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Bring them back

By Don Caney - Telegraph Columnist | Jul 21, 2019

My niece recently lent me a book titled “Let’s Bring Back” by Lesley M.M Blume. Alphabetically, it covered everything from Aesop’s Fables to Zinc Bars (traditional early twentieth century Parisian Bistros, I’ve never heard of one either). While reading and thinking about what I’d like to bring back, it spurred memories of toys I had as a youngster that I can still remember getting at Christmas time or birthdays. Wouldn’t it be fun to be able to play with those again?

Back in the day, our parents would most likely buy our toys from Tiny Totland on Main street, Bradlees, Woolworth’s, JJ Newbury’s or another department store. My parents took a different approach, opting for a small variety store on Bridge Street named Frenchy’s, who annually established a toy land in the basement. He would offer free layaway months before Christmas, a huge advantage back then.

A favorite toy of mine was based upon a popular TV Series at the time called Whirlybirds. Simple by today’s standards, it was a rather large helicopter (the flying banana) that created the sound of a chopper in flight, complete with a door that opened and a chain hoist you could raise or lower to make “rescues.” It was basic, but very cool for its time.

Admittedly, I also played with toy guns, I know, taboo in today’s world filled with unheard of violence. I had a toy Winchester rifle used by none other than Chuck Connors in his TV series The Rifleman, a small derringer that could flip out from your wrist at a time of need, used by Yancy Derringer, also of TV fame, and a shiny pearl handled Colt 45 from a TV show of the same name, along with countless plastic soldiers.

Another favorite toy of mine was a set of Lincoln Logs. It seems you could build just about anything with the basic set. With my limited imagination however, I typically stuck to the common log cabin. Remember the Big T model car? Another product of the ’60’s, that was the coolest hot rod on the planet. I spent countless hours assembling that rat rod and admiring my work.

Being a car buff, I would spend much of my allowance money at The Hobby Shop on West Pearl Street, buying dozens of model cars from ’49 Fords to ’62 Chevys. Assemble them, paint them and admire them for weeks. But we all eventually discovered why the glue needed for assembly became a controlled product! Wow man!

Matchbox Toys were huge in the 60’s with every possible vehicle you could imagine available as a fit-in-your-pocket take along toy (or for those fortunate enough, carry them in your special Matchbox carrying case). Literally hundreds of choices. I also had some Tonka Toys, back when they were made with metal versus today’s plastic. Virtually indestructible.

Not to be outdone by the boys, the girls of that era also had some pretty cool toys. Chatty Cathy, a doll whose voice was activated by pulling a string, was quite popular. But, listening to her speak and watching her mouth was like viewing a foreign film dubbed in English. There was no mouth movement. Another popular doll was Betsy Wetsy. I probably don’t have to explain what that doll’s claim to fame was. It involved water and a strategically placed exit channel.

The legendary doll Barbie also got her start in this era. Still going strong over fifty years later, she has made the Mattel company millions with her countless accessories. Future cooks (both male and female) had the Easy Bake Oven. I could never quite figure out how a cake was produced from a toy oven whose major part was a light bulb. Probably why you had to buy Easy Bake Oven specific food? Can you imagine if nutrition fact labels were required on that stuff?

We played for hours with these toys, without the aid of electronic devices, apps, software or plug ins. We never worried about phones causing brain cancer, developing texting thumb (an actual ailment nowadays) or growing horn like bone spurs out of our skulls as the result of too much electronic device usage (an actual story recently reported by the media).

Give me a Whirlybird and a Big T with a few model cars and I’m a happy camper! Let’s bring them back!


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