My favorite toy was a replica of an Indianapolis 500 race car bought at Triplett Toy Store in Des Moines when I was 9 or 10 years old. I took great pride in the toy because it seemed so real and I was a big fan of the Indy 500 as a youngster. It was so nice I almost was afraid to take it outside, but I remember racing it up and down the driveway with a couple of friends.
My favorite toy was a Carrom game board that the kids in my family got for Christmas when I was in third grade. It was a wooden board with four netted pockets in the corners. It had a donut-shaped puck that you would try to get in the nets. We used our fingers instead of sticks to push the puck. We often hurt our fingers and had to bandage them up to keep playing. It was the best because we could play with anybody and everybody, although some people were more skilled at it than others. I remember hours and hours of fun playing the game with my family and with kids in the neighborhood.
My favorite toy was a stuffed animal I got when I was four or five. It was supposed to be kind of like a cow and I named it Beauregard. I adored it. I slept with it at night and he went everywhere with me. Eventually, his plastic face broke, and Beauregard’s stuffing started to come out. I was devastated. My mom told me that she would send Beauregard to the hospital to get fixed. When Mom returned “Beauregard,” he looked different! I was unhappy with this, but Mom told me that Beauregard had been to the hospital and the doctors and nurses had fixed him up and given him a new face. All was fine until about a year later, when I found the original Beauregard! I was very upset and angry with Mom, not realizing at the time all that Mom had gone through to find a new one. I eventually got over it, taped up the original Beauregard’s face, and then had two Beauregards.
There was nothing I loved more than my mouse dollhouse. It had three cunning bedrooms, a kitchen with a potbellied stove, a claw-foot bathtub and a fireplace with a rocking chair. The mother mouse would sit in that chair and rock her twins, while the father snoozed on the couch. I don’t know where my mother bought the mouse house, but I remember that I was perhaps six when she gave it to me. We had driven two towns over in a car to a small shop I’d never seen before. While I waited in the car, my mother went inside. I remember her coming out of a store with a parcel wrapped in white, and giving it to me – for no special occasion! She told me I could unwrap it right there! And this was not done in our family. Money was always scarce, and presents reserved for Christmas and birthdays. When I unwrapped the mouse house, my mother later told my grandmother that I looked as though I’d “just been given a million dollars.” And that was how I felt. Everything about the mouse house had to be perfectly maintained; the little mice tucked into bed every night – long after the age when most girls played with dolls, even back in the ‘60s.
I received a toy typewriter from Santa when I was 7 or 8 years old. I was learning to read and write and loved school. I thought a typewriter was so grown up! I pretended to be a secretary, typing lists and organizing them. The ironies abound. I never learned to type (still can’t to this day!) because I was afraid if I knew how I would be relegated to being a secretary, and I wanted to be the boss! Of course, my real career focused on the written word in many forms: teaching primary grade children to read and write; authoring language arts textbooks for K-6 students; publishing the American Girl books, magazine and catalogue. I have always loved the written word and that little typewriter was a window to my soul long ago.