Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Toys of Christmas Past

Well another year has come and gone and Christmas is looming large on the horizon. In anticipation of this, I got to thinking about all of the Christmas mornings that I have had over the years, particularly of the ones when I was a young child, and came up with a list of gifts that I recall receiving. I have decided to do a list of comparisons between similar gifts in honor of all the super cool stuff I loved and enjoyed as a child.

Tinker Toys Vs. Erector Set:
Growing up with a father that was a mechanic and watching him work on cars and fixing things in general, I developed a curiosity for well, tinkering with or erecting things. I recall several Christmas' over the years in which I received one or t'other of these collections of parts that one could pour out all over the table or floor, and build some of the most wonderfully awesome contraptions.
My preference was the Erector set. (Is it just me or does the name Erector set just sound dirty?) He he he he, yes I know I am acting like a little kid, but how can I not, it's Christmas! So yeah, the Erector set (he he he) was awesome. I liked it better than Tinker Toys because it was made of metal parts. These things had all sorts of nuts and bolts and pulleys and wheels that you could slap together and create the best sorts of machines. I loved making a catapult and then putting hot wheels in it and launching them at my siblings. Oh the fun it was erecting things!
Tinker Toys were alright. They were made of wood which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but not as cool as metal. You had a bunch of round pieces of wood that had a bunch of holes drilled into them and then several lengths of wooden dowels that you could push into the holes to create some pretty cool stuff. It came with some directions for things you could make and of course if you were really creative you could concoct your own machines that were pretty cool. But by in large the Tinker Toys just weren't as fun as the Erector set in my opinion.

Lincoln Logs Vs. Lego:
An off shoot of the Tinker Toy vs. Erector Set debate is the Lincoln Log vs. Lego discussion. Again like the Tinker Toys you had a wooden product vs. a much more sleek and sturdy product in the Lego's that were hard plastic. Again you could build some pretty cool shit with both gifts, although with the Lincoln Logs you were pretty much limited to building Log cabins. Don't get me wrong, I love me some log cabins. Hell if it was good enough for Honest Abe, it was certainly good enough for the likes of me. I could build some pretty cool cabins with my Lincoln Logs. Both products were good for hucking at your siblings when they would come along and break your creations, though the Logs held a lot more appeal for the hurling process because they were bigger so they carried more velocity than the comparatively smaller and lighter Lego blocks.
I think the versatility of the Lego's were in my mind the better toy to have. There were just so many more interesting things you could do with the Lego's, you weren't just limited to building housing for small plastic Army dudes.

Verti-bird Vs. Plane on a String:
Oh how I long for my Verti-bird helicopter. The Verti-bird helicopter set was a masterpiece that was by far my favorite toy ever! I am sure many of my readers may not have ever heard of, or seen a Verti-bird, but to this day I still wish I had one. In fact anyone who gets me one for Christmas this year will earn my undying gratitude. This was the most awesome toy ever created on God's green earth. It was a little plastic helicopter that was attached to a metal arm that had two levers on a control box that made the helicopter go up/down and forward/backward. Sure it only went around and around in a circle, but I'll be damned if that wasn't just hours of joy. It also had a hook on the bottom of the copter that you could use to hover and pick up things. The challenge was to pick up an item and then carry it to another spot on the Verti-bird landscape, which was basically a painted piece of cardboard with a heli-pad for the landing area. I would spend hours playing with this thing until I wore the batteries out.
The plane on a string was well, in my opinion not quite as cool. Sure it was as dangerous as the Verti-bird in that it had a plastic propeller that would really hurt if it hit your fingers, and sure like the Verti-bird it was an aircraft that went round and round in a circle. But the fact of the matter is, your arm got tired of having to spin this thing around your head over and over again. I have to admit that it was fun to chase your younger brothers and friends around threatening to run it into them. But then your parents would just take it away from you, and you were left to beg your sister for a tasty light bulb warmed cake treat from her Easy Bake Oven. Then, when she wouldn't share, you couldn't threaten her with the plane because your mom took it away and so you would threaten to eat the cake batter before she could cook it, then she tells mom and you are relegated to sitting in your room with all your broke ass toys from the Christmas before.

