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Jamie123

Childhood Toys that Stick in the Memory

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This list is rather selective: I've said nothing for example about Lego, Meccano, home chemistry (that needs a post of its own), home electronics (ditto), kites (ditto), model trains (ditto) and slot-car racing (ditto).... the list goes on. But these are three things that seemed so important at the time and stay in my memory:

Dizzy Bugs

At the age of about five I saw this in a shop shortly before Christmas and was totally taken by the illustration. I put it at the very top of my list for Santa. On Christmas Eve I woke in the middle of the night – saw that Santa had come – and immediately checked that he had brought Dizzy Bug. I even opened the box to check it out. Having only previously seen the illustration on the box, it was such a thrill to see what the actual Dizzy Bugs looked like.

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These things are sometimes a disappointment, but not so Dizzy Bug – it was one of the most fun games I had ever known: the idea was to get your peg to the top of the scoring board, and if your Dizzy Bug landed in a particular colour hole, you got to move your peg up to the next hole of that colour. The best thing about it though was the way the Dizzy Bugs span comically around in the middle of the board and then – seemingly at random – dashed for the holes around the perimeter. I'm not sure what happened to it eventually: I remember still having the game when I was about 8 - though it was grimy and battered from years of heavy use. I had also by then dismantled the Dizzy Bugs themselves to find out how they worked and (surprisingly for me) managed to put them back together again. 

Toy Sailboat

At the age of about seven I really wanted a toy sailboat. I had previously had one, but it capsized and sank irretrievably one day when I tried to sail it across a pond. In any case it was made of cheap plastic, and I really wanted a nicer wooden one. I carefully saved all my allowance (10p a week) and my grandparents gave me some money too, and eventually I had around £1.00. My parents took me to the Midland Educational to buy my boat, and we saw this…

85d23815058946d4cdbe767e9681ba49--sailin

Well almost. That is definitely the same hull, but I’m sure mine had a red star on the sail. The trouble was it cost £1.20 – but my parents kindly gave me the extra money so I could buy it. I had that boat a long time. The varnish on the deck started peeling off after a couple of years, but I lovingly repainted it. I did sail it on some ponds, but I remember it more as  just being a rather lovely object to own. (My preciousssssss!!!!) I’m not sure what happened to it in the end – it could for all I know still be in my parents’ attic. Maybe one day I’ll rediscover it.

Cox “Electrocharger”

Cox made quite a range of control-line model aircraft, but since these were powered by glow-plug or Diesel engines they were (a) rather expensive and (b) required adult supervision. Imagine my excitement then when at the age of eleven I discovered this much more affordable alternative:

Vintage-1976-Cox-Electro-Charger-recharg

It was a true control-line model, just like the glow-plug ones, only with an electric motor. It flew in a tethered circle, and by tilting the hand control you could operate a control surface on the tail to make it climb and dive. The motor was powered by a NiCad battery “system” (consisting of two NiCad batteries spot-welded together) which were in turn charged from a 6V camping light battery (not included). There were really two problems with it: firstly it was (especially compared with present day electric flying models) severely underpowered. In some ways I suppose this was fortunate: Cox could advertise it as “needing no adult supervision” without being sued by the parents of every kid who had their finger chopped off by the propeller. But there was no real “feeling of power” about it, and I suspect what got it airborne was as much the vertical component of the tension in the control line as lift from the wings. And yes – the wings: these were built more for lightness than strength, and every time you crashed the plane they got a bit more battered. Of course they were easily mended with Sellotape (the manual even recommended this) but mine eventually lost its wings completely. For a while I had a vague idea of replacing them with balsa wood wings and giving the plane to my younger brother as a present, but somehow this project never reached fruition.

P.S. Although there were several "electrocharger" models to choose from, there really were only two basic designs: the Supermarine Spitfire and the P-51 Mustang. The "Racer", which was the one I had (pictured above) was actually a Spitfire with "racy" markings on it. (The elliptical wings are a dead giveaway.) The "Mustang" model was similarly available as an actual P-51 Mustang or as a "Fireball" - a P-51 Mustang with fiery markings on its wings. 

Edited by Jamie123

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Race-Car-Track-Toy-Slot-Car-Racing-A-First-Time-Buyers-Guide-Hobby-And-Toy-Central.jpg.52e19f41f529c119fb1d9e04f6592e7f.jpg

We had the one with the "Turbo" button on top, which was kind of like Spinal Tap 11.

