The golden age of cool toys the 1950s and 60s
By Jane Flanagan
The other day there was a guy on National Public Radio talking about toys. It was one of the personal essay segments they run. He said his young children startled him by asking for Christmas toys with eerily familiar names. Turns out they were the playthings of his youth, now being remarketed on cable.
What startled me, however, was when this man was a youth the 1980s.
Evidently, he thought of himself as typical, too.
Presumably the kids of the 1980s are the young parents of today
This guy was from Chicago. Maybe that explains it. Because in New York, where typical rarely applies to anything we do, an awful lot of parents of small children were not kids in the 1980s. More like the 1960s even the 1950s. At least my husband and I were.
Im 45 and Bob is a decade older than me. Our son, Rusty, is 5.
Ill bet my husband never heard of the toys this fellows kids are pleading for: Cabbage Patch Dolls and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ive heard of them, but only because a friend on Long Island started having children when we were in our 20s.
Just as I was beginning to feel old, I suddenly cheered up because Chicago guy was bemoaning the resurrection of what he referred to as the cheesy toys of the 1980s. While he may have youthful parental vigor, we hail from an era of cooler toys. At least my husband did. In fact, while Midwestern Dad is trying to avoid his youthful relics, my husband is busy tracking his down.
The other night Bob walked in with a calendar page entitled, Spokane Safe and Lock Co. December, 1972. He found it on eBay. While Bob was already practicing law in 1972 and spent his childhood in Flushing, it was the calendars picture he was after: a Norman Rockwell painting of a boy in an oversized Boy Scout uniform saluting himself in the mirror. Nearby, a crumpled Cub Scout outfit hung over the back of a chair. On the wall was a photo of the boy literally looking up to his dad, both clad as scouts.
Isnt this great? said Bob, taping it to the wall in Rustys room.
A week later he walked in the door with dog-eared copies of merit badge instruction manuals. Bob is big on the Boy Scouts a club you dont hear much about these days. I blame those 80s kids. Seems to me the movement started petering out about then.
Another night Bob came home with a weathered box labeled, Visible V8 Engine. On the cover was a dad in a button-down-collar shirt, smoking a pipe, standing behind his wide-eyed son. Im still not sure what a Visible V8 engine is; it cant be a real engine, can it? Regardless, my husband said that Rusty is going to love helping him build it.
These two also build model airplanes, a hobby I associate with the 1950s and 60s. I know this activity is seriously on the wane because of how difficult it is to find model kits for birthday presents. Forget Toys R Us. A hobby shop is the only place, and there are very few of them left.
But Bob and Rustys biggest hobby is Lionel trains. My husband has been collecting them since he was 3-years-old. They pore over train magazines usually filled with pictures of boys in crew cuts and dads in neckties.
Well, my husband may be a member of A.A.R.P. and Im often perusing MORE Magazine, but at least this Christmas I wont be shopping for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.