Listening Post: Toys that were us

No Bucks Rogers Atom Pistol or other toy weapons in the Toy Hall of Fame, so far.

No Bucks Rogers Atom Pistol or other toy weapons in the Toy Hall of Fame, so far.

The Associated Press this morning reported that the Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester’s Strong Museum will induct two more toys today in their annual ceremony. This year’s nominees include:

“Bubbles, chess, the board game Clue, Fisher-Price Little People, little green Army men, the Magic 8 Ball, My Little Pony, Nerf toys, the Pac-Man video game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the scooter and the rubber duck.”

I never went for the Little People, and was too old to appreciate TMNT, and was not secure enough in my masculinity to be seen with a My Little Pony, but I played with all the rest.

At the Hall’s website, they list all the previous inductees by year. Of the 52 inductees from 1998-2012, at one time or another I owned and played with all but ten, and my sister had six of those. Sorry, Star Wars action figures, G.I. Joe, Atari 2600 and Nintendo Game Boy–guess I grew up too soon.

Out of this year’s crop, my money is on rubber ducky, (I spent an unusual amount of time in the bathtub with ducky, ignoring my brother and sister pounding on the door) and on the little green Army men (I was the 99-star general of my elementary school.)

Breaking news–the 2013 awards came out while I was writing–It’s rubber ducky and chess. The little green Army men will have to press their assault next year. Chess out-strategized them, I figure.

I love the down-to-basics approach of the curators, who have included the ball, the blanket, the cardboard box and the stick in their list of honorees. My brother was once fond of throwing a blanket over the kitchen table, transforming it into a stagecoach.

But there are some serious gaps left, providing plenty of fodder for future years.

  • Revell models— planes, warships, spaceships and cars (complete with decals, paint and tubes of glue) consumed at least half of my paperboy income.
  • What about the many recreational uses of baseball cards?
  • How about slot cars?
  • Toy guns, knives, swords, bazookas and atom blasters may be a little un-PC these days, but if you had a Y-chromosome in the ’50s and ’60s, you had a full arsenal.
  • What about the pogo stick?–I used to have pogo marathons in my neighbor’s paved driveway.
  • Balsa wood gliders? They kept them next to the comic books at Fishman’s Five and Dime. I liked the kind with wind-up rubber band-powered propellers.
  • Or what about the rubber band itself, for that matter? Stretch them out along a pencil, and fire them in battle against your little green Army men (or your sister).

I’m sure I’ve overlooked many favorites. Nominate a candidate from your own childhood in a comment below.


13 Comments on “Listening Post: Toys that were us”

  1. DebPackard says:

    Too much testosterone in the aforementioned list! How about Tiny Tears? (You know, the baby doll who could cry real tears?) Or the Easy Bake Oven? Or the Fisher Price tea set? And my personal favorite, the little plastic record players that even a child could use to play her favorite songs of childhood.

  2. Barb Heller says:

    Estes rocket kits!

  3. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Deb–I guess I have to go with what I’ve got. Boys are a menace. But you’ll be glad to know that the baby doll (if not the Tiny Tears version) was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame earlier. Can’t tell you what year as it seems that traffic has crashed the Hall of Fame website. The Easy Bake Oven was inducted as well.

  4. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Barb–My even geekier friend Scott was into the Estes rockets. He had the microcamera and developed the film taken from 2500 feet above Clarkson Hill Campus in his own darkroom. I am but an egg.

  5. Lucy Martin says:

    Etch-a-sketch, Spirograph, Creepy Crawlers and Incredible Edibles. Frisbee.

    Twister. Battleship. Stratego. Risk. (Wait, do games count?)

    Oh, the list goes on and on!

  6. Jane W says:

    Just checked the list. Was so glad to see that Etch-a-Sketch was a winner the first year!

  7. Brian Mann says:

    I had a huge box of various GI-Joe type “men.” And I was 12 when the first “Star Wars” came out, so I amassed a vast collection of Star Wars figures.

    I still have a huge collection of toys in my world, ranging from Dungeons and Dragons figures to big nerf bats that you can use to have sword fights.

    I also consider my skis to be toys, and my canoe…


  8. Dale Hobson says:

    Hi Lucy–

    Etch a Sketch and Frisbee were inducted in the first year 1998. Board games do count: Monopoly, Clue Scrabble, Candyland and Life are all inductees. Personally I spent more time with Stratego and Risk than with any of the other honored board games, except Monopoly. My brother would never let you quit. He could have hotels everywhere and own the bank–he’d loan you money to keep you on the string. Sheesh.

  9. Dale Hobson says:

    HI Brian–Nerf bats! In the early ’70s, Terry and I and a group of communards moved into a house in Potsdam that used to house the Switchboard crisis center, and they had left behind a closet full of nerf bats. Seven people in a small house–cabin fever season–one February day we all ran out into the snow-covered yard for a free-for-all nerf bat melee. Peace and love, baby!

  10. Dan Murphy says:

    Im very happy to see that blanket and the stick on on this list…

    It takes me back to when i was a young boy, and my brothers would throw a blaket over me and beat me with sticks for hours…..

    Aughhh… good times…

  11. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    I see so many toys mentioned here that were in my toy chest in my room…well, more like they were scattered about my room. I love that Revell (and AMT) models are mentioned – much of my spare kid time was spent gluing the car and airplane models (and fingers) together…and I still play with balsa wood gliders – talk about cheap fun.

    Brian – yes, as we get older our toys just get bigger and more expensive…I’ve gone from model cars to sports cars (a mid-1960s MG)

  12. Pat Nelson says:

    My brother was President of the Metro- Atlanta chess club for a number of years, and still runs their tournaments and chess camps. I’ve emailed him to say that I’m sure he is gratified that chess has been honored to join Etch-A-Sketch, GI Joe, Barbie and Rubber Ducky. I’m not sure his reply will make it through my filters though.

  13. Pat Nelson says:

    I have to share my brother’s response:
    Chess is a toy??? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…

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