LifeTimes readers unwrap a few memories of their favorite toys from childhood. Certainly there have been times when toys were few but imagination plentiful. Those who can recall the Depression found their fun in simple things, fashioned from tin cans and fruit crates. Later, there were crystal radios to build, TV cowboy duds to proudly wear, paper dolls to snip. And through it all, one homemade bunny to hold dear for a lifetime. Today, a generation of boomers recollects their childhood while browsing the Internet. Then or now, we revel in the joy.
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She says Ah, we say aww
I still have my favorite toy, a well-worn 9-inch plush animal my grandmother made and gave me on my first birthday. I have been told that when she asked me what his name would be, of course I could only say "ah," and Ah he has remained. He was a rabbit, but it's hard to tell now for the plush is torn, the two red buttons for eyes are missing, as are his ears, but he still has his bedraggled cloth tail. I have lived in many places and Ah has always been with me. Ah is now 89 years old.
Mary McIntosh, 90, St. Petersburg
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Not your model child
One of my favorite toys was the Aurora model kit from the 1960s - the ones featuring movie monsters like Frankenstein, the Wolfman and the Creature from the Black Lagoon as well as the DC superheroes such as Batman and Superman. My brother Jim could easily assemble the most complex battleship and warplane models, but whenever I tried to fashion my relatively simple figures, I ended up with my fingers stuck together by the Testors model glue. The figures' limbs and torsos dangled precariously at bizarre angles. Nonetheless, those models were a fond memory of growing up in the '60s!
Tom Takach, 53, St. Petersburg
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Watch those scissors, sister!
Paper dolls were my absolute passion as a little girl. If one doll's head accidentally got cut off by my dull scissors, I would use it as a patient in my hospital. I would crudely put the head or severed limb back on with white adhesive tape. The surgeries would be tedious and many times the damage would be too severe. In that case there would be a funeral. Dark-colored clothes would be designed for the paper mourners.
I would conduct the somber funeral service myself. Many a paper friend had tear stains on their funeral clothes. Mama used to look at me and soberly ask, "Another death in your family?" I would nod miserably and carry the body to the trash can.
"Men" paper dolls were few and far between. It just didn't balance out! Buster Crabbe could only handle so much. The few other men I owned always ended up buried in the trash can. They had been married to, and danced with, so many of my ladies, that they became frayed and required surgery where they too often suffered tragic injuries to their torsos.
Mary F. French, 69, Tampa
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When summer rolled in
The first day of summer vacation my mom gave my sister and me enough money for each of us to buy a new skate key and a pink Spalding ball. The skate keys we wore on a string around our necks all summer long. Our skates were our means of transportation as well as an outlet for fun. And we played handball, hitting it against the side of the house. Sometimes the ball went up into the gutter. Then we had to wait until Dad came home, and he would climb the ladder to get the ball. All this fun for less than one dollar.
Faith Savoy, 64, Hudson
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Sure to make Mom's day
Promoted by a young Kurt Russell in TV ads in the mid 1960s, the Agent Zero M Sonic Blaster by Mattel could shoot a ball of compressed air and put a candle out up to 10 feet away. Looking a lot like a bazooka, the gun also produced a loud "pop." The Christmas of 1965, I was the envy of all of the other 10-year-olds in my small Indiana town. Warnings were issued that the loud sonic pop could cause damage to the eardrum and there was a recall. I put the Sonic Blaster back in its box and hid it in the attic waiting for someone to come and get it. No one came and the gun moved with us to Florida in 1973 and has been with me ever since. As a teacher, I would use the Sonic Blaster as a story starter for my fourth-grade students, when they were asked to write about their favorite toy.
Tom Allen, 55, St. Petersburg
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Horsing around with Dad
As a little girl, I was horse crazy. My dad and I played pretend with my little horses, which lived in a corral in the living room. I named them after famous TV stars: Fury, Silver and Trigger. Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs made the corral and the ranch house. Shoe boxes and shoelaces were the wagons and harnesses.
Today, my horses are on top of my china cabinet in the living room, where I can see them every day.
After college, I bought a real horse and named him Beau. I lived my dream.
Judye Reed, 53, Treasure Island
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Maiming? Who knew?
So many '60s toys were inherently dangerous, like Mattel's Mini Dragons - a hot plate for kids! Within hours on Christmas Day 1968, I had stuck my finger in the burning hot Plastigoop to see if it was done. It wasn't, and now it was stuck to my finger. Oww! Reflexively, I grabbed at the hot plastic goo. Ow! Owww! Two more fingers burned. Instead of making little plastic dragons, I was in the ER enduring some unpleasant snipping and elaborate bandaging. The bulky gauze bandages were off within a few weeks, but it took months for my fingerprints to grow back.
Cathy Keim, 53, St. Petersburg
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Flights of fancy
A Coast Guard hand-launched glider was the second toy I owned, bought with a week's allowance of 25 cents. It had an aluminum engine cowl prop that really turned. The American Junior Aircraft Co., which made millions of hand-flown gliders, made it. Their gliders flew well, some too well. I left a trail of them across the United States, wherever my Navy father was stationed during World War II. I also built "stick and tissue" models and have done so for 70 years. Building, flying and chasing them has kept me healthy and young (at least in heart).
A.C. "Jake" Larson, 76, Sun City Center
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Dressed for the West
I loved my Hopalong Cassidy gun set in the early '50s, but above all was my full "Western Cowboy Outfit, complete with chaps, lariat, vest, gun, neckerchief and boot-covers for the shoes." On Saturdays, our Kansas City neighborhood transformed to the Wild West with hours-long battles between cowboys, riding make-believe horses, punctuated by snaps of cap guns.
Jay Cooper, 64, Riverview
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X Minus Fun
After my fourth-grade class in 1949 in Palm Harbor, I would rush home to listen to The Shadow, Fibber McGee & Molly, Gene Autry and other heroes on my beloved homemade crystal radio set.
Stringing the copper antenna wire outside was allowed, provided it was far enough off the ground not to strangle Uncle Greg on the tractor or get caught in one of the tall ladders used to pick oranges. When an occasional yard chicken tangled its way through it, I was left with the tedious task of restringing my precious wire. The dark side of me hoped that the culprit ended up in the oven on Sunday.
Ray "Gene" Ulmer, 71, St. Petersburg