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Leeandra Nolting

Leeandra Nolting
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
July 08
Assistant Guru (not to be confused with Assistant to the Guru)
Proud native Hoosier who’s settled permanently in New Orleans. Teach English. Live in an old whorehouse with three very talkative and sexually-confused birds and one very talkative bird that isn’t sexually confused at all but just wants what s/he wants, which is pretty much everything and everybody. They appear quite frequently in my writing. Former bedpan wrangler, radio announcer, preschool teacher, and freshman comp. instructor. Once accidentally picked out A Clockwork Orange for a make-out movie. Have a very rational appreciation for the works of Flannery O’Connor and the television show The X-Files and an irrational fear of Meg Ryan. All my friends are drunks.

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JANUARY 13, 2009 5:24PM

To All the Toys I've Loved Before...

Rate: 10 Flag

Last night Mom called me and was telling me about a book she was reading about the history of various classic American toys, and we got to talking about what on earth kids these days will remember of their childhoods. (The boyfriend remembered playing Nintendo for hours on end, which explains a lot. Mom wouldn‘t let us have video games because she was worried they‘d turn us into little ADD spazzes. She was probably right.)

 Anyway, for your amusement, my favorite toys…

1. Tracy and her family. They were a motley crew of stuffed dogs. Tracy was a generic Pound Puppy given to me for my first birthday and originally called Hounddoggy. When I was two I re-named her after my grandparents’ real dog named Tracy and carried her around everywhere until I was like eight or so. She actually got a skin transplant--courtesy of Mom--one night when I was sleeping because she was that worn out. In my imagination, she was somehow entirely dog and entirely chain-smoking, beer-drinking, card-playing, foul-mouthed former assembly-line worker. Around kindergarten, she acquired a daughter, Buffy (a small Pound Puppy that belonged to me) and a son, Spot (another small Pound Puppy that belonged to my brother). Buffy was eternally thirteen years old and wore lip gloss and was eternally fighting with Spot, who was eternally eleven. They were later joined by Tracy’s husband Woof Woof (he worked in a factory and had a lunch box, but not much to say), Tracy and Woof Woof’s other children Hounddoggy (a gray-and-white puppy), two identical puppies called Brian (the first died after I left him on the playground on the first day of third grade), and puppies named Curly and Silky and various other things (thirteen in all before I grew out of this), Tracy’s sisters Lassie and Roxie (named after my neighbor’s dog, who she resembled), and Woof Woof’s brothers Rusty (a reddish Pound Puppy belonging to my brother) and Hefty (a black Pound Puppy belonging to me, named after the brand of garbage bag).

What interests me most about this now--and this is too detailed to go into here--is that every single one of these dogs had a distinct personality, all of them were extremely ambivalent about all the other dogs, and none of them trusted any of the other dogs completely. Also, despite the fact that I created all these characters, I found that once they were created, I was powerless to make them do anything that they damn well didn‘t want to do. I also found that while I never purposely created one of them as a villain per se, I definitely didn’t like any one of them all of the time and some of them (Rusty, Curly) I didn’t like at all. It was probably the closest to being Godlike I will ever be.

2. Legos. My brother and I had approximately 51435839521 Lego blocks, which was still never enough/the right kind to build whatever it was we were building. Childrearing advice: there is no such thing as too many Legos.

3. Barbie. I never much cared for Barbie in the traditional sense. But she’s a good toy in that (and I don’t think I’m alone here in this experience) she let me exercise the more Quentin Tarantinoesque aspects of my imagination in what kiddie psychologists call a safe, controlled space.

4. Cabbage Patch Dolls. I had three of these that I remember: Cindy, Jennifer, and Theresa. Cindy was a homemade version with brown eyes and straight blond pigtails that my mom surprised me with one day, which was something highly out-of-character for her to do. Jennifer was a real Cabbage Patch Kid with brown pigtails and a pacifier that I got for my fifth birthday. Theresa was a black astronaut Cabbage Patch Kid that cost $40 at K-Mart and I had to save up my $2/month allowance for almost two years before I could afford her. I named Cindy myself; Jennifer and Theresa were the names that came on the birth certificates that came with the dolls, and even though you could “legally” change the name on the adoption certificate you mailed in, I thought Jennifer and Theresa were nice enough names and saw no good reason to change them even though they weren’t the names I would have picked.

5. My Little Pony. I had a bunch of these. They had names and little arguments between themselves, but I’m at a loss to remember what they were called or were always bickering about. Sometimes they got used as cavalry horses for He-Man and Skeletor.

6. Pop-oids. I have no idea what the official name of this building toy was. That was just what we called it. Mom got it used at a garage sale, it was technologically unadvanced, and the pieces said that it was made in Japan, so I’m guessing it dated to the late 60s at the latest. Basically, think of the bendy part of a bendable drinking straw, only bigger. There were a bunch of those tubes, and then some hard plastic connector ports that they could be hooked into (in addition to hooking the tubes end-to-end). In addition to making aliens and space stations and giant bugs and stuff like that, Pop-oids featured prominently in a game my brother and I played called “Old Man.” We’d make canes out of Pop-oids, shuffle slowly into the middle of the backyard, and then fall over dead. That was the entirety of the game.

