I always wanted to play an accordion. So one Christmas I received a small accordion. I have a picture of me and the accordion (I am wearing an accordion pleated dress) by the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, I never did learn to play it.
I got a gun for Christmas that shot red rubber balls. It was quite unique because it shot the balls around corners. Mirrors adjusted so that you could see your target. Unfortunately, it was commandeered by my older brother who made it his weapon of choice in all of our battles. I couldnâ€™t walk freely through the house without being ambushed. It was great!
One sunny day in 1987 I tried to use my sister's wood burner to etch the name of my favorite ballplayer into my Louisville Slugger. Upon smelling burning pine in the house, my astute father quickly put the kibosh on my plan. Yet so strong was my desire to have a Jose Canseco bat, I took a magnifying glass out of the drawer, went outside, and slowly burned the name into the wood much to the chagrin of my father. I thought that bat would be used for hitting more than a baseball that day. For multiple reasons, please do NOT try this at home.
My memory of Christmas 1960 was playing with Lincoln Logs. The reason it was memorable is because both of my younger brothers, Rick and Mike, and myself all had the mumps! Somewhere there is a picture of all three of us with swollen necks. Our mother, Florence, must have had her hands full with three kids under the age of 10 all feeling pretty miserable. Kudos Mom!
My favorite all-time toy was Mattel's Thing-Maker. You poured liquid Plasti-goop of just about any color, including glow-in-the-dark, into a heavy mold of just about any shape: skeletons, spiders, pie-faces, bugs! The possibilities were essentially limitless, limited by only one's allowance to buy "parts"! I loved making glow-in-the-dark things, with which we terrorized each other by hurling in battles carried out behind bedroom forts in the dark. My sister, much more enterprising than myself, made objects "on consignment", which she then sold at profit in her junior high school. She raked in quite a profit in her teen years, and we all thought for sure she would become a millionaire by the time she was 20 (all in the days before E-bay). I was much too enamored of my creations ever to part with them for something as paltry as money. Much to my consternation, the Thing-Maker was taken off the market because it was deemed "unsafe". Of course, we burned ourselves many times on the hot molds after they came off the special oven in which the Plasti-goop hardened--but that was really part of the fun! Alas, our modern society believes it is better to keep kids safe than allow them to have fun!
My dad broke his TV while moving and it dropped. Those days there was no cable or satellite TV. I took my only Slinky and straightened out the wire and put it into the antenna sockets, he then got all channels and I was his hero, even though his team lost, I won.
The Revell Company produced replicas of antique automobiles 1910s to 1920s. They had many pieces to assemble and you painted the cars. Also, after WWII the Revell Company produced replicas of the WWII battleships – which had moving turrets – these ships were also painted and decals were applied. In the Bronx, we played "Skully" where bottle caps were filled with wax and with chalk we drew a board style game on the sidewalks. We also played with marbles and a paddle with a rubber string at the end of which was a small ball. We also played with pick-up sticks.
My sister and I played together constantly. We played "jacks," a game with a small ball and six metal jacks that were to be picked up during each bounce of the ball. We also made paper dolls using the Sears catalog. What fun!
Back when I was a wee lad, there was a science fiction TV show called "Space 1999" (which premiered in 1975), starring a bunch of now-camp actors including Martin Landau and Barbra Bain. I was very young at the time and have few memories of the show but remember the plot involved futuristic, moon-like spaceships being knocked out of orbit, with the characters trying to find their way home – very "Lost in Space." Anyhow, I remember begging for the "Space 1999" spaceship which looked like a really long, gray car with girders and pipes all over it and I’m sure had working doors and whatnot…knowing my fixation with movement, it probably shot things out too. I remember being thrilled when I got the spaceship and continued to play with it for years, using it as a mobile base for all my action figures and toys. I'm sure my mother finally gave it away at a church white-elephant table at some point but I’d give my eye-teeth to have one again so I could mount it on my wall and bring back all those dreamy childhood afternoons. Hey kid – if you've got my spaceship, I want it back!
During the early 1940's, Tom's family was living on S. Military Road at the head of Grove Street, across the street from Penn's Grocery store. The Milwaukee Road railroad tracks were in their backyard, a few hundred feet to the east were the Northwestern tracks and to the west, 1 1/2 blocks, was the Soo Line. Seeing all these real trains, Tom wished Santa would bring him his own Lionel electric train. Tom had a wind-up Marx Train that would not stay on the tracks nor could he wind it up by himself. This train went into the War Metal Drive. During the war toys like Lionel trains were not being made as Lionel was making compasses for the Navy. This did not stop a 5 year old from writing Santa for an electric train.
I had a special yo-yo. It was black and made by Duncan. A Duncan representative came to our school one day and anyone could have an image carved on their yo-yo. A horse was carved on mine and I went straight home and happily filled the carving with white ink. It was very, very special! I was also given a cap with the inscription "I can yo-yo, can you?" Today, I still love yo-yo's and at every opportunity, I try to teach my grandchildren to "walk the dog" and go "around the world."
During the depression years of the 1930s most people could not afford toys. We usually received one toy for Christmas. To provide toys for the poor children the Madison Fire Department would collect used toys and repairs them. They then displayed them in the basement of the Lincoln school on Gorham Street where we could come and check out one toy for two weeks. We would play with the toy for two weeks and then take it back and check out another. I still remember a large airplane that I could sit on and push myself around. I think the story of the good works of the Madison Firemen has been lost but I remember.