AutoTopic: What Were The Must-Have Toys When You Were A Kid?

This one is gonna be a strain on the brain, remembering all the way back there.  Can you all come back after I’m fully into Alzheimer’s so I’m completely focused on that stuff?  No? Damn you, AutoTopic, for luring me in and then junk-punching me with an essay question.

Anyway, I know there were must-have toys when I was a kid, and I admit I had some.  Normally I acquired these at two times during the year: Christmas and my birthday.  For Christmases, the normal battle drill was to sit down and meticulously page through the Sears catalog and list everything I wanted.  The requirement from Mom and Dad was I had to actually write a list myself.  This prevented me from just cutting the toy section out and handing that over.  It required a little effort, one that was directly proportional to the length of the list.  It actually limited the list, an early indicator of my future capacity for laziness.  The truly funny thing is, I don’t recall using the same technique for birthdays.  I think I assumed the catalog was only good up to the 26th of December.

So the answer I have to give for this AutoTopic question is this: Star Wars.  Hands down winner.  My Parentals toted my young butt to see it in the theater when I was in second and third grade when it released (1976), and they probably sorely regretted it for the next three years or more.  To be completely honest, I am still a huge fan of Star Wars and re-watch it from time to time.  The main difference between now and then is that I can use words with many more syllables to explain why I think Star Wars is awesome.  At any rate, it was game-on for the spinoff toys.  They dominated my want lists for at least three years, and I had an impressive collection.  In fact, if I dig through the basement right now I am sure I can locate a certain action figure (because boys don’t play with dolls, dude) that I know I still have.  You just do. not. throw. Yoda. away.  Strong with the Force, Yoda is.

However, I think the more important component to the answer to this question are those ‘stealth toys’ that you figured you had grown out of but somehow cycle back to forever.  The really enduring ones.  Granted, my son would have probably pissed himself in joy had I had the foresight to keep and bequeath The Star Wars Collection upon him.  My Ex/His Mom would then have equally likely put a contract on me.  No, the real workhorses that somehow didn’t get donated, lost in moves, ‘accidentally misplaced’ or otherwise swept up by entropy were actually the ones that to this day I could see myself sit and play with in a moment of lighthearted, reflective time wasting (a skill at which I am a Grand Master).

Erector Set.  Stop giggling, this is not a Viagra ad.  I received one probably younger than I should have, and it sat in my closet for years until one day I opened it up and said, “Holy Shit! This is awesome!”  Or something close to that.  Afterwards I quickly deviated from the instructions and recommended projects and of course constructed weapons.  My son now has the same set in his posession, but I’m not sure it has ever captured his imagination.

Lincoln Logs.  Totally. F-ing. Awesome.  I got my set probably when I was about four, maybe five.  I can testify that I completely used that stuff up, wore the brown off the logs, and that having a set more than likely contributed to my interest in architecture and later my civil engineering degree.  They’re murder to step on when lost in the carpet in the dark, but I created some kick-ass houses.  I also donated these to my son.  To be honest, I wish I had them back, though as much as I’d love to make little log estates, I’d also love to take measurements and make handmade grandkid sets.

Legos.  I had have a serious Lego addiction and apparently this is a genetic condition.  In this category, Son Unit the Only completely eclipses me in his total Lego accumulation. It is like crack for the guy. I am also totally jealous of the cool shit Legos have out now.  All I had back in the day were  basic shapes in basic colors, and when they came up with the little Lego People that was amazing.  That and clear blocks to simulate windows.  Yes, I made Lego weapons.  Even worse murder than a Lincoln Log to step on in the dark due to the whole corners issue.  What hurt the worst was when someone other than me stepped on my Lego.  Ironically, none of my Legos survived to pass on to anyone. Maybe someday they’ll drop from a hole in the sky Donnie Darko style.

I’ve grown up – physically at least – but miss the completely unstructured play time provided by completely unstructured toys.  Star Wars stuff was awesome, and I had fun with it.  It was must-have.  However, it was definitely the non-must-have toys I miss the most.

56 Responses to “AutoTopic: What Were The Must-Have Toys When You Were A Kid?”

  1. It’s strong IN the force ….. amateur .

    Man , when I saw the title I was sure I’d be finding out about some unheard of toys . As it turns out , you’re not thaaat old 😛 .

  2. The best thing for you to do would to be- go down to the toy store and buy one of the massive $100 set of Star Wars legos. That combines some of your faves, and they are MUCH to complicated for a kid to put together, so you can’t be accused of playing. And anyway, who pays $100 for a TOY?