7. The record player and tape deck. I know these are not technically toys, but we wore out a 45 of “Runaround Sue” playing it over and over at 33 rpm and pretty much destroyed Dad’s copy of Whipped Cream and Other Delights by playing it with a curved index card taped to a sharpened pencil (it makes a sort of tinny speaker). We played “Radio Station” a lot…somewhere in Mom’s basement there are tapes of eight-year-old me delivering the non-news about the drought that summer and my six-year-old brother saying things like “And now for the smooth sounds of Bobby Brown…” in his best suave DJ voice and then playing “Colonel Bogey March” by the Boston Pops.

Anyway, what were your favorite toys?

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Erector Set.......spending endless, frustrated hours getting sore fingers putting those little nuts and bolts together.......and trying to make things fit that were not manufactured to fit in the ways I wanted. I learned to improvise very quickly.

Thanks for the post...
A little red-and-blue plastic rocket with a hatch in the bottom out of which came dozens of tiny silver-plastic spacemen. Greatest. Toy. Ever.
Fisher Price house and people which, like Barbie, allowed me to enact countless imagined scenarios. (When my kids played Sim City, I realized they were playing house, too.)
I so wanted one of these. As Dave Barry wrote, in addition to the Ferris Wheel and other educational projects, it was possible to use the Erector Set to build "the bug pulper, the worm extender, and The Gears of Pain." (Probably why I never got one.)

And Tinkertoys. And Lincoln Logs. My cousins had these and I wanted them so bad.
Gordon--Awesome. My brother had a bunch of toy soldiers with little parachutes that actually worked.

Nora--The wooden Fisher-Price Little People. What a wonderfully fun choking hazard those were!
I loved this post. "Old Man" sounds like a great game. One of our favorite toys was a pool table my dad had put out in the garage/barn where my cousins and my brothers, sisters and I played "beatniks and cops" with my smartass cousin, smartass sister and smartass little brother as the beatniks and my physically-imposing cousin, my serious-minded little brother, and me, the bully, playing cops. The beatniks would cause some kind of mischief and then congregate in the barn around the pool table and then the cops would come in and ask a lot of serious questions. The beatniks did not take us seriously and a not-fake fight would often take place.

Barbie and Quentin Tarentino, perfecto! You are not alone.
"Beatniks and Cops"--love it.

Ever read Mary Karr's "The Liar's Club"? She and her childhood friends played a game called "Torture", which was inspired by a picture they'd seen of Holocaust victims crammed into barracks.
My Big Wheel. I was a terror with that thing. Now, they make them for Grown Ups. I like to think of the chaos I would visit upon mankind!

This was a terrific idea for a post!
Legos...dinky toys... those little plastic WWII soldiers. My Fort Apache set. Had no internet. Just played for hours.
Leeandra, you are so funny!

I don't know why, but your post made me remember Creepy Crawlers. They were these bugs that you made of liquid plastic that no doubt was full of lead and other assorted nasties. You'd pour the plastic into bug molds and heat it (the better to release the toxins, my dear!) inside the accompanying oven. The smell while they cooked was awful, yet intoxicating.

When the bugs were cooked and cooled, you'd peel them off and stick them on smooth surfaces. I used to stick them all over the house! I can still hear the annoying jingle from the TV commercial: "Cree-ee-ee-py CRAWLERS!" Good times!
Cabbage Patch Kids! They were great. I had one that came with the name "Dean Martin." He had curly brown hair and a green jumper. I didn't understand why that was so funny to my parents until years later.

Very funny post; thanks for the stroll down toy memory lane.
I'm totally going on a nostalgia wave. I swear I can hear Kajagoogoo in my head.... What a great idea for a post!

I loved Barbies and legos, too. My dolls had some kickass lego furniture. @NoisyNora - yes! All those Sims games ARE like today's Barbies. Kinda like legos, too...
legos were the greatest, but i wish i could've have played "Old Man" with you and your bro. I nearly fell over dead laughing when i read about that game.
Notes: They make them for grownups?!?!?! I've been saying for years that they need to.

My Big Wheel was a Smurf Cycle--it had a big plastic Smurf head on the front of the handlebars. One day Aaron Harmon from down the street sat on it, broke it off, and took the Smurf head home as a souvenir. I never have forgiven him, nor any member of his family. Blood shall run, heads shall roll, vengence shall be mine!

Brian--We got ahold of a pair of bolt cutters one day and by the time we were through with them, none of the little green army men still had their left arms.

Lisa--My folks both had the Creepy Crawlers set and repeatedly wished that they still made that by the time my brother and I came around. I think the toy company tried to resurrect it in the early to mid-1990s, but we were teenagers by then.

