Toys

Searching out a Pirate Ship for our grandson recently, I started to reminisce about toys. The toys of my youth, in the 1950s and 1960s. One of my earliest memories is of a spinning top, like the one in the picture. My Mum would spin it for me, and when I was old enough to be able to push the plunger on the top, I would play with it on my own for what seemed like hours, never becoming bored with watching it spin.

Many of my childhood toys were home made. My Dad was a useful carpenter, making me a sword and shield, so I could pretend to be a Knight, and a wooden gun, for when I wanted to play at being a soldier. The best thing he ever made me was a wooden fort. This served as housing for many varieties of my figures, from Cavalry and Red Indians, to Foreign Legionnaires and Arab warriors. For a long time, it became a farmhouse for my toy animals, until I got a ‘real’ toy farm, and was also used as a garage for my collection of toy cars. My imagination made it into anything I wanted, and I would happily sit on the floor arranging it for hours.

As my parents’ financial situation improved, I was bought a large plastic castle. This was amazing to me at the time; with turrets, flags, battlements, and a drawbridge that could be raised and lowered. I would line up my Knights on the top, and attack the castle with others. Each week at the shops, if I had been good, Mum would buy me one soldier, animal, or Knight, and I would stand for a long time before making my choice. I looked after all my toys too, never breaking them, or damaging them. By the time I was eight years old, I had around a hundred or more figures of all kinds, and kept them in boxes after I had been playing.

When the 1960s arrived, better jobs and widespread manufacture meant more money available, and a wider choice too. Birthdays and Christmas would see fabulous additions to my toy hoard. I received many toy guns, (no political correctness back then) and they were usually very authentic too, with working parts and plastic bullets that sometimes fired. I got metal cannons that fired matchsticks from a spring mechanism, and even a medieval catapult, that I used to attack the plastic castle. One year, I was decked out in a full Roman Soldier outfit, complete with armour, short sword, and plumed helmet. Heading off to play with the local kids, I could have passed for a Roman invader from history, at least as far as I was concerned.

Age and dexterity made it possible for me to make model kits too. I was lucky to get many aircraft models, as well as tanks and artillery pieces. These spiced things up in my games with toy soldiers, and my improving imagination meant that I could do things like glue cotton wool to the planes, simulating them being shot down. Unfortunately, I had little patience when it came to building these kits though. So my propellers never turned, and my tank tracks were fixed solid. My Dad became frustrated with this, and took over the construction himself. I suspect that was the main reason he bought them in the first place.

I still went back to my old fort and castle though. Being an only child, I could play out with local friends, but in the house I had nobody else to play board games with, or compete with when playing the many plastic toy games that were becoming popular then, like ‘Ker-Plunk’, or ‘Connect Four’. I never had any electronic toys either, as I was too old by the time these became affordable. As I got too old to continue to play with all these toys, and spent more time out riding my bike, I slowly passed them on to younger relatives, always hoping they would be looked after, and reluctant to see them go. When I see such things being treasured as antiques now, I regret not being able to store them all away.

Let me know about your childhood toys in the comments. It is always fascinating to see the changes in such things, over time.

73 thoughts on “Toys

  1. Oh Pete, Ker-plunk and Connect 4 were some of my favourites back in the day along with Simon says and buckaroo. There used to be so many toy shops around but sadly now, you struggle to find many on the high street. I loved going in those shops in the build up to Christmas and marvel at what the latest games were. One of the few recognised toy stores, ToysRus has now disappeared probably due to the online shops beating them on price. I do remember spinning tops too, i had one when I was much younger. Although time moves on, it is always good to look back and reminisce.
    Ian

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Pete,

    It was a wonderful read, I could understand the joy of playing with hand made toys.

    Believe me there is lot to learn than just information about toy character when it is hand made. See, after so many years you are still remembering that carpenter. Not sure but chances are there that you still are in contact with him/his family. These social dealings are completely missed with the advent of modern industrialization, moreover we now have everything home delivered. So our next generation kids are not even going to see the face of a shopkeeper! How much isolation on the name or privileged?

