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A story about my old toys and how they made me...

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#1
The Smoke

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Growing up in the fifties, as I did, was the coolest time of my life. In the fifties, a dollar was worth an actual dollar. So living on what you made was simple. Most people worked for about $1.00 to $1.25 per hour. Gas was 20 cents a gallon and a loaf of bread was 10 cents. Hamburger was about 25 cents a pound. But toys were expensive.

My sister got a bride doll in 1956 that cost $5.00. I got a gun and holster set from my birthday that cost $3.00. You say that is cheap, but not at the time. It cost my dad a half days wages to buy that doll and 3 hours of work to by my guns. Today that doll would cost about $65 and those plastic guns would be about $15.00. Now there was a set of toys that I always wanted but never got because they were too expensive. I never realized how expensive until I stopped to figure it out. The toys were a matching set of Tonka toys. They came in a big box and contained a bulldozer, dump truck, scoop crane, and a grader, plus some worker guys with signs. That toy set allowed you to make roads. Something that I loved to do. But I had to use pieces of 2x4's and paper boxes to make my road crew set. Was I sad and angry? No. I loved making my own toys from my imagination. I would take a 6" 2x4 and nail a paper box onto it and there was my dump truck. I would get a slat board (1x2) and nail a can onto it and it would be my scoop crane. I would get a 2x4 and nail a slat onto the front and make a bulldozer. I loved these toys and had hours of fun with them. I always thought they were so cool because I made them to fit my play style. My brother would help me play with them sometimes. Even though he was much older, he played with me all the time, because we hadn't any neighbors around us. It was just him and me until I was 13.

He graduated high school and moved away and I was pretty much on my own. I got my first bike then. I rode it all day, every day, by myself. I played like I was a race car driver and even made a circle track up behind our house. Once in a while, Vincent would come over and we would race. Then I tied some slats to the front of the bike and made out that I was a fork lift. I loved fork lifts. I have a collection of toy fork lifts today, along with a big electric one that really works like the real thing.

When I wasn't playing with my toys, I was designing and building new ones. I remember one year, when dad came home from work. (He was a planerman for the lumber mills) He had a big box of different sizes of wood pieces, and he gave them to me. He then gave me a scroll saw. With that hand saw I made everything I needed to play with. I made guns and trucks and even made a set of bowling pins which I used a softball as the ball.

 

Now kids today wouldn't know how to use a box of wood to make toys. They don't think like that. Everything is electronic and some kind of game for their ipad. Gone are their imaginations, and that is a serious setback to their future. Our childlike imagination is what develops a child's ability to think and solve problems. All the times I made and used my toy creations was actually developing and building my future as a designer and builder of all kinds of things.

 

One Christmas when I was in the 2nd grade, dad came home with a big box. He and mom hid it in their bedroom. Mom put funny paper wrapping on it with a handmade bow. It was labeled, Merry Christmas Kids. On Christmas morning we opened it and poured out all these wooden boards, that were cut into all kinds of shapes. There were three pistols, 2 rifles, trucks and all kinds of blocks. The cardboard box had windows drawn on it, and an opening door. There were wooden people and furniture items. These were for my sister to play with. My brother and I took our guns and started playing cowboys and Indians. We played for weeks with those guns, clear thru summer. My sister set up the box as a doll house and played with that for a long time, until the box fell apart. Even today, my brother and sister and I talk about that box of toys. It was the best Christmas present we ever had from our parents. Yeah, it wasn't store bought and fancy, but it was the BEST !

 

Many years ago when my grandkids were still little guys, I did the same thing for Christmas. I got a big box and put windows and a door on it. I cut out and sanded blocks of wood, pieces of wood in all shapes and sizes and I put them into that box and wrapped it up. That Christmas morning after they had opened all their other gifts, I went into the garage and brought in the big box. I sat it down, and everyone asked who the present was for? I said, "My grandkids". The replied, "It's for us?" "It's for you", I said. They opened it up and Hayden spilled the contents out onto the floor. Mom and dad immediately started get onto him about making a mess. I told them to stop. I said, "today is their day and they can play all day long". So I cleared us all out of the family room and shut the doors. They played in there all day, with each other. Only taking bathroom breaks and food breaks. About 9:00 pm we had to get them to bed. But the next morning they started in again. My son told me later that they played with that stuff after they got home, for about a week or more. Even today, I ask them about the big box at Christmas and they still go into all the details about how they played with it all, and what they made. They figured out how to cut two doors into the sides of the box and make it into a car. I can ask each one what they got for Christmas the following years, and they have to think about it, but the big box of wood is still their biggest Christmas memory.

 

If you have kids about 5 years old or so, make them a big box, fill it with all kinds of imaginative things and watch them play. You are making more than memories with them.

 

 

 

 

** I forgot to tell you that the Tonka road set is still available today.  It is almost $300.  In my day it was over $30.


Edited by Ol' Smoke, 10 May 2014 - 08:58 AM.



