I have often been accused of being a big kid at heart. My wife told me that I enjoyed taking the grandboys shopping for toys because it legitimized my secret desire to buy toys.
There is one problem with her theory: Toys of today are not the toys I grew up with. If I want to find the toys of my youth I have to visit an antique store.
That is why I was surprised to read a story that listed toys from the 1960s that are still around today. Some of these toys were given as birthday presents but most were delivered under a Christmas tree. The list sparked quite a few memories for me and I hope they will for you as well.
By the 1960s, toy cars were everywhere, but Hot Wheels managed to find its own niche in the market. Was it the axle and rotating wheels? The flashy colors and designs? The super-cool track system? No one knows for sure, but Hot Wheels remains a kid and adult favorite today. When I was a kid we bought hot wheels but we didn’t race them. For us they were demo derby cars and we smashed them together. We could have filled a fair size, scale model, junk yard with them. This, of course, means we did not have any pristine cars to sell to today’s collectors.
No, I did not own an Easy-Bake Oven but my sister did. The Easy-Bake oven debuted back in 1963. As I recall, she would get out her little mixing bowl, dump in her ingredients, add a little water, and stick the concoction into the oven, The oven was powered by a light bulb and it took just about forever to bake. I remember how proud she was when she removed her quarter-sized brownie from the oven only to see her pack of hungry brothers devour the baker’s pride in a single gulp. That never got old!
Rock’em Sock’em Robots
This seemed redundant to our family. I had an older brother and a younger brother so it was inevitable that at least one night a week would be fight night. I was in the middle so I was able to pass down my frustration to my younger brother but all he had was a younger sister.... and her brownies. This toy has been around since 1964 but it hard to find today because, well, they were pretty beat up.
Slip ‘N Slide
I can’t ever recall having a slip and slide. Our yard was flat and you needed some incline. Besides, what parent would give their kid a Slip ‘N’ Slide as a Christmas present? Wham-O created it back in 1960, and we just bought one last year for the grandson.
Barbie debuted in the 1950s, but apparently, she was not content being single. Either that or Mattel was not content not cashing in on her success even further. Either way, the company created her boyfriend, Ken, in 1961, and provided a back story about how they had met on the set of a commercial. There were not a lot of Barbies or Kens around our house. My sister did get a Barbie and Ken. By that time Ken didn’t like quite as dorky as the original version but he still looked like a Hollywood extra.
Barbie Dream House
Barbie had to have a dream house. And so, in 1962, Mattel released the first Barbie Dream House. The cardboard home was nothing compared to what followed over the next few decades, but everyone needs that starter home. I recall my cousin had a plastic Barbie dream house with all kinds of girlie things in it. My sister also had one but it was less elaborate.
Hasbro took notice when Barbie became popular during the 1960s, so they created a similarly sized doll, er, action figure. These guys were too expensive for me to actually own one but a neighborhood friend had several and we would indulge our martial fantasies with these plasticine soldiers. They were great at demolishing “dream Houses” and annihilating every Ken we could find.
See ‘N Say
‘The cow says ‘moo.’’ Almost every child born since 1965 has heard those words uttered from a clock-shaped talking machine. The original featured farm animals, but modern versions teach numbers and letters and feature favorite characters. The best part of these was seeing just how fast it could work. We would pull the cord as fast as could just to see if we could confuse it. It always seemed to get it right, well, until it wore out or the cord broke.
I never had one of these but my wife did and she still has it. The thing still works. She demonstrated it for the grandson and made spiders that are still loose in our house today. As it turns out, the toy was probably not all that safe, but in the 1990s, it made a comeback with a few changes that would prevent you from burning down the house with the heating device. This probably ranks right up there with the “toy” I received one year that encouraged you to melt lead ingots and pour the molten lead into a mold to make soldiers. No problem with that, right? Of course you could also pour the molten lead over Ken’s perfect hair.
Etch A Sketch
The Etch A Sketch has been frustrating kids since 1959. I cannot draw a straight line so it seemed this gadget was perfect for me. Not so much. It frustrated the heck out of me because I could never get the line to make those great designs on the commercials. Originally called the L’Ecran Magique, an Ohio toy company purchased the rights from the French mechanic who invented it, changed the name, and drummed up enough interest to make it the most-purchased toy for the holiday season in 1960. It is still on the shelf and still frustrating kids.
Fisher Price marketed the toy during the 1960s as an educational item to help babies improve hand-eye coordination and colors. We never had one. We did have something that was like a baby sized carnival tilt-a-whirl. You would place your sister on it and spin it as fast as you could. It was a pint sized zero gravity thing used by NASA to test astronauts. In our house it was called the spin and spit up. You did need to watch for projectile vomiting.
I think we had one of these. It didn’t last long. We found we could make creative little saying on them and then leave the thing where it could be found by the intended victim. Insults to a larger sibling are always better delivered when you are not in the same, room, house or county. My mother relieved us of the temptation.
During the late 1950s, a man named Horst Brandstatter decided he wanted to make a toy out of plastic. After several failed and discouraging attempts, he finally settled on Playmobil, a series of 3-inch figurines with playsets that represented scenes and people from all walks of life. By the 1970s, they were a huge hit. They were unable to cope with molten lead any better than Ken.
Barrel of Monkeys
A blue barrel full of red plastic monkeys with long arms does not look too exciting at first glance, but something has kept it on store shelves since 1966. It probably has something to do with the fact that game is actually pretty darn challenging.
I didn’t need them. I lived with them but I wouldn’t have traded a single day with my family for, well, a barrel of monkeys.