  3. mkultra76 Says:

    When I told my kids that the original Star Wars movie came out the year after I was born, they had a hard time wrapping their heads around it. They then declared, “I didn’t know it was THAT old.” Thanks, thanks a lot…

  4. I was a kid in the ’60s and my brothers had an erector set. It was very cool. I also remember Hot Wheels cars, Slinkies, Etch-a-Sketch, and Parcheesi. I still have my Barbie doll that I received in 1962 when I was 5 years old.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

  5. I could be retired right now if I hadn’t given away all my son’s Star Wars toys. We bought them all for him–the big Millennium Falcon, Tie-Fighter, Land Cruiser–you name it. He also had the original action figures.

  6. Interesting that the real workhorses of your toy world, the ones you loved to use during unstructured time, were all used to build crap. So you may say you structured your unstructured time around creating structures.


    My mother REFUSED to get me one because we moved around so much and she didn’t feel like carting it everywhere. So when I was about eight years-old I snuck over to my neighbor’s garage and dismantled the one my friend had so I could figure out how to build one of my own. Then I couldn’t put it back together, so she had to buy the kid a new one. I did make a mocked-up version of my own that summer out of a steel garbage can lid and stray piece of pvc but it just wasn’t the same.

    And also playdoh.

  8. savorthefolly Says:

    Trees. I climbed a lot of trees as a kid.

  9. I have to agree with the Legos…but I was such a was Barbie everything.

  10. My kids are about your age, and Legos was the big deal with one of them…actually still is: he later passed them on to his cousin, who added more to the collection and then passed them back to my grandkids who have added still more to the collection. And they are still on this Christmas’ Wish List. I can’t wait until Christmas so I can spend some quality time on the floor building even more stuff with them.
    Back in the stone ages when I was a kid, I used to play with my brothers’ Matchbox cars…much more fun than dolls.

  11. whiteladyinthehood Says:

    My big bro took me to see Star Wars which I thought was totally awesome, I was in elementary, too. (He also took me to see Clash of the Titans, remember that one?) Fav toy – I THINK they were called Weebles? I have a terrible catchy jingle in my about how they dont fall down…Had their fram and their ship! Thanks for the laugh and the trip down memory lane.

  12. why am I here in a handbasket? Says:

    rock ’em sock ’em robots?
    I didn’t play with many toys. There was no cash to buy that shit and I was a weird kid, always in my room, reading.
    Imagine that.

  13. do roller skates count? and home-made skate-scooters? and rubber band guns that shot linoleum pieces that could take an eye out? and soda bottle caps filled with melted wax that we played a nyc game called “skelly” with? boy, am i old. continue…

  14. John Erickson Says:

    A plastic version of an Erector set called Click-It. And Hot Wheels, lotsa Hot Wheels.
    Not much wit, feeling like … crap.

  15. There was the Pogo Ball…which put my father in the hospital for three days. So, no more Pogo Ball. I miss it, along with lawn darts.

  16. Well, I’m relatively young so I grew up with the N64, the PS1, and Legos. HA! You geezers! bwahahahaha Fight me!

  17. Cabbage Patch kids were a big deal when I was a kid…. they even came with adoption papers and everything. That sh*t was legit

  18. fireandair Says:

    Very few due to the money issue, but there were a few that I managed to nag for successfully. I cannot believe that no one else mentioned the Crissy doll. My hair is still roughly knee-length thanks to those blasted dolls. I also had a Velvet doll, the smallish cousin to the Crissy doll. I now — thanks to a surprisingly sentimental older brother who bought me a MIB one off of ebay a few years back — actually have ALL FOUR. Also, Dawn dolls — half-sized, cheap Barbies.

    Adulthood just means that you can buy all the crap you wanted but couldn’t afford when you were a kid. Would have loved legos — I ADORED building toys, but they were a mite expensive for our family. 😦

  19. worldwyde1 Says:

    stretch arm strong………

  20. LOL … I loved Legos! Still do. This is why we have kids, to play with the shit we loved but without the odd looks. “What? I’m helping the kid, see?” 😀

    I was 14 when the first Star Wars came out. Didn’t get any of the “stuff” but went gonzo over the movie. 😉

    Thanks for the trip back in time and the smiles. 🙂

  21. It was Barbies for me. I think it was when I was 9 or 10 the infamous Sears catalog boasted a Carousel Kitchen for your Barbie’s cooking and clean up pleasure. I would look at that page everyday and wish and wish. It was the “wish book right?” I was so happy when Santa brought me that spinning kitchen.

  22. Always wanted a rock tumbler. Still do kinda.

  23. Legos will never go out of style. I remember having a table with Lego top on it. I could eat food and build castles or squares that I thought resembled castles. I think I had it up until I was about 20 years old and still in the back of my mind wanted to play with it sometimes.

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