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#2
Chameleon

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Smoke, I know I have said it before, but you should really write all this stuff down and make a book, or memoir or something. I love reading the things you write. And although I was a generation after yours, I lived the same way, since I was in the back hill of KY.. Things were simple and straight forward.. I miss those times, and would give anything to go back.. Keep making these posts my friend!



#3
Wizbang

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On of my son's most favorite toys is an "airplane" he built on his own a few years ago. It is just a 1x4 for wings and 2x4 for the body. It's pretty ugly to look at but I can't throw it out because he's proud of it.

#4
Double Aids

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The combination of title and last posters name brought me here! It read, "A story about my old toys and how they made me. .. wizbang!"

What a wonderful memory to share, thank you. I too come from a vocationally practical family. My grandfather built wooden hulled yachts and also became known for his very special recumbent tricycles. Most of my gifts were handmade from waste and every one of them was special and memorable. Even if it was a collection of slats of wood, there were so many occasions where slats of wood were ideal.

I gave my boy a great big box of wood pieces for Christmas a number of years ago, with no two pieces matching. He played daily with the blocks for 5+ years. He would make towers to knock over, make stepping stone bridges over the crocodile infested kitchen floor and make garages for toy cars. He made steps up to his bed so the teddies could come and go as they pleased.

Everything and anything that your imagination lets you see, wooden blocks and offcuts are the perfect prop for it all. Even better if you throw a saw, a hammer and some nails in.

Thanks for the post Ol'Smoke - I recon you'll make a few families lives 'better' with that one post.

#5
vikegirl

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I think it really is a sad state of affairs that the kids today will never know the joys of having to come up with ways to entertain yourselves... I remember filling up a huge trashcan with water in the summers and that was my swimming pool, lol... Now all the kids wanna go to the water park to ride those crazy slides. You're so right when you say everything nowadays is electronic... It does most of the thinking for you and that's kind of the problem... I saw a 7 year old stop at a restaurant to answer her cell phone and that's when I knew that the world isn't what it used to be.



#6
Chameleon

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Also a very interesting story Double :D

 

 

I think it really is a sad state of affairs that the kids today will never know the joys of having to come up with ways to entertain yourselves... I remember filling up a huge trashcan with water in the summers and that was my swimming pool, lol... Now all the kids wanna go to the water park to ride those crazy slides. You're so right when you say everything nowadays is electronic... It does most of the thinking for you and that's kind of the problem... I saw a 7 year old stop at a restaurant to answer her cell phone and that's when I knew that the world isn't what it used to be.

I agree vike, it is very sad :(

 

When I was growing up, I lived in a very poverty stricken area.. At the time there were no jobs, and people had to make do with what they had..

 

 I used to break sticks in half, and throw them in the creek and watch them float down, while pretending they were two boats racing..

 Or in the fall, after the all the crops were harvested, I would find a nice strong stick, sharpen the end of it, and go into the cornfield pretending it was a sword, and chop down all the corn stalks, pretending they were soldiers.  Or take off into the hills, and climb for climbing's sake. I remember playing baseball with my friends where I lived, but we used a crushed up tin can, and a large piece of wood hehe..  The thing is, it didn't bother us, we had a great time, and looking back, I wouldn't trade it for anything.



#7
Tonka

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You like Tonka toys(xfire) and forklifts(I'm a forklift driver these days) :D

 

Agree with Chameleon, good storyteller, and agree with you, kids should learn to use their imagination.

 

The combination of title and last posters name brought me here! It read, "A story about my old toys and how they made me. .. wizbang!"

 

When I read the title/last post, made me...Chameleon :)



#8
Wizbang

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So now that we're off topic...I guess what I am saying is my kid is using his imagination..... BTW us CoD guys are good for hijacking a thread in case you didn't know that....

#9
ronaldounit0

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As a kid, I always loved to work with my hands. I used to get boxes and boxes of building blocks just because I kept making things bigger and bigger. When my parents noticed that I loved building so much, they started to get me all sorts of Legos, K'nex, Magnetix, etc kits to keep me building. I loved those toys because after I finished making what the box told me to, I went over to my box of random legos and built something to go with it--a resupply truck for a tank, a hangar for a plane, a pit stop for a race car. My crowning achievement was a 10 ft tall rocket ship that came with a landing pad (built with no directions). Sadly though, my neighbor thought he could climb it and so it broke. I still have the top of that rocket assembled and on my dresser to this day---over 10 years later.

 

As I look back, I can remember one specific Christmas that I look back on and think "Now that was one of the best times in my life." I don't remember what I got (but I can assure you that there were Legos), but I do remember that we ran out of bagels (out Christmas morning breakfast was centered around bagels), so we toasted white bread and put bacon, egg, cheese in that. We sat in the living room while we ate while watching "A Christmas Story" over and over and over. I'd give almost anything to have another Christmas like that. 

 

Smoke, I loved your story, but don't give up on the future just yet. Some of us young adults hold on to those same values like there's no tomorrow. I can assure you that my kids will be raised like I was--no video games until late middle school-early high school, lots of hot wheels, and lots of legos, lots of love. This world needs more creative souls! 






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