    Anyways, it was a good read.
    btw, I’ve posted my first blog @ shastrakrida.org and you may like to read it. We are working to promote hand made toys.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love reading about your childhood and adolescence, Pete!💜 This toy looks quite interesting.💙 I know this is an older post but was reading through your posts and realized I didn’t either like some of the older ones or didn’t comment when I thought I did. Anyways, thanks for sharing this lovely post!💙Xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Things definitely have changed immensely over the years. My kids want to be addicted to electronics. They say everything that involves physical activity is tiring or boring. My daughter literally told me she was allergic to the sun when I tried to make them play outside with me. It’s beyond aggravating. I believe creativity is one of the most important things to have and if they are just playing mindless games and/or texting all the time, what are they learning or imagining? NAda.😒

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Absolutley great memories!

    I grow up with 6 siblings, my parents don`t have much money and most of the time we played games outside without toys. From old catalogs, we cut out the figures and played with them.

    My big brother showed me that the pig trough made a wonderful boat after the slaughter. I think my mother got a crisis about that!

    It was a great time, even if we did not have much!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t have loads of toys growing up but I have fond memories of the ragdoll my mum made me and of my new born baby doll… and a lot of Lego. Little O is currently obsessed with Mr O’s toy cars from his childhood which have emerged from his parents’ loft.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Slightly spooky that I have been writing privately about toys from my childhood in recent days and here’s your post. Which has reminded me – yet again – how unreliable my own memories are. So many gaps, and so many ‘memories’ that – when it comes to it – I find I am asking myself: what here is is fact and what might be embellishment. I envy your clarity, Pete!

    That said, a toy I do know for a fact that I loved and enjoyed for many a year was Britains’ miniature gardens. And you’ve prompted me to do a little research – what a joy! The little tool that ‘planted’ the plastic flowers; the lawns; the paths… The smaller packs were within reach of my pocket money and so the garden grew regularly in more ways than one. Lovely memories 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I well remember those too. When I finally got a farm, my Mum bought me some tiny plants from that range, and showed me how to make them into the farmer’s farmhouse garden.
      Another writing coincidence, Sandra. They are getting spooky indeed! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah. Yes. I had one of those humming spinning tops. My (older) brother and I also had lego, which we shared. I remember the huge excitement when we finally had a few bricks that were not red and white! My brother was given a bus and it had yellow indicator bricks and black bricks underneath for the wheels.

    Actually, most of the toys I remember were my brother’s. He had an electric train set, of which I was always envious. He also had heaps of plastic soldiers and we had big battles with them, making forts out of Easter egg cartons. He always won, though, because a fair few of the ones he let me play with were also the easiest ones to knock down, like the Indians that stood on one leg and some of the others that the dog had got hold of and chewed the bases… It was all good fun, though.

    When I was about 8, much to my mother’s disgust, my grandfather bought us both machine guns that made a delightful rrrrrrrrrrrr sound. We had great fun chasing each other round his garden, which had a hummock in the middle to hide behind, shooting each other and ‘dying’ dramatically on the lawn. Then we both grew up to be pacifists…! Must have got it out of our systems or something 😉

    I had dolls, of course. And a pram for them. A lot of them were dolls my granny had won by guessing their names. For some reason, she was very good at this! And she knitted them jumpers and things for me, too.

