I ran into an old friend at Barnes & Noble last night. The only comfortable chair I could find was in the kid’s section, and I happened to glance up at a display that featured games and toys. Surprise, there was my old friend: Lincoln Logs.
I figured Lincoln Logs had gone the way of paper dolls, so I was pleased to see that the toy had survived all these years. As I reflect, I have to say that Lincoln Logs may have been the best toy ever.
My brother’s creations often featured widow’s walks, courtyards, wrap-around porches and more gables than you’ll find in an Edgar Allen Poe story.
I tended to be more minimalist with my edifices, an unintentional nod to the Shaker tradition, if you will. Truth is, there were outhouses with more architectural flourishes than my structures. I loved playing with them anyway. Incidentally, Lincoln Logs have been around since 1916 and are the invention of John Lloyd Wright, son of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose buildings never resembled outhouses.
My encounter with Lincoln Logs got me to thinking what other toys had endured from my childhood experience, so I took a tour of that madhouse otherwise known as Toys “R” Us on Monday. Since my kids are too old for toys, it has been a while since my last visit. How long, I wondered, has it been since I discovered a naked, headless woman in my bathtub? How many years has it been since I’ve howled from pain after stepping on a Matchbox car in a darkened room?
Tucked in various nooks and crannies, relic toys from my childhood caught my attention. Tonka Trucks. Barbie Dolls (fully clothed and heads attached), Etch A Sketch, G.I. Joe, Easy Bake Ovens.
Play-Doh is still essentially Play-Doh. Etch A Sketch retains its original limitations of form. Tonka still operates a fleet of dump trucks, backhoes and bulldozers.
But other toys have had to evolve to survive.
The Easy Bake oven uses a heating element instead of a light bulb. G.I. Joe is dominated by elite, obscure special forces such as Snake Eyes and the accompanying Ninja Battle Set or Tunnel Rat and Moray Hydrofoil With Flint and Beachhead.
I looked to see if any of the G.I. Joe sets had little Cindy Sheehan action figures to shoot at, but didn’t find any. Maybe next year’s model.
Lite-Brite is now battery operated and has a flat screen, but still retains its most memorable characteristic. Know that guy who sells his vacuum cleaner by showing how it can pick up a bowling ball? Let’s see that vacuum suck up those Lite-Brite bulbs and you’ve got a sale. The roar of the vacuum and the click, click, click of Lite-Brite bulbs are always connected in my memory.
Paper Dolls with the little paper tabs that hold their clothes on?
Long gone, although paper tags are about all that is keeping clothes on teenaged girls these days, it seems.
Ah — nostalgia.