumer Product Safety Commission) it was wonderful. I can't think of another toy I enjoyed so much. 60 years later, old engine 999 and its cars are sitting above my desk now, where I
can stare at it and think of the many happy days of my childhood. --Dave Winkowski

In the 1940s we were quarantined because of the polio epidemic. My sister and I made "houses" out of cardboard boxes. We made rooms and a home for each of our families. We used a Sears catalog to provide the props. We had Moms, Dads, and children. We furnished our home with the newest and most modern furniture. We had changes of clothing and plenty of ways to redo our homes. We had tea parties and outdoor games.

Because we could not go to church, we had a "stained-glass" window with a cross so we could have a prayer place.

As difficult as that time was with all the fear, I still hold these memories as very dear.
--Johnnie Farris

For Christmas when I was 5, I received a toy airplane that I could ride in. Heavy sheet metal, red wings, gray body. When you pedaled, the wheels would go, the propeller turned.

We lived on a hill so I could drive the plane down the sidewalk(over two blocks). The hard part was going back up. The plane never took off! People asked my name, I always said "Charles Lindbergh!" I wore a helmet and goggles. I remember a photo from that Christmas day.There is snow on the ground, I'm sitting in the plane wearing a Navy dress hat and P-coat.

In December 1941, I joined the U.S. Navy and flew in PBY-5 Catalinas(no landing gear) all over the South Pacific. I remembered that old plane that would not fly.
--C. A. Weber

It was 1984. The year of the Cabbage Patch Kid. What more could a fourth-grade girl want? Exactly. Every parent all over the country was literally fighting for Cabbage Patch Kids for the holidays that year. It was all over the news. It was brutal. My mom told me right up front that she was trying very hard but did not want my heart to break if I did not have one to open for Hanukkah. I think right then, my heart did break.

We are Jewish but have spent every Christmas Day my whole life with my Godmother and her family. It was one of those years where part of Hanukkah overlapped Christmas. We took our menorah over to their house along with our gifts for that night to share our Hanukkah with them. We opened presents and mom's warning that there may not be a Cabbage Patch Kid came true. But what I did get was a snow white Gund polar bear whose tag told me his name was Snuffles. He was the softest, most cuddly stuffed animal in the entire world, this I was sure of. I loved him immediately as he warmed my broken- no Cabbage Patch Kid- heart. We were meant to be. True Love. The funny part is, hours later, to make a big splash, my Godmother brought out a gift for me she just happened to find hiding in her bedroom. It was a red headed Cabbage Patch Kid, just for me. Me, Bear (as Snuffles came to be called), and Melinda (my new Kid) slept together that night in true nine year old happiness.

My favor for the Cabbage Patch Kid wore off in due time. But Bear continued to be my constant companion. He had a soft brown velvet nose I rubbed while we hung out watching TV or when I couldn't get to sleep at night. I took him everywhere. He went to sleepovers, on beach vacations, camp, long car rides. He made me feel safe and content anywhere. As I got older, I wasn't so comfortable with others knowing I needed my Bear. I remember once my mom having to stop the bus for my 10th grade confirmation trip to Ohio in the parking lot because I forgot Bear. She drove home and brought him back before the bus could leave. He went to college, and also abroad on my 6 month trip to Europe. By then I didn't really care what others thought of Bear. He was my buddy, my place of comfort, my moment before I fell asleep that made me feel like the world was an OK place.

When I first started dating my husband, I had him to my apartment to make him dinner. He was exhausted and was working 2 jobs. He asked if I minded if he took a short nap while I made dinner. I knew he was only getting about 5 hours of sleep so I said it was fine. I had a twinge of fear as he went on my room to lay down knowing Bear was on the bed. Would a grown man think Bear was lame? He is grey and matted, long since lost his snow white coat. His brown velvet nose was rubbed off so many years ago exposing chipped hard white plastic. I went in to wake Jeffrey
for dinner and he was asleep with Bear hooked under his arm. My heart melted and I thought I might be in love. I took Bear on our honeymoon.

