Merry Christmas, Everyone!

November 27th, 2017 by Matt

In the spirit of the season, here is a favorite Christmas composition of mine from years gone by. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

I took this photo (sans lights!) on a cross–country motorcycle trip during the summer of 1999. I got really lucky, photography–wise, when I hit a thunderstorm in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was able to take a series of about eight shots of the Grand Tetons that I am really proud of. This shot is a natural for a bit of Christmas cheer!

Wishing you and yours a very, Merry Christmas!

Grand Tetons Christmas

Grand Tetons, Pine Tree, (and Christmas Lights!)

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Toy Hall of Fame

November 27th, 2017 by Matt

Erector Set

Erector Set

In the spirit of the season, I decided to update a favorite Christmas post of mine for a third time! I wrote this when my son Mikey, was about 8 months old. I updated it when he was 3 1/2. Now I am updating it when he is 9 years old and looking forward to Christmas in 2015! I hope you enjoy it and that it “takes you back!”

Now this is Christmas! Take a look at these golden–oldie toys, some of which are still as popular today as they were decades ago. I remember many of these as a kid growing up in the 60’s, a few of which were actually fads at the time.

I spent many days and nights building countless magical and colorful (and rickety!) contraptions with Tinkertoys. A true classic, popular to this day. Too bad they’re now made of plastic. The old wooden ones were the way to go. Wood just is so much warmer and has such a nice tactile feel. I sure broke a lot of them though! Lincoln Logs were great too, just a little more limited to building…err…buildings!

While I’m on the subject of “building” types of toys, I loved Erector Sets, which I had no idea were no longer produced. Boy did my fingers get sore from all the wrenching and screwing the pieces together into yet another wild contraption. (Hey, I’ve used the word “contraption” twice in this post. Cool!) This was a terrific toy. Probably too much work for kids nowadays, though. Too bad.

For some reason, I missed out on the Lego phenomenon when I was a kid, but they’re an awesome building toy, definitely the best all around. My son Mikey (now age nine) loves his Legos! We’ve built countless planes, ships, tanks, and buildings together. There are also tons of new types of sets such as Minecraft, Ninjago, Ben 10 figures, Pirates, and Castles that are put together to form buildings, scenes, or single large figures. Very cool! It has been a terrific way to spend time with my boy!

Hula hoops were a fad in elementary school. Everyone had one. Even parents got into the act (and still do)! But the hula hoops “thing” burned out fast. Within a year or two, they were gone, to be resurrected in other decades.

Tonka Truck

Tonka Truck

What young boy of the 60’s didn’t have a Tonka truck? Mine was a dumptruck. Awesome! I have since bought my son a Tonka or two and he loves them. Bash! Crash! “They take a licking and keep on ticking,” to quote an old Timex commercial. I am a little sad that they are now plastic, though. Granted they are safer, (less “bashing the other kid” danger), but to a car guy, what is better than a nice, shiny paintjob on your cool truck?

For young kids, Mister Potato Head is a must. A potato…with goofy re–arrangeable facial features–what’s not to like? Mikey got the “Spider-Man” version when he was about two and loved it. Although he’s a little old for it now, he still pulls it out and plays with it every now and then. Even kids get nostalgic!

Frisbees. Everyone had one then. Everybody has ’em now!

Marbles were really popular in grade school. But we played by trying to hit the other guy’s marble by throwing yours at it, not by shooting ’em out of a circle, like they did in the “olden” days. And “steelies” (ball bearings in real life) were awesome. If you had a regular marble, it required multiple “hits” to get the other guy’s “steely”. But even then, the coolest marbles that I ever saw were from my dad’s old collection. Such intricate designs and swirls! They had really changed, for the worse, even by the 60’s.

Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels

I was a kid of the 60’s and I vividly remember when Hot Wheels came out! The year was 1968…and every boy worth his salt HAD to have ’em! I am a lifelong “car guy” and I STILL love these. My son loves ’em too! He still gets them for little gifts in our Advent calendar Christmas House! I recently gave him the actual Hot Wheels I had as a kid. The Ford J car, McLaren, Ford Mark IV, etc. AND my original collectors case! GREAT memories with these!