It didn't take us long to realize that there was no reason to have the Turbo button.  We'd just hold onto it permanently.  So, it was never as cool as in the ads.

And with a limited racetrack size, it was pretty boring just holding a button down to watch them go round and round.

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Some good memories there!

1. Water rockets (mikbone): good fun - we had one, but playing with it always made me think of - and hanker after - the more powerful model rockets you could get. I have a colleague who tells me that as a teenager he got kick out of applying differential equations to the problem of water rocket propulsion. It makes me wonder if it might be a great teaching aid in advanced calculus classes.

2. Balsa-wood gliders (mikbone). There used to be some great cheap flying models you could get - some of them foam, others balsa wood. Some were gliders and others rubber-bad powered. There are some still around, but none seem to be a patch on the ones you could buy cheaply at any toy shop in the 1970s.

3. D&D (mirkwood). I had a brief "fling" with that in my late teens - attracted partly (I now see) by the Tolkienesque elements in it. I was deeply under the spell of J.R.R. Tolkien - and still am - but if you go into D&D expecting the same kind of thrill you'll be disappointed. The other thing I liked about it was the idea of a "virtual world" - something that seemed real in the imagination but was really only dice and numbers - the same sort of thing that makes computer simulation such a thrill to me now. My wife by the way hates D&D and has an idea there is something "demonic" about it: when we moved into our current house, we discovered a huge (and I mean HUGE) stash of D&D books and magazines in the attic - which she set about the mammoth task of destroying. She had got through about a quarter of it when I happened to mention this to one of my research students. He was horrified: he said "Don't destroy it!!! It's valuable!!! Give it to me!!!" So I did, relieving Mrs. Jamie of the bother of doing any more ripping and tearing. (I'm sure the guy's partner was "thrilled" to have her living room filled with the stuff, but that wasn't my problem.)

4. Slot car racing (mores). In the UK we usually call it "Scalextric" as that is the name of by far the most well known brands (though we actually pronounced it "Scalectric" - without the "x" - and I believe most people still do). There was a time when my brother and I (and most of our friends) spent nearly all our money on track, cars and other accessories. At its height my family's Scalextric layout filled most of the living room. The thing about it was though, although the theoretical intention was to race the cars against each other, you spent relatively little time or effort doing that; most of your effort went into (i) tinkering with the cars, replacing worn pads/couplings etc. or trying to modify/"improve" them with working headlights etc., devising better and more imaginative track layouts, diagnosing electrical faults on the track, dismantling and attempting to reassemble the "lap counter" with a view to making it work properly (which it never did), and discussing the merits/demerits of all the new cars shown in the latest catalogue. On the rare occasions you actually got as far as racing, the cars would continually fly off the track, so it became not so much a "car race" as a "who can get their car picked up and put back on the track first" race - with attendant jumping, running around and (occasionally) wrestling with your opponents. These days I understand Scalextric cars have magnets underneath them to keep them on track, but they never did in my day.

Anyway, happy memories! Thanks guys.

Edited by Jamie123

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On 6/19/2019 at 6:57 PM, MormonGator said:

I used to love GI Joes. I'd play with them for hours, developing long plots and storylines. 

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I did the same. I loved playing with GI Joes. Like you, I would spend hours having them embark on clandestine operations and engage in heroic battles.

Don’t forget though, “Knowing is half the battle.”

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Stick in the memory.

Smell always does it for me. Certain toys had scents associated with them that have stuck with me. Picked these two up recently. My sisters had these growing up and the smell reminds me instantly of being a child again - strawberry shortcake characters. Almost 40 years later these boxes still have the scent on them - crazy.20190629_195224.thumb.jpg.25617f4a89f1f18bcea6ede63f8bed2b.jpg

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13 hours ago, NeedleinA said:

Stick in the memory.

Smell always does it for me. Certain toys had scents associated with them that have stuck with me. Picked these two up recently. My sisters had these growing up and the smell reminds me instantly of being a child again - strawberry shortcake characters. Almost 40 years later these boxes still have the scent on them - crazy.20190629_195224.thumb.jpg.25617f4a89f1f18bcea6ede63f8bed2b.jpg

That’s true.  A few years ago, my wife and I bought some Play-Doh for our oldest daughter on her birthday. When I opened up the can, the smell emanating from that can transported me back to my days in kindergarten. It smelled like childhood.

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