    I think perhaps one reason why I don’t remember much in the way of toys of my own is because, from about age 5 upwards, books were by far my most favourite gifts. Especially books about animals. I liked jigsaw puzzles, too. And I spent hours and hours drawing… and writing stories – most of which I never finished! I’d get as far as Chapter 2, or occasionally Chapter 3, and then come up with a whole new idea for a story that just *had* to be written…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a terrific recollection and reflection of your toys and childhood. I want you to know that things are pretty much the same in my classroom. Really. Isn’t that wonderful? The only differences are no guns, and the inclusion of baby dolls (which boys like, too), and trucks (which girls do not like). The play and imagination is all there, as it should be. As a child, I remember my Raggedy Ann doll, my stuffed bear, and my Barbie Doll. I remember playing Monopoly and Go Fish. Children in my classroom love board games and puzzles. They are just as important as imaginary play is to learning and brain development. Thank you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jennie. It is good to hear how little has changed in your class. Sadly, I think many older children (7-16) over here are more into electronic video games, and things like remote-control cars and drones. Such toys remove much of the imagination required for invention and learning.
      I am very pleased that you liked the post.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are absolutely right. The electronics remove much of the imagination. Older children are the same here as well. I’ll stick with young, imaginative ones. Thanks again and best to you, Pete.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. We had homemade games when I was younger, like a button on a string that whirred around and other inventions my mom came up with. Later in grade school I remember troll dolls the most; I had one with orange hair and we’d play with them at school. I’m getting sentimental now and find myself looking for them in collectible stores. I have 3 on my shelf currently! )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Troll mania! I remember those, but because I was older, they were seen more as kitsch collectibles than toys. A button on a string can be as much fun as anything bought in a shop.
      Nice memories, Susanne.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. We had the early version of Lego, it was so much easier and more fun then.
    I was the eldest of three (two younger brothers), but I don’t remember many toys as a little girl. I had a Barbie and my mum made very stylish clothes for her. Barbie har her own little wardrobe filled with unique clothes designed by my mum, but my favourite doll was bigger one that could walk and talk. I saw this doll on a fun fair and my dad spent a fortune on lottery tickets until we finally had it. It was the luckiest girl in the world. Otherwise I spent much time with the Alsatian puppies, I barked before I could talk and as soon as I learned to read, books where my number one wish on any occasion..

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Toy soldiers seemed to be my mainstay, having two elder sisters it seemed like I was an only child in respect of siblings to play with; I was simply someone to blame 🙂
    I would spend hours in imaginary battles, no matter where in the house, or indeed whose house, I could set up the theatre of war. I had a spell making the Airfix models as well, but only as a way of adding firepower.
    I remember getting the Sinclair ZX81 computer and that changed my playing habits and then secondary school came along and my recreational life moved outside.
    I recently made Malina a shop front from an old Ikea box and it remains a favourite despite the plethora of modern plastic toys littering the house 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Child-size shops were a favourite at school, I remember. They were teaching us to be consumers from a very young age. 🙂
      I can’t imagine having a computer as a toy, but that’s the sort of change I was imagining of course. It does seem as if one good electronic gift, like a laptop or Tablet, will immediately make kids of a certain age forget about all other toys.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, Fireball XL-5, Stingray, Space Patrol, and others. I was probably far too old to enjoy them, but still allowed myself that indulgence. Have you seen the film, ‘Love, Honour. and Obey’? Worth watching, if only for this…

      Thanks Ian.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I had cars, lots of dinky cars, and a Hornby train set and a scalextric. I also had a tiny tears doll which cried real tears and wet itself. 🙄 Then a Sindy doll and a Tressy doll, but my best thing was a red Dalek suit that I ran around in pointing the ‘rayguns’ at my neighbours and yelling ‘exterminate’ at them. Good times!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I had the spinning top too and mine had holes and reeds in it that would cause it to play a melodic sound as it spun — My Dad made knives and guns for me out of wood too … and a sleigh … and a wagon to pull around … he was very handy with carpenter tools . I never got the plastic castle but Dad did buy for me a 7-foot-tall canvas tent with poles and I camped in it for years. The last great thing Dad purchased for me was a post war Schwinn “Red Phantom” bicycle and I rode it up until I was 19 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I used to see those Scwinn cycles in American films, John. They always seemed very futuristic to me.
      My top made a humming noise that got louder as it spun faster. Thanks for adding your own treasured toy memories.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I remember I had a spinning top too! 😊 Lots of fun. I think I’ve been quite wild kid, climbing trees, roofs, playing war outside. So even my dolls didn’t survive. They always were ending up without eye or leg 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember local girls always carried dolls everywhere. Some even wheeled them around in tiny prams. Small wonder the lost limbs and eyes, they were taken on every adventure. Thanks for adding your own memories.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  15. I remember a few toys. World War I model airplanes—which eventually “suffered damage” or “crashed” into each other by way of creative melting of the plastic. A battery-powered helicopter on a wire. A spy gun that could shoot various projectiles. A rocket that could be shot high in the air—it would split apart, allowing the astronaut, wearing a parachute, to return safely to earth.

