Action Man or Atari? My Life Story in toys

I must confess to feeling slightly horrified by a conversation I had recently with my son.

He is 11 and was in the throes of declaring redundant the Power Ranger accoutrements with which his 4 year old brother is so passionately obsessed. “They are so old fashioned!” he remarked, in a bid to strike another brotherly blow to the self-esteem of his sibling (as you do).

Now  I may be over-thinking this (as is my tendency) but this remark left me in a dilemma. Should I point out that Power Rangers are actually, from my perspective, a new-fangled concoction, barely older than last night’s dinner? Should I tell him what a REALLY old toy looks like? Or would my attempt to educate my son just backfire on me? I decided that the latter was most likely, since he has only been on the planet for 11 years himself he would undoubtedly struggle to relate to my assertion that a decade is a very short existence for a toy. Moreover, I suspected that my protest would serve only to put further distance between our generations and simply render me, in the eyes of my son, an old codger/has-been.

So I kept my mouth shut and went about my business.

I am indeed now so old that I have actually forgotten some of the toys which I played with as a young’un. I can evidence this with the following. Memories  letter to santaI found this letter to Santa which I wrote as a small child of perhaps 5 or 6 at a guess, which my mother had kept safe and intact for almost 40 years. Gotta love a mother’s love, eh?

As you can see, the letter details a short and specific list of items I would be requiring for Christmas that year. Jack in the Box – check. Dolls’ house – check. Katy Copy Cat……….WTF?!! This is when I realised that there are just some things you are too old to recall. I confess that I had to Google Katy to see who or what she had once  been and why I might have so desperately wanted to have her. I discovered that she was a small, blonde dolly. Not particularly beautiful or princess-like, but that she possessed a special skill. Katy sat at a desk and held a full-sized pencil apparently. If her owner took a pencil and wrote something, Katy had the ability to copy her owner and write too. Now, I was pretty impressed even today by this kind of technology, so it’s little wonder I was enthralled in 1973. I remain dubious about her levels of accuracy, of course, but I guess I’ll never know.

Here is the lovely Katy Copy Cat, sans desk. I am convinced Santa never obliged – how could I have forgotten her otherwise?

Memories toys life story

This delightful piece of nostalgia led me onward…..what were the toys I DO remember then? I shall relate….

My first memories of are playing Marbles. A simple bag of glass marbles could entertain my brother and I for hours! There were so many variations of games, most of which I lost to my older brother, but we seemed to be constantly on our knees in the hallway or out on the back yard smashing each others’ ‘marleys’ out of the way.

Then there was Tiddly Winks. And Monopoly – ever-enduring. At one point we had a ‘Blockbusters’ board game which made us howl with laughter when any one asked for a ‘Pee please Bob’ (you really had to be there). Cluedo and Scrabble of course came out at Xmas, and the moth-eaten Happy Families deck of cards was a family fave.Memories of childhood toys

Since I was a ‘girly’ girl, much of my formative years was dominated by dolls. After the lamentable demise of my one true best friend Barbara (a silver-haired angel of a dolly whom I truly adored) – she sadly had her face eaten off by the dog, I turned my attentions to Pippa dolls. Barbie was simply too big and cumbersome, so I threw myself into Pippa World and managed to acquire tens of them, all with different coloured hair and glamorous outfits. Since I was handy with a needle and thread, I used to spend hour upon hour transforming bits of old fabric into incredible outfits for the Pippas to change in to. I held fashion shows and played schools, acted out my own soap operas and even cut off the hair of some dolls to make them into boyfriends (the odd felt-tip pen helped to create an authentic 5 o’clock shadow to complete the make-over). Memories of toys

I WANTED a Tiny Tears – never got one. I also WANTED a Girl’s World – never got one of those either. Do you remember Girl’s World? It was a plastic ‘bust’ of a girl’s head with long hair that you could pull to make it grow. It came with a make-up kit so that you could practice make-overs (a term that didn’t exist in the UK in 1975). My mother thought they were vulgar, so I had to go begging.

We did have an Etch a Sketch and a Spirograph, though. My brother was all about Matchbox cars, which he neatly displayed in a plastic suitcase specially made to hold them. He also loved Thunderbirds and his prize possession was a large Thunderbird 2, which he played with incessantly.

When we ventured outside there were skipping ropes (mine rarely left my side) and the school playground was awash with little girls reciting skipping rhymes as they double-dutched with pieces of washing line wire. Our neighbours had Space-Hoppers (jealous) and I had plastic roller skates which you strapped on over your shoes (and in my case broke your wrist wearing). There were Tonka trucks and Chopper bikes and radio-controlled boats which we attacked the ducks with at the boating pool.

But the toy to end all toys came into our family home in around 1976. Loosely termed a ‘computer game’ the Telstar was a revolution. It was just about the most exciting thing we kids had ever seen. Nostalgia toys and gamesUntil we actually came to hook it up and play with it, that is. It essentially required the disconnection and reconnection of just about every electrical appliance in the house ( this is the perspective of a then-9-year-old to be fair) and when it did come on to the screen, was spectacularly underwhelming. A single green line appeared down the centre of the screen and a tiny ping pong green dot entered from stage-left – game on! Two players had to move their green ‘paddles’ (a green line) to hit the ball back to their opponent. Yep, that was basically it. When you were bored (didn’t take long) you disconnected the street’s power supply again and put Tiswas back on.

Wow, it’s funny how the memories come flooding back.

What were the toys of your youth? Capture them whilst they are fresh at Your family’s lifetimes on timelines, for free!

2 responses to “Action Man or Atari? My Life Story in toys

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