Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Past

There was a television show on early this morning while I was sitting on the couch, drinking my coffee. It was a nice little retrospective on the toys of my childhood. I had some of the toys mentioned and brother David had some of the toys. But some of the more popular ones we did not have. Two of these were the official Barbie and GI-Joe dolls. They were probably a little pricey for the family of a Baptist preacher. But we had some really nice knock-offs.

About 1958, I would imagine.

I guess it was probably 1960 when the Barbie craze really hit. That year I got two teen dolls for Christmas. One was a very close Barbie copy, received from my grandparents. The other was from my aunt and manufactured by the Uneeda Doll company. I played them both to pieces. The first eventually lost the use of her legs. The second I still have, a little battered but, in my mind, remains much prettier than the actual Barbie issued the same year. (The show this morning gave an original Barbie price of $3. Try to find one of them now for that price.) I also received a huge wardrobe of home-made fashion clothes for my dolls that beat the heck out of the store-bought outfits. I still have most of those clothes, too. Some made by my aunt, some by my mother and a few hideous efforts of my own.

David had a knockoff GI-Joe made by Marx, named Stoney Smith. He later added to his collection two more action figures by Marx, Chief Cherokee and Daniel Boone. I think I was a little jealous of those three dolls (excuse me, action figures) because they came with a load of scaled accessories. Even then I was fascinated by things miniature. All three were left behind in the church nursery when we moved from Smiley. A couple of years ago I hunted down a vintage Chief Cherokee for a present for David and coughed up around $80 for the doll, the box and the complete set of gear. My parents would never have left those toys behind if they had known.

One year I received a "life-sized" doll, who could walk. If you held your mouth right, that is. She is still with us, too, and periodically gets new outfits to wear at Christmas. How I wish I had some of the other dolls of Christmases past, like my Betsy Wetsy.

Linda, Cindy, Joyce, Janice, about 1959

One of the toys that I especially remember from Christmas long ago was a top with a big bubble that contained a tulip. When the top was spun, the tulip opened and a ballerina spun in the center. Of course one of the first things I had to do was try spinning it upside down and the ballerina fell out of her place. (Toy manufacturers were not that smart back then and did not anticipate what children would do with their toys.) Upset me considerably, but my grandmother bought another one to replace it and I never tried that again. I have no memory what happened to that toy, but in trying to locate one on EBAY I discovered that it was made by J. Chein, whose tin toys have become quite the collectibles. I have yet to find one in working condition, but I've seen quite a few come on the market that mention that the bubble is cracked from the necessity of having to get inside and put the ballerina back in place.

An Ebay posting

One of the big Christmases was when I got my first two-wheeler. Another Christmas of note was when I got my first watch. Then there was the Christmas when we got board games. Two of the games we had were the tv tie-ins for Bewitched and Gilligan's Island. Again, I have no idea what happened to them, but they are fetching pretty pennies on EBAY these days.

This is just an ad that mentions both games,
and they are asking $25 for an opening bid.
I've seen the games go for upwards of $200.

It occurs to me that I might be in a good position to retire if I had just had enough sense to save my toys and their original boxes. But I played my toys to death. Which is why I and so many of my generation are out there looking for replacements of items that gave us so much enjoyment around long ago Christmas trees.

Ah, the good old days. Playing with pristine new toys while the smells from the kitchen become unbearably tempting. Now I cook on Christmas and the only toys under the tree are for the dogs. (With the occasional vintage toy that pops up from time to time for one of the adults. Usually me or David.) I invariably end up making a mental trip on Christmas Day, back to the days when we travelled either to Elgin or Gladewater and spent Christmas in the company of the kin folk who aren't with us anymore. Thank goodness the memories are.


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