Those of you who know me and my collections already know that there are MANY vintage toys and games in our house. They are not all childhood favorites however, some are just collected for the beauty of their design and graphics. Being a woman of a certain age now, I’m pretty sure some of my favorites will be toys many of my readers have never even heard of!!!! Luckily I also have readers who are part of that post-war baby boom era too, and I don’t mean Vietnam.
These are toys and games I remember playing with most fondly:
- BILL DING – well I had to put him as number one because he belongs to this blog. He is my gravatar and he and his gang of clowns guard this site. He is also very special to me because when I first met my husband, Peter and we prowled through antique shops and flea markets, I mentioned to him that I would love to find this certain toy from my past – Bill Ding. When Christmas came, Peter gave me a narrow rectangular box, the kind a necklace would be in and of course that’s what I expected to find. Instead, there he was, well not exactly he because the blue clown in the box was not Bill Ding himself but it didn’t matter. I was SO excited to see this little wooden, blue, building-block clown, I couldn’t believe he had found one – by the way this was pre-Ebay days! To this day, that very first Bill Ding clown sits on a shelf in our bedroom. Over the years I collected many many more Bill Dings and they live all over the apartment. I have introduced both my grandson, Cash and my granddaughter, Finley to the joys of stacking and creating pyramids with these smiling wooden characters.
- Melody Bells – I remember the Christmas I got Melody Bells as a gift. I think my Uncle Franklin gave them to me. I played and played with them till I’m sure I drove my parents crazy. What was great about these bells was that the little songbook that came with them showed you how to play a tune by color. Each bell was a different color and you could play the notes by ringing the bell of that color. I guess I have always learned things more visually – I make Peter nuts when I refer to the Number 6 subway train as the green line and the Broadway train as the red line. He, of course being a true New Yorker refers to the subway lines as the IRT and RBT and the IND. I mean, really!! He is, of course, much older than me, lol lol.
- Candy Land - I know the game is still around and every time I see one at a thrift shop or flea market I check it out to see if the board has the old graphics, but it never does. If it did, I would buy it. I can remember playing this game for hours with my girlfriends…hoping to pick the Ice Cream Float card or the Gum Drop Mountain card. The graphics had that great 1950′s look about them. Now I understand, the game has characters, geez! And I’ve seen the game boards of recent years – NO they’re not as great looking as the oldies. Help me get out of the Molasses Swamp!
- Ball & Jacks – Really better known to me and my friends as just Jacks. Hours and hours were spent shaking those jacks in your hand and perfecting your toss so you could scoop up the requisite number and not touch the remaining pieces. Ah technique, the sweeping of the palm of your hand and your pinky finger scooping up a trailing jack. Little red balls bouncing all over the place especially if we played on our front steps and the ball hit an uneven spot. What I remember is that I had real jacks, not the thin gray jacks that you could bend and break. NO, my father got me cast metal jacks and they were in different colors; they were bigger, heavier and made a lot more noise when you played with them on one of the hardwood floors. Jacks are wonderful because you could amuse yourself for hours or play with your friends.
- Clue: Also game still produced and played and need I even say that the older version was better? Well maybe the board wasn’t as snazzy as it is today and the character were only drawn faces and not photo-like images of real people as they are now BUT, the weapons were much more real. Yes truly – my set which was given to me about 1955 was a pretty early version since Parker Bros. bought the rights in 1949. My set had a little lead pipe that actually was a soft lead and could bend, the rope really was a piece of twine fashioned into a hangman’s noose. I loved Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mr. Green and Miss Scarlet.
- Paper Dolls and Guns – Paper Dolls were not so much a favorite of mine but rather a playtime activity I remember doing with my girlfriends. I think Susan and Kakky (a nickname) had more Paper Dolls than I did; I was really a tomboy. However, I remember clearly that I had a Rhonda Fleming paper doll set and June Allyson. Why I had only movie stars I don’t know, but my dad bought them for me. Susan will probably read this so she can confirm, but I think she had the Betsy McCall Paper Dolls and one of us may have had Shirley Temple. Guns, well that was another whole thing. My father worked for J & E Stevens Co. and they manufactured toy guns. Their Guns were famous and prized for their weight, style and mechanical reliability. You could always tell a J & E toy gun by the ivory handle with a jewel in the handle. And I had caps too! Love the smell of a popped cap. Rolls and rolls of pale red paper strips, all my guns were cap pistols. I had beautiful holster sets too. I remember one particular pale tan double holster set with the silver bullets and it had rawhide laces to strap to your legs – God, I was the envy of every boy in the neighborhood!!
- Cootie – Loved to play this game with my cousins from New Jersey. I used to spend summers with them when I was about 10 and we played Cootie a lot. I always wanted the pink body (somethings never change). They were so cute! They had legs, antennae, a proboscis.
- Pick Up Stix – This was another of those games that required patience, a steady hand and some measure of analytical skill. And also again, this is game you could play by yourself or with friends. How many times did I hold that bunch of colorful sticks, drop them and then carefully (you couldn’t move another stick) extricate the sticks one by one. Of course today, I’m sure the mothers don’t let their kids play with any object that has points; thankfully none of my friends poked their eyes out!
- Hula Hoop, Roller Skating and Jump Rope, Hop Scotch – Just in case you thought all of my playtime was sedentary, it sure wasn’t. I still can’t figure out how I was able to roll that hoop around my hips for HOURS and now I can’t make it stay up even one loop!!! We all had Hula Hoops and soon we were twirling the hoops at our knees and shimmying them up. We could even make several hoops loop around at the same time. And we all had Roller Skates; the old metal ones with ball bearing wheels and a skate key to tighten the clamps that held the skates onto our shoes. I lived in an area where everyone had a driveway and the road was safe to skate on too. Double-Dutch jump rope was something we did every spring. I wasn’t as good at Double-Dutch, but did like just skipping rope with those red wooden handled Jump Ropes that we somehow got new every year. You knew it was Daylight Savings Time when the Roller Skates, Jump Ropes and Hula Hoops appeared and the driveways were decorated with elaborately chalk-drawn Hop Scotch diagrams, both squares and spirals.
- And we played with: Silly Putty, Slinkys, Play Doh, Marbles, Baseball cards, Jack Knives (yes!), Stilts, Kites, Water Pistols, Old Maid
- And not to be overlooked: Chinese Checkers, Parcheesi, Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Tinker Toys, Krazy Ikes, Mr. Potato Head (and we used real potatoes), Tiddly Winks.
And then there were a bunch of Simpler Toys from a Simpler Time.