Memories of Christmases past…

  • Date:
  • Posted by kindle

Well it’s getting to be that time of the year again. The holidays are upon us and among all the craziness that’s going on right now, we can take some time and enjoy some nostalgia and memories of Christmases past.

One of the most vivid memories I have of my youth this time of year is catalog season. Every year, stores came out with their Fall and Christmas catalogs and for a young child that meant toys! Toys of all shapes and sizes. Television brought some of the myriad options of toys to our consciousness, but the catalogs showed it all.

Full color, page after page of action figures, race cars, robots, toy guns, games, adventure sets and more. It was a young person’s cornucopia. Sears was the largest, but we also had others. There was a local family owned department store called Dahlkemper’s that had a great selection and they mailed out a wonderful full color catalog every year.

Remember, the internet was decades away, and this was how we picked out all the incredible things we wanted and what we based our Christmas wish letters on. Some toy companies produced their own catalogs that were given out at stores or were mailed to us if we sent in a request. Yes, we mailed them for a catalog, snail mail with a stamp and had to wait until it arrived. It seemed like it took forever.

The best one of these was from Lesney Products in the United Kingdom. They were the manufacturer of Matchbox Cars. My parents started me on a collection of Matchbox cars early on and I had hundreds. Each year the company would discontinue most of the models and bring out new ones and the catalog was the best way to see what was new and to use as a checklist to mark the models you had.

Each year on different occasions I would be presented with gifts of Matchbox cars, but Christmas was the big one. All my family members would give me new models. Looking back, I was pretty spoiled. Back in the early days they came in boxes, and even then I was instructed to save the box. They would be worth more someday because I saved the box. I never wrecked them into each other either, so they never got scratched up. I had collector’s cases they were stored in and when I sold them to a family friend and collector, they did bring more due to their condition.

Even today, when I see them it’s hard not to buy them, especially the ones I remember having. I guess this is why folks spend years and years and hundreds, to thousands of dollars to rebuild collections of toys they grew up with.  There is a feeling that you really can’t put into words when you find a special toy you once owned and can hold it again. You find yourself transported back to a past place and time. At least I do.

G.I. Joe, Evil Knievel, Big Jim, Tonka trucks, Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots – Yea, I had the originals.  Marx made great toys including Johnny West figures, action sets like the Fort Apache and Cape Canaveral (I still have one) Playsets. Then there were Matt Mason space toys, Pick Up Sticks, Lincoln Logs, Etch a Sketch and games like Cootie and Battleship. I also had a die cast Star Trek Enterprise that shot round yellow torpedoes and had a tiny shuttlecraft that I was pretty proud of for a while.

My grandmother once worked for Marx Toys, and some of my favorite toys were handed down from my father and my and uncle. When plastic toys first came out, the defects weren’t ground up and recycled; instead they were tossed in the local dump. My father and uncle used to ride their bikes over to the dump and get them before they were buried because toys were a luxury to buy at the time.

As we were growing up some of our favorites were toy guns. We chased each other around the neighborhood for hours with them. Good guy, bad guy, it didn’t matter (even if you only had a stick). We all played. Everyone cringes now, but if it didn’t look real, we didn’t want it.  The exception were the space guns that shot little round discs everywhere. We thought they were great until you ran out of ammo. We had bb guns and cap guns and one Christmas, I think I was 11 or 12, I was the proud owner of a Winchester Model 94 in .22 long rifle that hung on my wall in my bedroom. It was a wondrous Christmas.

I sold that rifle a long, long time ago, and I regretted it for just as long. It took me 35 years to find another one and when I did, I bought it immediately. I didn’t even look at the price. It instantly transported me back to the Christmas day when I opened mine, and the long days at the range each summer shooting at broken clay targets and pop cans with dad. Every time I hold it, it takes me back.

Maybe the best part of owning an antique store that sells a lot of old toys, is I get to see all my old friends again. It’s a pleasure finding new homes for them, and sometimes I can’t help myself and I keep a few, at least for a little while.

We’ve all been through a lot this year, 2020’s been rough and tough on us all. Enjoy the holidays and the season, and if you are out shopping in a store or online, and you find that long lost toy or cherished item from long ago, buy it.

It’s a time machine.



Nativity Scene – 55 year old Nativity Scene bought by my parents when they married.

Published Vintage Finds Magazine Dec 2020/Jan 2021 issue