I recently watched several of my grandkids remain completely immobile and silent as they piddled with their parent’s smartphones on the couch, playing games for hours. My grandkids are definitely NOT having as much fun as I had as a kid, back in 1965. A simple list of my toys back in the day will explain why:
Crashmobile. This way cool wind up car came in pieces with springs attached; you fitted it all together and then let it run into a table leg or wall, and the whole shebang would fly apart. It was ghoulish fun, especially when I swiped my sister’s Barbie and Ken dolls to put in the front seats – they went flying like circus acrobats without a net.
Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. Don’t talk to me about Legos or any other plastic doo-dads; the feel of wood between your hands, even the occasional splinter, is the right feel for a small boy. I and my companions built veritable metropolises in our bedrooms, and then watched in grave satisfaction as...
Odd Ogg came along. This thing has to be seen to be comprehended. It was supposed to collect a rolled ball, but we used it only to slowly run over and destroy our wooden cities, like an arthritic Godzilla.
Mr. Machine. All right, it was plastic and we started losing pieces to it within a half hour of receiving it for our birthday or Christmas, but still, it made the best croaking noise of any audible item on the planet. Wind it up and point it at a baby, and that baby was guaranteed to start whimpering for its mother – what more satisfactory apparatus could you imagine for a small boy?
Wham-O Air Blaster. This was high tech, by golly! It looked like a death ray, and when you cocked the trigger back and let go it gave a blast of air that could knock the antimacassars off your aunt’s living room chairs, or ruffle your uncle’s toupee. The adults were always shouting at us to get that **** thing out of the house – now THAT’S a seal of approval for a toy!
Silly Putty. So cheap and amazing . . . you could lift a cartoon of Superman right off the comic book page and distort the Man of Steel into a hilarious gargoyle by pushing and pulling. And so what if you left it in your pants pocket and it turned to glue? Woolworth’s always had another capsule of it ready to go, for only a quarter.
Cap pistols. Oh, that spent gunpowder smell! The day a boy graduated from a squirt gun to a cap pistol he became one tough hombre.
Lawn Darts. How this one ever got off the drawing board I’ll never know; giant steel-tipped darts that you threw up in the air and hoped they landed on the target and not on top of your head. They made excellent spears on neighborhood safaris.
Water rockets. You filled ‘em halfway with water, then pumped air into ‘em until your arm fell off. Then you released the stopper and they sailed majestically into the stratosphere, sometimes detouring to break a bedroom window.
Duncan yo-yo. I still have mine, and I can still walk the dog with it. It built hand/eye coordination like no Angry Birds you ever saw!