A Childhood Remembered - Toys of The 60's
Although I was born in the 50's, I still consider myself a child of the 60's. It's silly I know but I don't remember much about the 50's but I have vivid memories of being a kid in the 60's. Either way, I'm not a kid anymore and those memories are becoming more precious than ever.
When I woke this morning, it was raining so my plans for the day changed. Instead of attending the Virginia 10-Miler, a nationally acclaimed annual race (people, not cars), I decided to stay in and write. My thoughts immediately turned to childhood memories and how I would have entertained myself on a rainy day as a kid in the 60's. I went in search of photographs that would help stir the old memory bank.
The photo above was taken in 1957. I was just a little over two years old. The first thing that smacked me in the face was the abundance. We were not wealthy people. In truth, we probably just barely qualified as lower mid-class. We were a single income family, deliberately. My parents made a conscious decision to have less financially so that my Mom could stay at home with her children. My Dad was just starting a career as an insurance salesman. Times were lean to say the least. The sheer volume of toys in this picture reminds me of the sacrifices my Mom and Dad made to provide for their kids. In 1957 I was the only child. All the stuff in that picture was all mine. Wahoo!
I'm not one that needs abundance and I was just having some fun when I yelled Wahoo! I keep looking at the photo and wondering how many things does a kid need to hug or ride? I had enough under that tree for three kids and it was all mine. Silly parents with their first child. Things did change in 1958 when my brother was born.
Okay so let's get back to the purpose of this hub.
As I thought about my childhood and the things that entertained me, I realized just how old I am. I arrived at childhood before electronics. Say what?
It's true. The only electronic device I had was a record player that played 45 rpms's and you had to manually put the needle to the vinyl. I had a little red and white cardboard box with a handle on it to store my records in. And oh I loved my records. Music was always a part of my childhood. I followed the music charts and grew my record collection. The music of the 60's was awesome and there wasn't much I didn't like. I loved Sam Cooke, the Temptations, The Rolling Stones, Hank Williams, Percy Sledge, Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, BJ Thomas, CCR, Buffalo Springfield, and well, you get it, I think. I loved it all. And I loved that old record player.
What girl didn't love Barbie? I was so excited to get my first one and oh how I loved to dress her up. The fun came with the introduction of Ken to the Matel® line. Now I could really have some fun. The girls in the neighborhood would set up a mini-town in our back yard and our Barbie's would shop and gossip just like real people. I never had a Barbie car or a Barbie house so I made do with cardboard boxes and pictures from my Mom's magazines. I think Mom felt bad that she couldn't afford to buy my Barbie new clothes but she was a creative Mom. She would go to the Paint store and get their discontinued wallpaper books that had a little sample piece of the wallpaper glued to the page. If you were careful, you could remove that little 5" x 3" piece of fabric. It made a wonderful skirt for my Barbie and only needed one seam sewed by hand and a piece of elastic run through one end for the waist. I eventually learned to make a halter top the same way and my Barbie was the fashion queen of the neighborhood. I thought I was rich.
Ah, the infamous Etch-A-Sketch. It was the only thing that made my ability to draw worse than trying with a pencil. I never did master the monster but I sure wasted enough time trying. Did anyone really think this thing was a real tool for making art? How much art can one make when the thing only really drew straight lines. I never have been able to think in terms of containment in square boxes so I was always trying to make it draw curves and circles. I think it's safe to say that the Etch-A-Sketch was nothing more than something to be conquered and I never accomplished it.
Silly Putty and Play Doh were great rainy day tools for creating art. Well, great may be an exaggeration. They were okay, or, I was okay. I wasn't great either. But I could take that silly putty and press it against the colored images in the Sunday comics and feel like I had really done something. I just didn't quite figure out what to do with it after I had made the image so what I did was ball that putty up and do it again. I guess back then it was cool to reproduce anything in color.
Now Play Doh was a different story. It was my first experience at being a potter. I built cups and plates and vases from that sticky colored stuff and then I'd let it harden. Needless to say I was always begging Mom to buy more because mine was all dried up. It should have been my last experience as a potter but that's a hub for a different day.
Total Time Wasters
When I thought about the next two toys that entertained me as a child, I couldn't help but wonder how we turned out as well as we have. I can think of few things that are less stimulating to a child's brain than placing a Slinky on a sloping surface and watching it flip over itself. Whose bright idea was this anyway? Maybe I just wasn't very creative because I couldn't think of anything else to do with a Slinky. We had one set of steps inside that led to our basement. They were steep and narrow and all I had to do was turn that Slinky loose at the top and someone would need the steps to go up or down. My Slinky would get stopped halfway and I'd have to start all over. I can't really remember but I wonder if that Slinky ever made the entire trip from top to bottom.
Now the Whee-lo. I can't help but giggle over this one. My memories of this one are pretty simple. I wanted that little wheel to make the trip back and forth on the track 1000 times without interruption. I don't think I ever got there. It seemed that my brother's sole purpose in life was to knock that wheel of it's tracks when I was well on my way to 1000 cycles. Are you getting the picture that many of our toys entertained us like putting a hamster on a wheel? Round and round and round we go and in the end, we've been no where.
Thank God for bicycles. They gave me my freedom from the Whee-lo and Slinky. When I got my first Western Flyer bike, I knew my life had changed. I traveled everywhere on that bike and found so many creative ways to change the experience. By today's standards, that bike was a dinosaur. It had no hand brakes or bells or baskets or handlebar streamers. The tires were 20 inches tall and about 3 inches wide. It was built for comfort, not for speed. When I wanted to impress, I put my Mom's playing cards on the spokes with clothespins and it sounded fierce going down the road. I had the same bike for my entire childhood and didn't give it up until I was 16 and my bell bottoms got hung in the chain. I landed in the Juniper bush with a busted lip and ego. So much for showing off. It ended my relationship with that Western Flyer. The poor bike sat in Mom's basement until the tires dry rotted and the frame rusted. It went to live in the county dump.
It's been so much fun thinking about these old toys and things that entertained me as a child. My memories of my childhood are good ones mostly. I know that kids today can't understand and would stage a serious protest if they were given only the toys of my youth to entertain them but you know, my toys had limits. You could only Whee-lo for so long until you got bored. That left plenty of time for homework, dinner together as a family, and forced me to think about other creative ways to entertain myself. I couldn't sit in front of a television or computer monitor for hours on end letting it do the thinking for me.
I know I've reached the age where I sound like I'm longing for the past but I'm not, not really. I'm just very grateful for the times of my youth, when the world wasn't spinning so fast, and there wasn't so much pressure on kids. I grew up when the pace of the world allowed me plenty of time to just be a kid. I was blessed with parents who loved me and made sure I didn't grow up too fast. I'm one of the lucky ones.
Rate your Etch-A-Sketch skills
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© 2012 Linda Crist