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Talking it Over: The toys of today and the past

Katie Erdman

HANCOCK - Toys have advanced a lot since the fifties.

With the advent of Christmas, I have been spending more and more time in toy aisles and looking at toy catalogs. Five little grandchildren means a lot of toy shopping.

In recent years I have kept up on the latest in toys and especially the most popular ones as far as my grandchildren are concerned. The advances made in toys over the years has always interested me, especially since I was a child. Toys have become much more educational, safe and attractive. Seeing the latest creations made me think back to some of my favorite toys and games.

About this time of year, my sisters and I were always waiting anxiously for the new catalogs to arrive. Sears and Roebuck, J.C. Penney and Montgomery Ward were the favorites. We didn't really care a lot about the new catalog, but instead this meant that we could have the old catalogs. We would carefully peruse the pages and pick out the perfect people to cut out as our new paper dolls. Sometimes we would even find clothes to match them.

We also had some favorite outdoor games. I can remember playing ante over with a super ball and having it bounce crazily around the yard. Superballs were wonderful toys both inside and out. We also played kick the can; Red Rover, Red Rover; and flashlight tag. We searched for and captured fireflies in jars and also put caterpillars in jars and watched them form cocoons and eventually butterflys. Life was educational in many different ways.

In the winter or during bad weather, we spent time indoors reading, playing games or working jigsaw puzzles. Mom also kept us busy with daily chores. Whenever possible we went outside. Snowmobiling, sledding, skating, and simply building things out of snow were popular winter games. In the summer we made playhouses in the chicken coop and in the fall, created houses or rooms out of raked leaves.

We didn't spend much time in front of a television in the fifties and sixties, mainly because there weren't very many programs geared toward young people. We did look forward to watching Lawrence Welk on Sunday nights and I had some special paper dolls of the Lennon sisters, Dianne, Peggy, Kathy and Janet.

Games and entertainment may have been different in those days but the learning opportunities available to young people today can not be surpassed. Many children know their colors, can count and even read to some degree, well before starting school. Today's toys are helpful in making this possible.

I like to buy things for the grandchildren that will be both educational and entertaining, toys that challenge their minds while still letting them be kids. Occasionally I introduce them to some of the ways we played in my youth and hope they don't get too bored. I feel it won't hurt them to learn to entertain themselves now and then without all those expensive toys.