    But by the age of ten, my main “toys” were an ax, a sickle, and a knife, which I used for “trailblazing.” I had a passion for creating bicycle (later, mini-bike) trails in the fields and the woods. I also built bridges over both shallow and deep ravines.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. What do I remember? Farm animal toys, some little cars, a railway set (I think my father wanted a boy!!), and later on a Scalextric set. But a lot of what we did was invent, use our imagination. We had an old tent, donated by a relative, and that was variously a shop, a school, a hospital, a church…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great memories, Sue. I had a ‘Red Indian Wigwam’ that I loved to hide in. And although I had a Scalextric with two Vanwalls (see reply to Bladud Fleas) I didn’t get much opportunity to play with it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. It was a few years after the war. Store bought toys were unavailable or unaffordable for most people in Germany. As a six-year old I received a wooden locomotive for Christmas. My father with the help of my older brothers had built it from scratch. It came with eight wheels and was big enough to sit on. I had more fun with this homemade toy than with all the wind-up cars and factory made gadgets that came much later in my life.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Too many to mention them all as I was lucky to have live-in grandparents who spoilt me rotten until my sister came into the world seven years after me. I had a Hornby train set – I still have the locos somewhere but the track, trucks and carriages are long gone. Masses of Lego – when you could buy little boxes of bricks unlike these kits they sell now. Meccano. Merit chemistry set when you could buy chemicals over the counter at Hamley’s – we actually made gunpowder, imagine that now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great memories, BF. I was a bit too old for the golden age of Lego, but I had a Meccano cantilever bridge. My Dad made it, then wouldn’t let me play with it! I did get a Scalextric racing car set (the cars were two Vanwalls) but my Dad always beat me. (He wasn’t a man to let a child win anything) If he wasn’t home, I had nobody else to race with. I would imagine that gunpowder manufacture would find you ending up in Guantanamo Bay these days.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. My mother gave most of our Dinky cars to Barnados when we moved when I was eight – and now when I see some for sale on the auction programmes I wish we’d kept them. Being the youngest of three (two older brothers) I was alone when very small and used to have a miniature washing machine that actually washed dolls clothes, a miniature cooker and an ironing board. And a real china tea-set which I kept in a little suitcase. Talk about stereotyping! I used to prefer following my brothers though and play cricket with them, ride my bike and climb trees. We used to play a lot of board games and chess etc. but my eldest brother was very competitive and hated to lose. My favourite toy was a garden set from Woolies with a fake lawn, plastic borders with holes you could plant flowers into with a tiny ‘spade’. I was allowed to choose a packet of flowers every now and then and dithered over the choice for ages! I loved creating my garden.

    I think I was a disappointment to my mother who would have loved a girly girl!

    You might like to look at this Pete: http://www.woolworthsmuseum.co.uk/Toys-FiftyYearsAgo.html

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There was unrestricted gender stereotyping of toys back then of course. I noticed a small carpentry set in the Woolworths link you kindly added. I had one just like that. And that is exactly how I remember every branch of that shop. We had two within walking distance, and a bigger one in Peckham, a bus ride away. I thought of them as palaces, packed with everything I ever wanted. 🙂
      But my best place was a small toy shop on Deptford High Street, where I got my one figure each week. That was my Toy Mecca, until I was eight.
      Best wishes, Pete. x

      Liked by 1 person

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