Bear still sleeps in my bed every night and goes on any trip I do. Silly as it may sound for a 36 year old, I love that Bear. He has seen me through every stage in my life thus far. He is a big part of me. He is my constant. Threadbare and no longer the bear he once was but somehow even better, he reminds me of me and all I have seen and learned. And what is yet to be.
-- Buffy Skolnick, Asheville

The prize goes to LEGO blocks, hands down. Not Tinker Toys. Not Lincoln Logs, Not an Erector Set. Nope, My favorite toy was and still is LEGO blocks. Everyone had them - we had them at home, at my cousins' houses, at the neighbors' houses. Often, a friend or cousin would start playing with me, but they got bored. I didn't. I loved them because I could make spaces and shapes. I could match colors and mix colors. I could dream. This really doesn't come as a surprise, because I grew up to be an artist and graphics designer, and more recently, work with Web sites. Would have loved to be an architect, but the math was a wee bit too much to handle. This translates further into my enjoyment with HGTV and DIY shows, as well food challenge shows - because of the overall creativity involved at every level.

Did you get that? 'Every Level.' LEGO blocks were the beginning to take my creative bent to many more levels. But that's not the end of the story. During my last year of college (when I was in my late 40's), the Web was really getting lots of participation. One site was for people to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I cried when I read the story about another woman who loved LEGO blocks so much, she wrote the company and said they should hire her to design structures for trade shows. They did! She does! But that is still not all. I'm a grandmother
now. As soon as my grandson was old enough to put things together, I bought LEGO blocks for him. We have spent more than a few hours playing with them. Same deal with my granddaughter. It's fun to watch them play, because they do it so differently. I learned early on that my grandson likes to build garages with LEGOs. So every time I he has come to visit, I build a big LEGO garage in the living room, and put all his cars and trucks in it. The look on his face when he walks in the door and sees it is priceless.
--Marty Folsom, Statesville

The memory is fuzzy but most beloved. My dad, Saxon Cotney, was a natural musician with the mandolin and fiddle being his instruments of choice. In the spring of 1959 he entered a fiddle contest at our rural high school and won my beloved treasure. I was just three years old and waking to see his prize still resonates with me, even today. This prize was a beautiful doll, dressed in a sparkling emerald gown that was a perfect compliment to her pretty face and hair. She was simply enchanting and immediately became my trusted companion. She was loved beyond measure and endured the mischief, tears and delights of childhood. What made her so special was the spontaneity of her arrival. You see, we were of modest means. My parents were textile workers at Russell Mills in Alexander City, AL. To receive such a glorious gift and it not be Christmas morning was indeed memorable. Of course, that awareness was not mine at such a tender age, only the pure joy of receiving "Susie." Susie is with me still today. She resides in my Davidson home and I see her daily. Daddy is gone but his spirit glows in the face of my sweet Susie. I am grateful for the love of a wonderful daddy that gave his little girl a joyful unexpected treasure.
--Sandra Whitten, Davidson

I still have my Lionel train set which I received from my parents for Christmas at age 10. It is in need of a minor repair but otherwise is in working order. I have the original layout of my train track, including an elevated track running through a tunnel made of papier mache. My layout was on a 4’ by 8’ sheet of plywood.

At one time I had two engines running on the same track. I designed a “parking track” where I could cut off the current to allow one engine to run at a time. I seem to recall that Lionel had some type of switch to disengage the current on the “parking track” for a cost of $5-$10, which was a lot of money. Following in my dad’s inventive abilities, I removed the metal pin from the middle rail of a track and inserted a toothpick. I connected small wires to the middle rail on each side of the toothpick. I bought a toggle switch for ten cents at the local hardware and
connected the two wires, using this to de-activate current in the “parking track.” My fellow playmates with trains called me the “train brain.”

Continuing with my inventive instincts in my adult life, I went on to develop three inventions in my medical career. I had patents on one of these inventions in the U.S, England, Canada (Whelan-Moss T-Tube; U.S #4,142,528, British # 1,593,931, Canadian # 1,118,311).

Nearing retirement in medicine and having an interest in hummingbirds, I invented DR JB’s hummingbird feeder, and formed a family business in North Carolina, DR JB’s Hummingbird Products, LLC, in 2004. JB stands for “Jaybird”, which is and was also my nickname as a child.

All of the above started as a “train brain” at age 10. I treasure my Lionel train and my original track layout, still in my possession!
--Dr. Joseph G Whelan Jr.

My favorite toy was the Flexie. It was a kind of sled that had wheels and was used on the street instead of the ground. It was made of tiny shiny wooden slates with red decals and was shaped like an arrow. It had pull brakes on the handlebar. When I close my eyes I can still feel the wind in my face as I flew down my street, my feet hanging over the edge, holding on for dear life.

As I got older, I lost track of the Flexie and for years I wondered about it but not one person remembered it.

