Ask any child what their favourite toy was, and i’m sure they will produce a list a mile long. I’m no different. Like most children, my toys would transport me into totally different worlds; even to this day I marvel at the human mind’s ability to create a whole environment, holodeck style, invisible to all but the young boy clasping the toy in his hand; how a small piece of plastic or metal can trigger such wonderful fantasies…
Where do I start when it comes to toys?
I had so many interests over the years, it’s hard to narrow it down to one particular item.
I loved Scalextric; my uncle Russ used to have a small track with two old racing cars but I was seldom allowed a go. I never received one myself, so in some small act of consolation I bought one for my brother for Christmas when I first started work.
I guess my first craze which went on for many years was action man – it came in so many versions – army, navy, air force, and I would spend every last penny of my pocket money and birthday money and Christmas money on either dolls, accessories or the little clothing packs – it was basically Barbie for boys. The big toys, the boats, the jeeps were mostly out of our league, but one Christmas I did receive the astronaut set with a mercury space capsule. I toured the stars for hours with that, holding my breath as I opened the glass canopy to the capsule and bringing the astronaut out on his long tether for a space walk or two. Well, I was in a vacuum after all!
Whenever I went to Grandma Minchin’s house in Blidworth, and my cousin Sue was there, we would play for hours, Sue with her vast Sindy collection and me reluctantly letting my Action Men get married and go on dates etc. Not very exciting stuff really.
Like all boys I was fascinated with toy guns, starting out with my famous cowboy outfit and cap pistols, and moving on to my once in a lifetime Johnny Seven rifle – With so many attachments and secret parts, it was every young boy’s dream toy. And I had one!
My other favourite was a rather expensive toy from America made by Mattel – In fact, it was called “Man in Space – Major Matt Mason”. A space age toy in every respect – about half the size of action man, with a wire framed rubber coated body – a bit like a pipe cleaner – you could put them in most any position. Until the wire frame eventually broke from metal fatigue, leaving him a little limp wristed. Ground control to major Tom…
You can see more of this expensive range of toys by clicking on him:
TV had a great influence on me as a child, and with every action or sci-fi series, my toy collection mirrored it. Man From Uncle (more cap guns). Batman. Stingray. Thunderbirds. Star Trek. Space 1999. UFO. Joe 90. Captain Scarlet. Gerry Anderson ruled my life for many years.
It’s sad to think that it wouldn’t be seen as P.C. to runaround the streets these days firing cap guns at each other. In my day, you would save your sixpences to buy a roll of caps from the mobile green grocer. The red boxed caps were pretty rubbish – the ones in the green boxes went off with a good bang. And if you hit the whole box hard with a large stone against the concrete curb, you could get the whole roll to explode at once – deafening but very expensive.
Some toys we made ourselves – at one time I would play star trek with my friends armed with nothing but a makeshift ‘phaser’ which we had carved out of chunk of wood and a broken telescopic car aerial that made a great communicator.
It wasn’t all cap guns of course. Some of my favourite ‘toys’ weren’t toys at all – my first electronics set, chemistry set, spirograph, anything craft based really. And then there was my love of Airfix type construction models which I’ve mentioned in an earlier post.
I was also heavily into magic in my teens, had loads of magic books from the library and tons of magic sets for christmas. I was a proper little David Nixon (google him).
One of my most favourite and popular toys was my Dinky Toy Chipper Field Circus collection. Coupled with my Daktari land rover, this little convoy would tour the house putting on circus shows for all the family, even down to the ice cream van which followed them everywhere. And with only the occasional escaped lion…
It’s really annoying realising that one by one they got thrown away, and some of them are worth a mint now.
I’ve only really scratched the surface with this post – there were petite typewriters, meccano sets, guitars, garages with working lifts, hornby trainsets, Atari games consoles, spectrum computers (actually my brother’s but I got a fair amount of wear out of it) and loads more stuff that I can’t even remember.
While on holiday with Grandma and Grandad Burch in the Isle of Wight many years ago, we visited the toy museum in Godshill and stood for at least a couple of hours repeating the words “I had that – and that – AND that…”
Toys were a big part of growing up, and even now I have no problem with buying the occasional toy to play with. I just need an excuse these days.