Simple toys afforded us hours of fun

Published 12:36 am Saturday, August 6, 2016

All kinds of catalogs float into my mailbox—all unsolicited, of course. Somehow, word must have reached whoever sends them that I am one of those people who can never drop something unread in my wastebasket. One definitely hooked me. Why? The cover announced it as featuring “Yesterday’s Memories.”

One of the first items that caught my eye was the picture of a colorful spinning top. Oh, what a delight! You started it spinning by pushing the red wooden handle up and down. The more you pumped, the more it spun. The more it whirled around, the louder it hummed. As you stopped pumping, it transformed into a whirl of color.

Did you ever enjoy a Jack in the Box? Jack was enclosed in a colorful tin box with a handle on the side. When you turned the handle, “Pop Goes the Weasel” played and “Jack,” a clown, popped up. I had forgotten the tinkle-tonks that worked the same way. They were smaller boxes with a handle you turned to grind out some music.

Thinking of them brought to mind a little wooden piano I once had. When I plunked on the keys, it seemed like a magical thing.

Turning a page, I saw one of my husband’s favorites—jacks. You played it with a little rubber ball. He and his sisters often had fun playing jacks when they were growing up. It was a favorite rainy day past time for them. A toy store site on English Internet advertised a set with metal jacks, and two little rubber balls. I also found a site with page after page of instructions on the many ways to play jacks.

My goodness. The more I turned the catalog pages, the more I saw toys that had just slipped my memory. How about pick-up sticks? Ball in a Cup? And kaleidoscopes with multicolored particles in different shapes enclosed in a tube? Those always fascinated me. What a sense of wonder I felt peering in the tubes.

Who could forget those wooden yo-yos the boys played with during recess in elementary school? Many were adept with their yo-yos; swinging them way out and bringing them back in so smoothly. And speaking of toys for boys, what about marbles? If I stretch my imagination, I can still see little bunches of boys dressed in overalls down on their knees at a circle drawn on the playground, shooting marbles. They returned to the classroom with dusty knees.

I never played marbles, but they caught my attention because some were so pretty. I admit I was sometimes guilty of begging a marble or two from some of my male classmates. In a small collection I have tucked away is at least one clay marble, obtained by my son from a German playmate when we lived in on post in Germany.

I would venture to say that those simple toys of my childhood afforded my playmates and me as much fun as today’s electronic wonders.


Nina Keenam is retired from the newspaper business. Her column appears on Saturdays.