I was beginning to believe that Daddy had made it himself until I saw one hanging on a wall at a hardware store in Prescott, Arizona! I was struck by the sight of it, like my old friend just waiting there. It looked EXACTLY like I remembered it! It was only $40 but I was traveling on a plane and had to leave it behind. Now I know it was really real and from my mind’s eye I can still feel the exhilaration of my Flexie!
--Freida Short

You asked your readers in today’s Observer for stories of their favorite toy. I have one, but it does not deal with a GI Joe, or a special cars, etc; but something that I made up.

Growing up, my mother would purchase the box of Velveeta cheese and every Sunday evening, she would make grilled cheese sandwiches for the family. Once the box was empty of the cheese, she gave it to me. I would then take my box of crayons and draw the outline of the Safety Motor Transit Bus Lines colors on the box, along with the windows, doors, and any other markings that was on the bus. Once done, I would play with that bus box for hours on end in the house using the various wood floors as my bus route. I have dreamed at that time of being a bus driver, but I never achieved that dream. That box of Velveeta cheese gave me more enjoyment that any toy that my parents ever purchased for me. Eventually, the box would wear out, but I needn’t worry. My mother would eventually purchase another box and I would start the process all over again.
--Gene Tayloe

My Pop was a Senior Vice President for a plumbing and HVAC company. He was on the road quite a bit. When he was on the road for more than two nights, he always tried to bring me home something from the region he was in (even Italy and Saudi Arabia). My brother and sisters (all older than I) said that I was spoiled. I wasn't: I was his "Little Buddy"...So Nyahhh! I'm now 47.

On one return trip; Pop had been in the mountain areas "cutting a deal". He had flown straight there from Florida selling supplies to NASA for the launch platform. I knew that I was going to get some NASA "stuff"! When he finally arrived home he had a Whimmey-Diddle or Dimmey Widdle (depending upon whom you ask). I was heart-broken. The toy was a simple piece of carved wood with little notches carved into the stick. It also had a simple "propeller" at the end and another stick to create vibrations to make the "propeller" spin. Oh boy. What a rip.

Pop spent many, many hours with me on his lap trying to show me how to use the strange toy. He was laughing and I was struggling to make it work for more than fifteen seconds. I wouldn't trade those many hours for all of the gold in Fort Knox.

I am now a traveling salesman (unemployed) and have bought both of my boys the exact same toy from the exact same mountains. The looks of frustration and then jubilation are priceless. They are my "Big Guy" (Grayson now 15 and driving), and "Little Dude" (Jameson now 11 going on 30).
--James E. Bodenheimer, Stanley

Giraffee is the not-so-creative moniker that I attached to my stuffed giraffe at an age too young to recall. My two brothers would tease me for years - even at my own wedding - about the early genius displayed by their baby sister in naming her favorite toy. Giraffee was really more than that. She was a faithful companion who accompanied me everywhere for several years, then waited patiently on my bed for many more.

Giraffee traveled widely. Casually tucked under her girl's arm, Giraffee rode in the family station wagon from Indiana to Grandma F's house, the Carolina coast, the Rocky and Blue Ridge mountains, and frequently to nearby Chicago. On one Chicago trip, our wood-paneled wagon was just a few blocks short of the interstate when we heard the constant honking of a car horn behind us. There, being waved
wildly from the driver's window, was Giraffee. I had thoughtlessly left her behind at our friends' house, and knowing her importance, they tore off after us to reunite the girl with her giraffe.

That moment so clearly sticks in my sometimes foggy middle-aged mind today. As the youngest of three and the only girl, I was pretty used to being the last one considered. In that grand moment, though, I was the most important consideration. My dad said something like, "Oh gosh, we forgot Giraffee!" and quickly pulled over. Our friend, George, parked behind us holding a stuffed animal out his car window. The whole world seemed to stop for a second... just for me. And all because of Giraffee.
--Anne Vail

I'm 59 and a college professor and (this question) took me right back to age 8-9. All my girlfriends were playing with Barbie dolls and I was
playing with cars. I was fascinated by car shapes, models and colors. For Christmas, Santa brought me an authentic scale model of a Texaco gas station with a place to gas up the cars, an office, 2 service bays and of course the big Texaco sign. Santa also brought 3-4 authentic scale model cars. I spend hours in my bedroom with that Texaco station at one end of my bed, running the cars up and around all the bumps and hills of my bed (I made the appropriate "rhr-ooom" noises), eventually driving into the station for gas and servicing. It continued in different forms. I dated a guy once only because he had a '57 Chevy and I still pay attention to car shapes, models and colors. Thanks for the memory.
--Jayne D.Maas, Rock Hill

