Nostalgia--1958 toy catalog : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread

Columbus Dispatch Dec 13, 2001


Toys change, and so do children -- or do they? A 1958 Lazarus toy catalog has landed on my desk, and I can't stop looking at it.

Nostalgia? No, I hate nostalgia; the baby boomers turned me against it with all those rock reunion tours.

What I find interesting is how toys reflect the ways we've changed.

For example, when I looked at the illustration for a swing set, one thought hit me immediately: lawsuit.

A kid is depicted standing on a swing.

Another kid is starting down the slide before his companion has cleared the bottom.

In 2001, when toy makers attach inane warning labels to every plaything ("Batman's cape does not enable user to fly"), the swing-set drawing would never get past the legal department.

Back in '58, we must have had greater affection for doomsday weapons and nuclear energy.

Among the catalog's toys: the Alpha 1 Ballistic Missile, the Honest John Atomic Rocket and a chemistry set that includes supplies for experiments in "atomic energy." Had we not heard the phrase "Don't try this at home"?

Barbie, who was born in 1959, is nowhere to be seen. So what passed for glamour in the doll world of '58? Little Miss Revlon.

"A real pert miss," the catalog says, "in a Formfit bra and girdle."

The Shirley Temple doll came dressed only in panties, slips, socks and shoes, the idea being that the buyer would purchase an outfit.

Nowadays, the clothing worn by Britney Spears dolls is indistinguishable from Shirley Temple's underwear.

At least we have political correctness.

Yet, even in 2001, toy makers have not stopped advertising toys for girls and toys for boys.

In 1958, they were just more blatant about it.

The handy sewing basket is "for the little lady," and the drum set "is just what he's always wanted."

Under modern zero-tolerance policies, a kid gets expelled from school for carrying a squirt gun or a butter knife. What would happen if one showed up with a 1958-vintage toy machine gun?

"It chatters away as a light blinks through the recoiling barrel," the catalog promises.

The only thing more menacing is the twin pom-pom cannon with collapsible sight.

Current events have robbed some toys of their innocence: The Eiffel Tower with revolving airplanes probably was considered dandy in 1958. Now it brings to mind the day real planes were crashed into landmarks.

What's interesting, too, is to contrast 1958 toys with their modern equivalents:

The pull-along toddler toys have given way to Follow Me Ducky, a toy with an infrared sensor that enables it to trail a kid with no strings attached.

The preschooler's tool bench of 1958 came with hammer, vise, screwdriver and wrench. But it couldn't carry on a conversation, unlike Dusty My Talkin' Tool Bench. And not just Dusty is chatty: The hammer and saw talk, too.

The only toy in the catalog that resembles a licensed product? A Roy Rogers doll with Trigger. Now, about 40 percent of toys are tied to movies, celebrities, sports figures and the like; a kid can own everything from a Munsters Barbie to an Aaron Carter doll in snakeskin pants.

The 1958 Candy Land game looks about the same as the 2001 version, proving that some things never change. Still, kids back then didn't have the option of the Electronic Hand-Held Candy Land Adventure.

"Mr. Mint talks to your child," an ad promises.

-- (, December 13, 2001


I remember a Jonathon Winters profile on TV a few years ago. He had done something very interesting---he had saved most of his childhood toys and books and now it gave him much pleasure to spend some time with them. They were powerful reminders of things forgotten.

I have a few of my books, but no toys. I think that if you have a place to save these things, your kids would get a big kick out of receiving a gift at age 30 or 40 of some of their cherished childhood toys.

-- (, December 13, 2001.


Follow Me Ducky, a toy with an infrared sensor that enables it to trail a kid with no strings attached.

Don't know about kids, but the cats consider it the spawn of the devil. They gang-up and attack it from all sides. ;o)))

Best wishes,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, December 13, 2001.

We're getting older Lars and perhaps better. Our culture keeps up with itself and perhaps not for the better. Old arguement with the only thing for sure is that we're getting older.

-- Carlos (, December 13, 2001.

Flexible Flyer sleds, Neet's foot oil to soften your baseball mitt, kites made of paper and balsa, stripped down Schwinn bikes, grand brawls in piles of leaves, "king of the mountain" in piles of snow, toy lead soldiers (we molded them ourselves---did I get lead poisoning? Who do I sue?), keds, "hit the bat", "hide and seek", "captain may I?", tackle-football with a hemet and wearing shoulder pads under a big sweater, steel roller skates, wind-up toys, wooden blocks, Erector sets (erections came later), anything to throw (balls, stones, dirtbombs, snowballs, rotten tomatoes), dropping conical paper cups of water out the 28th floor window of my dad's office in lower Manhatten (they made a fine bang when they hit the sidewalk and flattened to a circle), Duncan yo-yos, Whammo sling shots, Lionel model trains, tiddlywinks, pick-up sticks, catching fireflies in a jar, catching bumble-bees in a jar (required great bravery), bow n arrows, baseball-trading cards........

-- (, December 14, 2001.


Flexible Flyer sleds, Had one. My parents gave it to a cousin whose family then moved to Florida. I suspect he isn't using it too much.

Neet's foot oil Still use the stuff on my boots.

kites made of paper and balsa, stripped down Schwinn bikes Had both. Parents gave the bike to another cousin when retro became popular.

toy lead soldiers (we molded them ourselves Still have the molds. Brought them home after my parents died.

Lionel model trains I had American Flyer. All of this stuff is in a very large box down stairs. I, recently, learned on ebay that one that I have was only made for one year. It is a collector's item and is worth the same as a small Mercedes. ;o)))

By-the-way, real men don't wear helmets.

Best Wishes,,,,,


-- Z1X4Y7 (, December 14, 2001.

Fights behind the barn with Daisy BB guns with no eye protection. You worried more about getting hit in the butt than in the head. Rubber toy soldiers back in 52. When they died you buried them and never remembered where the graves were. Numbers dwindled! I hated Mr. Potato Head cause he only had one expression. Had a Hopalong Cassidy black leather gunbelt with matching guns that got run over by the IH 51 pull combine and got smashed back in 55. That riggin is worth $850 today. Grew out of my Rex Allen vest and my stupid brother got it. After Sputnik went up, we put live mice in our home built space capsule and shot them up 400 feet on top of a chemical rocket and brought em back under a parachute. After three trips they didn't want to get near the damn thing. Many more but boy those were the days!

-- Boswell (, December 14, 2001.

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