Sunday, November 25, 2007

Of Boys and Toys

Reading different posts lately, a lot of bloggers have been talking about Christmas, gifts, as well as how things change in kids requests on their gift lists over the years - or maybe, putting that another way, reasons why we may have selected certain items to give to our children over the years.

This reminded me of when my son was small and how his Dad and I often looked at what items to get for him for his birthday or Christmas.

It was probably the Christmas when Clate was two years old that we got him this neat set - the Weebles (remember, "Weebles wobble, but they don't fall down") Barn set. It had the various farm animals plus the little Weeble people too. He played with that item for several years as did Mandy. I don't know if they still make it or not - haven't seen any in the stores here but that doesn't mean it isn't still available I suppose.

It was either the year Clate was three, maybe four, that we had begun to get him the Tonka toys - heavy equipment replicas you know - bulldozer, dump truck, backhoe, etc. Those toys were great and he played with them for several years. Durable toys they were, meant to withstand all the torture little kids can put them through.

One of those years, I don't remember which now, we decided to get him one of the nice, heavy, solidly built Tonka trucks - a tow truck, complete with the wench and hook on the back -as we figured it too would be a good toy for him and one that wouldn't fall apart in short order either.

Imagine our surprise when a short time after Christmas, we noticed the windshield of the tow truck was missing. It had been broken out. We questioned Clate as to what had happened to it and he said he had taken a hammer and pounded it out.

Why on earth would you want to do that was the question we put to him. It seemed to make no sense to knock out a perfectly good windshield in a toy truck after all.

His answer: "Well, I had to do that. I couldn't get my people into the seat otherwise." His "people" being the little Weebles people from the Fisher-Price Barn set, of course.

Now, when you explain it that way, I guess it makes perfectly good sense to knock the windshield out, doesn't it?

When I think back to the Tonka heavy-equipment type toys Clate had, it also reminds me about my cousin, Ken, who I think back in the early 50's had every Tonka toy manufactured then in the "heavy-equipment" line. He had a steam shovel, the big dump trucks, bulldozer, backhoe, a paver too. You name it, Ken had it!

Ken's parents - my Mom's younger brother (Uncle Cookie and his wife, Aunt Mary) -lived up in Corry, PA - on Carter Hill Road. My uncle had bought 50 acres of land there shortly after Ken was born and in 1949 or 1950, he began the long, arduous project of building a home there. It took many years before he and Aunt Mary finally got the home completed but once done, it was a beautiful ranch house -large bedrooms and living room, a lovely dining room too and a nice sized kitchen. (Oh yes, it had a bathroom too -guess I'd best add that item in there lest someone think they forgot that amenity.)

Anyway, the family lived in the basement of the house for several years before my uncle finally got the upstairs completed enough that they could move up there.

Now, when I was a kid, I usually spent a good portion of my summer school vacation either in Jamestown, NY with Mom's older sister and her husband but I always spent a week here or there - sometimes longer - over in Corry with Uncle Cookie and Aunt Mary and their four children - Ken, Sue, Tom and Becky.

I remember in particular one summer when I was doing my regular vacation time in Corry and Ken and I decided to take on a really large project in the backyard there. Using all his Tonka equipment, we built a road - dug it down with the various items Ken had, then graded it, leveled it off and used the paver to roll it down, smooth and nice. It took us the better part of my days there that summer to build our "road" but we did it and it looked mighty fine to us too. My uncle even commended us for having achieved such a marvel in his backyard. (I think, by road standards for toy cars and trucks, it was a four-lane highway.)

Ken and I worked from dawn to dusk, you might say, building that road, crawling around on our hands and knees to get the proper depth and then to scrape it nicely too - all tasks that involved two major things that probably never would have flown had I ever had the impetus to do something like that here in the yard at the home I shared with my Mom and Grandparents.

One - my Mom and Grandmother would have had fits -absolute fits - over how filthy dirty doing something like that would make a little kid -and the clothes being worn to build such a thing - and two - the mere thought of digging up any portion of the yard around the house for anything save a vegetable or flower garden was absolutely out of the question!

Years later - when my son was about eight years old - I remember coming out of the house to leave for work and there was my son, down on his hands and knees in the yard, right in front of the flower bed across the front of the house, digging away at what looked to be a road of sorts too - similar to the one cousin Ken and I had once built 30 years earlier up in Corry. But this one had humps, all strategically placed - you could tell they were intentional humps in the road, not something left behind or accidental things.

I stopped and looked at this and asked him why it wasn't level; why these humps there, boy?

"Mom, those are 'rumble strips.'

Ah yes - spoken by one child who learned early in life what the interstate highway looked like from early spring through fall while under the "normal" annual construction and repair system of PennDot.

The only thing missing? The all too familiar sight of the orange construction barrels that always line Interstate 80 every year as miles and miles of highway are restricted to one-lane travel while PennDot works on maybe a half-mile stretch in the middle of that selected piece of highway.

Ah, the landmarks of Pennsylvania, huh?


molly gras said...

Ah, PennDOT ... renowned road crew efficiency experts, where it takes four supervisors with potbellies and ample travel mugs of coffee to oversee one worker's attempt at 30 minutes of dedicated labor.

I love the PA Turnpike System

Theresa said...

Hey what an inovative thinker you raised- loved the windshield story.
You are right, it seems so obvious once it was explained to you.

I think they do still make weebles.

dr sardonicus said...

No engineers in your family?

The orange barrels are everywhere - I encounter them just about every time I drive from Nashville to St. Louis to visit family. Most of the Interstates are 40-50 years old now, and showing their age.

Patois said...

What great memories you've got of those heck-a-cool Tonkas.

Travis said...

I had Weebles and Tonka trucks too. And I'm sure I must have built a road at one time.

You know, it does make perfect sense to have knocked out the windshield of that truck to be able to get the people in.

I love this post.

baby~amore' said...

great post ... I can't wait to buy Tonka trucks for my little boys... minus the weebles

Paula said...

What wonderful memories. I love the Tonka truck windshield story. Makes all the sense to me!

Paige said...

What great memories. Where you decieded what to make and how to play, instead of being told by the "toy" folks what to play.

Your cousin Ken wouldn't have recently passed on, down here in Texas?

terri said...

My youngest brother had Weebles and I remember how we all loved them, even though the rest of us were "too big" for such toys. Great memories in this post!

Smalltown RN said...

Oh what a wonderful girls had weebles...and my middle daughter had the Tonka trucks as well....funny the things we remember....yes and what is that all about...blocking off half the highway to do a 1/4 of the job...hmmmm

SnoopMurph said...

Wow, I just put a Tonka truck on my boys' wishlist for Christmas. My husband has a small one on his dresser from when he was a kid and won't let the boys play it! Great post!

sognatrice said...

Such a great post! The ingenuity of children never ceases to amaze.

And hey, my brother is on one of those PennDOT road crews so cut some slack to the working man ;)

molly gras said...

sognatrice -
insults were not intended ... besides, your brother was probably the "one" getting the roadwork done ;)