My favorite toy is still in my kitchen. Fifteen years ago, my son was in elementary school and for Christmas he wanted a Spider-man toy. He specifically wanted the Spider-man that had movable joints to bend into various action poses. I hadn't found this toy, but on Christmas eve, my sister was doing last minute shopping and found it. We were both so excited that we started playing with it ourselves. This Spider-man toy is such fun. He has magnets in his heels so he can stick to metal surfaces and not just his knees, and elbows, but feet, hands, shoulders, all joints can move for a ton of options. I did give it to my son on that Christmas Day and from that day on Spider-man started showing up all over the house in various action poses. By the time my sons were in high school, Spider-man lived in the kitchen and would turn up on the refrigerator, or shelf, or climbing out of a bowl or just anywhere, always in a new action pose. It would crack me up to walk into the kitchen and see where Spider-man had landed and what he was doing. He became almost like a member of the family. I started moving him around myself and I am pretty sure there were other friends and family who were in on the game. Spider-man can do just about anything. Today both of my sons are in college and Spider-man doesn't move around quite as much, but he is still in the kitchen and I still love playing with him.
--Sally Royster, Shelby

When he was born, my son Mark inherited one of those large Raggedy Andy dolls from his mother. He slept with it even though it was bigger than he was. When Mark was 4, we had a house fire and lost everything. After everybody was safely outside, Mark said "Where's Andy!!". The firemen thought there might be another person in the house but it was my son's toy. The fireman went in and got what was left of Andy which was pretty much just his head and a very smoky-smelling body. Over the years my wife has put a few different bodies on Andy. Eventually though he ended
up just being Andy's Head, which is what we affectionately call him. He's received a couple haircuts at some point and has worn many "hats," including currently sporting a Darth Vader helmet . My son is 21 now and Andy's head is still in his room. I'm sure when he finishes college and moves out that Andy's Head will be right along with him..
--Mark Darnell

He had the best laugh! I haven't heard it in 25 years, but its playing on repeat in my had as I write this. My dad was a Marine, stationed in Okinawa while I was learning to walk and talk. My folks had separated when I was just a few months old, and they weren't much older. Dad shipped off to see the world and Mom stayed home to raise a boy. I would get letters from far away lands in envelopes with the exotic blue and red ink trim, T-shirts, and questions about school, friends, and "being a good boy". He sent me a set of samurai swords once.

But the little Japanese laughing man...there was nothing obvious about it that said "5 year old boy". Maybe there were Okinawan commercials with boys he imagined as my size with big smiles. He was a plastic figure, about 6 inches tall, (made in China, no doubt) squatted in the lotus position. Green pants, white shirt, orange vest, and an orange hat that sat upon his ridiculous oversized head which rocked on a metal spring. Push his head down and he would unleash this contagious cackle, universal in any language. I thought he was hilarious! I thought he was unique. I thought he was the kind of toy my dad would like.

I kept him on my bookshelf and knocked his noggin once a day for years, long after my dad had left the Marines and commenced chasing himself all over this country. Sometimes, maybe, he laughed for me.
--Joshua McCorkle

When I was about 5, I had a 3-foot doll named Little Miss Echo. If you turned her collar button one way, you could speak into her, then turn it the other way and she repeated what you said. Since I was not allowed to "talk back" to my mother, whenever I was mad at her, I would speak into Little Miss Echo. I would tell her that Mom was unfair and that her children were a gift from God that she should appreciate. I would then go stand Little Miss Echo in the kitchen, turn the button and run. My thinking was that Mom could not punish me for what Little Miss Echo said to her. Fortunately, all my mother could do was laugh as she was being told off by a 3 foot doll.
--Deborah Beck, Iron Station


Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! Couldn't believe the picture of "bear"....or Mr.Snuff as he is known in our house. All three of my daughters had their own. He went off to three different colleges and my two year old granddaughter now has her own. Heaven help if Gund ever discontinues this bear!!! He's the BEST!

Martee Patton said...

I just finished reading your "toy stories." When I first saw you asking for these stories, all I could think of was my Betsy Wetsy doll. How refreshing to see that she was so special to someone else. I even took her to school with me when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade and had my picture taken with her. I still cherish that picture.

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