Slot Car Track Vs. Train Set:
I never really got either one of these toys, but I always wanted them. Every year I would pull out the Sears and Roebuck catalogue and I would look at all of the magnificent slot car tracks, dreaming of all the spectacular races that I would have. I always wanted the biggest race track that they had, but would tell my parents that I would settle for a smaller, less expensive one. There were some really cool race tracks and I never got any of them. I had friends that got them, and of course I got to play with theirs, that was cool. In fact it was actually not a horrible thing that I didn't have one because I got the pleasure of playing with my friends and didn't have all of the headache of actually setting up the track. I am betting that is why my parents never got me one, I discovered this when I bought my own kids a slot car set. Every time they wanted to play, I had to set it up and it is a real pain in the ass.
Like the slot car set, the train set was something that I would always look at in the catalogue and dream about the biggest one with all of the tunnels and bridges and having like 20 different train cars. A train set didn't hold the appeal of the slot car track because of it's lack of speed, but dang a train set would have been cool to have. Again, thankfully I had friends that had trains, and we would have a good ol' time putting hot wheels on the tracks or stealing a sister's barbie doll to put down and then let the train run into them, all the while the sister is screaming and telling on you. It either resulted in de-railing the train or just pushing the toy out of the way, then continuing on clacking down the tracks as if nothing had happened. Of course the mom would come and un-plug the train and tell you to go outside and quit bugging the sister.
Like the slot car track I bought a train set for one of my own children and had fun with it myself, however again I realized that my parents probably didn't get me one because of the labor intensiveness carried with the "some assembly required" slogan. As a parent I have learned that toys for kids should be as little work as possible for the parent. After all, isn't that the idea behind getting toys, to keep the kid busy, not the parent?

Hot Wheels Vs. Matchbox:
Two different versions of the same thing. For my money Hot Wheels were the only game in town though. I mean how could you not love the Hot Wheels better. They had the better looking wheels. Plus they had all these cool concept cars that were so awesome. Who didn't love the Red Baron car with it's Nazi helmet as the cab of the vehicle and the kick ass engine that it sported? Hot Wheels also had so many killer tracks that you could buy and race cars on. Damn I loved those orange slats of plastic that were held together with smaller tongue like pieces of plastic. Not to mention those tracks were good for sword fighting or smacking your siblings with when your mom sent you to your room after taking away your Plane on a string toy!
Matchbox just had miniature versions of the real cars like the Pontiac Station Wagon or the Ford Panel Van. In my mind the Matchbox cars were the generic brand of toy vehicles and certainly looked the part. I don't even recall whether Matchbox made a race track for their vehicles or not, but you certainly could run them down the Hot Wheels track just fine.
Overall I think Hot Wheels just had the better accessories not to mention the better looking cars.

Lastly, though I won't compare it to anything, because in all actuality there is really no comparison. Right next to the Verti bird, my next favorite Christmas toy was the Big Wheel. Man did I love that thing. Who was the bad boy cruisin' round the streets of San Jose on his spankin' new bad ass Big Wheel? Me that's who. It was so awesome to get peddling as fast as you possibly could and then just hit the proverbial brakes by instantly stopping the pedal motion and holding the big front wheel from spinning, resulting in a skid for the ages. When they came out with the hand break on the rear wheels it was even more fun to get up to top speed and slide out sideways. Eventually you would ware a flat spot in the Big Wheel from all of the skidding and you would have to ride around with a "flat" tire that couldn't be repaired.
Taking it off of jumps was pretty sweet too, although I don't think I ever really caught as much air as I believed I had. I once tried to get my little sister to lie down under the jump so that I could try to see if I could clear her like some sort of pre-pubescent Evel Knievel. She would never stay still long enough for me to try, and it's probably just as well looking back on it.

So there you have it. As with most of my lists it is not comprehensive and is certainly open for debate or elaboration on the part of the reader.
Of course in reading this, one might wonder how I ever managed to get anything out of Santa at all. It would seem that I should have been on the naughty list every year for using my toys as torturous weapons against my siblings. Come to think of it, had I been given lumps of coal as the legend goes, I may have had a small fortune built up and not been a broke ass adult begging people to buy him video Ipods or classic Verti-bird helicopters! Damn it Santa, you ripped me off!

1 comment:

Boyd said...

How could you put Legos over Lincoln Logs, Rich? You didn't just build cabins. You could build forts, reinforce moats you dug up in the yard and filled with gutter water. You just didn't have the imagination to fully appreciate Lincoln Logs.

I wonder how many little ungreatful children like you recieved Lincoln Logs and didn't know how to properly employ them. Mr. Lincoln should have thought twice before casting his pearls before swine.