With increasing frequency, I find myself starting sentences with a phrase I thought I’d never say: “When I was your age…” Yup, nothing says you’re old like those words, which have been uttered by old people since the Industrial Revolution.
Usually, “when I was your age” serves as a cop-out for my cheapness. I say things like, “When I was your age, I only had two shoes” (commonly known as one pair), or “When I was your age, we only had four channels, and one of them was in French.” (Of course, it was the French channel we rural kids turned to when we wished to see nudity, which was whenever our parents left us home alone were out of the room. Love the French.).
But there is one statement that I wish to shout from a roof top. It is: “When I was your age, the toys were better.” If you look at this year’s top toy list, you see cheap plastic crap; and, even though it matches the décor of my house, I am loathe to buy any of it for my five-year-old twins.
I miss the toys of my childhood, all of which my parents still have. Yes, they have a moderate-sized toy collection, a Narnia-closet leading to Fisher Price Land, that is renowned in their community. This closet contains classic, quality toys that last — even beyond 35 years at this point. Most of these toys are vintage Fisher Price; in other words, they were manufactured before the company was bought by Mattel, who brought it into chic-millennium-style by downgrading the toy quality to cheap plastic crap.
So, without further ado, I present my five favourite vintage toys from the 1970s:
- The Little People.
First they were made of wood and then durable plastic (which actually isn’t an oxymoron). You can still buy Little People today but, you guessed it, they’re cheap plastic crap; they’re also the size of a mini-football so no kid will choke on them. While I loved the black and white dog, my favourite out of all the Little People was the angry boy. Who didn’t like that freckly kid who looked like someone just pissed in his Corn Flakes? I even chewed off his orangey-red cap in my own fit of anger. We both survived. That was in the bygone era when parents childproofed their kids instead of childproofing their homes. Back then, experience taught us important lessons, like not to lick ashtrays.
- The Parking Garage. Even though no child uses the middle level, the garage is timeless. I spent hours putting the little gas nozzle into the little cars’ gas tanks. The pièce de résistance, however, was the elevator. It would carry the little cars up before releasing them down the slide. The entire garage was absolute fun, unless you got one of the Little People’s heads jammed between the elevator and the ground floor, but those guys were durable. It’s the Wile-E.-Coyote-Never-Actually-Dies theory of indestructibility.
- The Village. Two items made the village legendary: the mail truck and the mail, six pieces of Flintstone-era letters, all deliverable through the door slots of different businesses. I loved the mail so much, I graduated to bigger postal dreams: using my parents’ slotted liquor boxes to sort various papers and envelopes into. Who needs an Xbox 360 when you have Fisher Price and empty liquor boxes?
- Play Family Camper. The camper was the 1970 kid’s Russian doll set: first the truck, then the camper, finally the boat as the crowning jewel. It was finely accessorized, with a picnic table and a toilet. Parents loved this toy since children could shove all the Little People inside like they were refugees in a shipping container hoping for a better life.
(cc) brandi sims, used under a Creative Commons ShareAlike License
5. Jack-in-the-Box. The only item in this week’s Top 5 that is not a Fisher Price product is dear old Jack. This toy was made by Mattel before they jumped on the Make-Toys-So-Choke-Proof-They’re-No-Longer-Fun bandwagon. The Jack-in-the-Box hovers beautifully between fear and fun, scaring and scarring both children and adults. Mattel’s Jack (circa 1971) really jumped, sometimes clocking you on your chin. When Jack’s clothing eventually ripped, he became springier than ever. My parents reported that last month, Jack was temporarily freed. On the cue of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” Jack sprung out, sailed through the air, and landed six metres away. Fly, Jacky, fly.
So, to all those born after 1980, I say: When I was your age, the toys were better.