Etch–A–Sketch, a classic. I’ve seen some fantastic things drawn with them. I never figured out how they did it, since you have to re–trace your lines all the time. And really, one shake and it’s gone. Why would you want to draw a super picture on an Etch–A–Sketch?

Viewmasters were very popular as a kid. With these, you could take a tour of a faraway place, without even going there. Pretty tame stuff now, but it was all we had then. We had no video games, computers, or internet, just pictures. And I don’t think we missed much! (We did have to walk to school in the snow, barefoot, backwards, uphill both ways though! I kid you not!)

Radio Flyer Wagon

Radio Flyer a.k.a. Little Red Wagon

Every boy (and many girls) had a red wagon, great for hauling your “stuff”. (I never called them “Radio Flyers”, though. Maybe I had a knock–off?) And every kid had a bike, just like now. They were just cheaper (and a lot heavier) then. They did have very cool, and comfortable, “banana” seats, though. Mikey got his first bicycle at 3 1/2, a “Cars-themed” beauty. He was thrilled! He has since outgrown that bike and has recently graduated to an electric blue mountain bike…six speeds! And he often beats me uphill now on his “gear bike.” His term!

Ah, Yo-Yo’s. What a fad they were in grade school. There were tons of different types, shapes, and colors. I had a blue “Duncan Imperial” that I loved. Everyone tried to do tricks. I became quite good at “Around–the–World”, but not much else!

Slinky’s always seemed to be a “one–trick pony” to me. You see one slinky go down stairs, you’ve seen ’em all, IMHO.

Play–Doh…what kid doesn’t like playing with it? I mean, I don’t think you can graduate from elementary school without playing with it, can you? Mikey loves making ’Nakes (snakes) and turtles, among many other things with Play–Doh. Or at least having Mom and Dad make things for/with him!

Silly Putty

Silly Putty

Wow…Silly Putty. Awesome stuff, but really, about a “two–trick pony”. You could bounce it, you could pound it down onto newpaper comics and copy the resulting mirror image onto other things (note paper, walls, etc. The walls bit didn’t go well with Mom, as I remember. Heh!) But really, once you did that, what else could you do with it? (Okay, you could do some of the same things as Play–Doh could, but it was far inferior to Play–Doh for those.) But it was still indispensible stuff as a kid.

One of my fondest memories as a kid, even into high school, was doing jigsaw puzzles with my mom, on rainy days, in front of the TV. Especially if you were watching “The Wizard of Oz”, with a fire in the fireplace. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw Puzzles

Man, I was a coloring fiend when I was a kid. Crayola Crayons…bless ’em. Probably the most imaginative “toy” (although not really a toy) for kids of all ages. Indispensible for learning your colors, drawing stuff for the folks to put on the ’fridge, you name it. I took pride in my coloring and filled up huge numbers of coloring books, especially Batman coloring books. Everybody! Da–da Da–da Da–da Da–da BATMAN! Uh, sorry. I got a little carried away, there.

Hmmmm, Candy Land. At first thought, not my favorite. But you know, as a family, we’ve had a lot of fun playing this together. And it is a very easy game for young kids to play. The colors hook them, I think! But Monopoly, now we’re talking. Great, classic game that my son now cleans my clock with…regularly! But it has to be the original, none of those weird new versions. If I’m going to jail, I want to “Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200!” I want all the original street names, the “community chest” cards, the whole deal, okay?

Wood Blocks

Wood Blocks

And finally, the ultimate young kid’s toys…wood blocks and teddy bears. A kid wouldn’t be a kid without these! My son has a variety of bears and other stuffed animals, which I think he likes the best when he’s throwing them at me during our pillow fights. Ahem… probably not my best parental moments, but big fun! And blocks are a huge hit with him, on the order of Legos. And like Legos, they allow you to create, they make you think. And isn’t that what the best toys do?

What are your favorites?

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