It was a show and tell, but instead of elementary school children, the participants were senior citizens who brought their long-loved toys.
Well-used Tonka trucks, teddy bears with threadbare paws and ears, baby dolls a little worse for wear and dozens of other toys — some more than 100 years old — were carefully carried to Bishop Scully Hall in Delanson for the Duanesburg Historical Society program.
The turnout was near 40 people, about half of whom brought along the store-bought and homemade toys and shared memories of the childhood treasures.
Norm Collins, 86, was one of the organizers and had several of his own toys displayed. “I grew up in the Depression years. You got one toy a year if you were lucky, that’s it,” he said. Others nodded in agreement.
Among his prized possessions was a metal pop gun with a wooden handle that shot a small cork. The black paint was worn through in spots. Collins received it as a gift when he was 5 years old and remembers playing with it “for hours.”
In front of the audience, Collins took aim at a wooden bird target he has had since his youth. The gun let out a soft pop as the cork flew out. “It still works,” he said.
Collins also had a vibrantly painted Wolverine Sandy Andy, a tin toy that would be loaded with sand through a red and yellow funnel. The sand would flow into a blue cart that would make its way down a ramp and dump its load at the bottom. “I got this toy when I was 3 years old. I can remember playing with it at the beach in Boston and at Gilbert Lake State Park,” he said.
Pins in cereal
Will deForest had everyone laughing with his story of Pep pins, which he collected in the 1940s. The pins came as prizes in boxes of Kellogg’s Pep cereal, which deForest didn’t like. He did, however, like the pins, which had images of comic book heroes and characters such as Superman, Dick Tracy, Popeye and Felix the cat.
“The cereal was quite popular,” but in deForest’s opinion “wasn’t all that great. I would carry the box to the outhouse and pour half of it down the hole. My mother would have to buy more to feed her four sons,” he said. And since he had dibs on the pins, he would add to his growing collection.
Over the course of a year or two, deForest had every pin but one. “I would trade in school. Swap them back and forth. I had almost the whole set. I didn’t have Popeye, but Eddie Putnam did. He set the price at 50 cents. In 1945, 50 cents was a stiff price, but I paid it to get the complete set. I treasure them greatly,” he said holding up the framed set of pins.
Wayne Blessing had a Buddy L Steam Shovel and truck he believed dated to 1946 or ’47. The scuffed truck has been played with by three generations so far, he said. As a child, he played with the truck with his cousin, who would spend a week at his home each summer.
“We would fill a wagon with stones” first thing in the morning and then play with the stones, shovel and truck all day, he remembered.
Others told similar stories of being content to play with a single toy for long periods. “We didn’t have TV, computers, Internet. Our toys didn’t entertain us. We had to be creative ourselves,” one fellow said.
Some of the toys had endearing stories. John Peters talked fondly about his brother drawing for him. “Money was tight,” he explained, and their entertainment was their imaginations. “We would get the old accounting books from my grandfather when they were no longer needed. My brother would draw pictures for me,” Peters said.
He flipped through an old accounting book showing pencil drawings of a farm, a baseball player and comic book characters. There also were illustrations of a comic nature. For example, one showed a fellow with enormously large feet sitting in a chair.
“I’ve always been told I have rather large feet,” the caption reads.
Peters said this was true. His brother, who was eight years older, wore size 14 shoes.
“He was a great brother. He still is,” Peters said.
Spared by fire
Gary Woods brought a little metal wind-up car made in France and given to him by his Sunday school teacher when he was about 6 years old. It has two people seated in the car with the child holding onto the steering tiller. “When it runs — and it used to — the car weaves and zigzags,” he said.
Looking over the toy, Woods added apologetically, “It didn’t use to be this dark and smoky.” It was “one of the few things that survived the kitchen fire,” he said.
Shirley Martin brought a primitive looking wooden toy that dated to 1888. It was hard to decipher what it was until she said, “It’s a Norway horse. The legs have been worn down to stubs. My grandfather played with it so much he wore it out.”
Maxine Christman had her child-size tea set from the 1930s. “I held a lot of tea parties and mother would provide Girl Scout thin mint cookies,” she remembered.
Joe Tinning brought what appeared to be a homemade wooden marble shoot that he remembered playing with at his grandfather’s home. “I believe it was played with by my mother too when she was young,” he said. He thinks it is at least 80 years old.
Jeanette Hucko brought Brownie, a Teddy bear she said “has been through a lot.” The brown, blue-eyed bear has had numerous surgeries and had some stuffing added, she said.
Brownie has been her companion since 1938. He was a birthday present when she was 3 years old.
Another bear was brought by Barbara Munson, who said “this bear has been a great comfort to me for almost 80 years.”
The audience nodded appreciatively as one by one their contemporaries shared their stories. During the program some whispered, “I had a toy like that” or “I remember those.”
Collins said, “These old toys are getting expensive to buy. I’m glad so many of you kept them.” It was clear the audience was glad they had too.