Saturn--Did he come with a martini glass?

Chamalla--Give me the right kinds of Legos, and I can make you a flushing toilet. Oh yes--the little 1x1 Legos were used as the turds. Mom was so proud when we showed her that.

Solid--"Old Man" is actually less disturbing than a game my college buddy Jim and his brothers came up with. It was called "Death Wish" and it involved kneeling down and praying, "God, if I don't land on my feet, please make me X percent dead," then jumping off the top bunk of the bunk bed and over the chair. They'd start with 10 percent dead and work their way up.
Erector set
Lincoln logs
Cap guns

BALLS!!~~Foot ones, Base ones.
Hockey skates, sticks/pucks

I remember some of the educational games of the early 40's which were as fun as they were informative.

Now, let's get to the absolute #1: ELECTRIC TRAINS!!
Yes, there WAS electricity when I was a little
XJS--Never had a train set. We begged for slot cars year after year, though. Finally got them as a joke when we were 14 and 12 and they broke the first day, but they were worth it.

Mom shopped for Christmas presents year-round (the better to get them on sale, my dear!) and kept them in a closet in the furnace room. To keep us out, she ran a chain through the handles and put a padlock on it. Never mind--we had very long double-jointed monkey arms. So then she added a third handle between the two door handles. Never mind--we had a screwdriver and when we were home alone during Christmas break (surely a high school freshman and a sixth-grader were old enough to be left unsupervised!) we took the door off the hinges and spent the day looking at all our presents, then put them back, put the door back on the hinges, and feigned surprise Christmas morning. We didn't tell Mom until years later.

Getting by with that was even more fun than Christmas itself.
My Toni doll and her little home permanent with curlers .
And my Dale Evans white two gun holster and "pearl" handled pistols and the chaps with fringe and the hat! Oh yes, the hat!

Later, my clamp- on -your - shoes and tighten with key (ever around my neck on a length of crayola blue yarn) skates that took me distances from home that little girls no longer may roam.
Fisher-Price made a plastic version of those adjustable skates in the early-80s. We got a pair for Christmas one year to share--Mom's theory was that since they were adjustable, we both could wear them and take turns. The problem with them was that they didn't stay tightened on your feet and would come off in the middle of skating.

Later, we got a pair of the old metal ones at a garage sale and they actually stayed on.
Fisher-Price made a plastic version of those adjustable skates in the early-80s. We got a pair for Christmas one year to share--Mom's theory was that since they were adjustable, we both could wear them and take turns. The problem with them was that they didn't stay tightened on your feet and would come off in the middle of skating.

Later, we got a pair of the old metal ones at a garage sale and they actually stayed on.
i laughed out loud at the "Old Man" game - i can remember many game that i would play for hours and hours that made no sense at all from the outside. or even from the inside.

rated for great fun!
oh, and my favorite toys as a child - i, too, adored legos (and came in third in a lego-building contest as an 11-year-old - everyone else was building proper things, but i built a bar, with a band dressed as construction workers playing their shovels like instruments), and i had a huge collection of plastic breyer horses - my best friend and i would play for hours and hours with them - we made their lives a soap-opera, basically, with adultery, drinking and drugging, drama. they even had bands when we would play our Queen and Eagles LPs on the little record-player.

again, great fun post. thanks!
Yes, of course your plastic horses drank, took drugs, and committed adultery. I remember when I taught preschool for a year and the kiddie-shrink types would worry about the scenarios the kids came up with in "imaginative play." Obviously, they either were 1.) the kind of saintly children no one actually wanted to play with or 2.) are remembering their own childhoods through rose colored glasses.

There's a picture of my little brother playing a game he invented called "Taxman." He'd made himself some bandoliers out of Pop-oids and tucked all manner of toy guns, knives, hammers, and other implements of destruction into them. He'd also fastened a little cardboard charity piggy bank (like the UNICEF Halloween collection boxes) to his belt. Then he put on a pair of sunglasses and went around demanding people give him money for taxes.
Hot Wheels! my brother and our two best friends and i had a "Hot Wheels Club" in their attic-- huge track layout and about 60 cars divided between the four of us. we raced them against each other and kept meticulous records in a notebook for about two years. also little plastic soldiers. my brother and i had almost daily wars in which the opposing army was killed by rolling marbles at them and knocking them over from opposite ends of the hallway. we even had special pants to wear so we wouldn't wear out the knees of our school clothes.
Hot Wheels and Matchbox are awesome. BTW, did you know that Matchbox is doing better financially than GM and Chrysler?
Awesome memories... kid's toys

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots
Pick Up Sticks
G.I. Joe (loved Barbie)
Weebles Wooble, but they don't fall down
Tonkya Trucks
pots & pans - from my mom's kitchen
Love this post!

Silly Putty
Ginny doll
Magic 8 Ball
roller skates that clamped onto the shoe