In their own words: Times readers remember their toys | Home & Garden

 Hovercraft: ‘I could now carry out missions in the bathtub …”

“Growing up, Christmas was a big deal in my family.  Not sure if it’s because my mom’s birthday was on Christmas, or if it was the one day where my two brothers and I got along for a couple of hours.

“As an adult, and a parent now, I appreciate my mom and my dad even more for always making this day so special. Even though we were by no means rich, my parents always found a way to get us what we wanted.


“From Ninja Turtles to the SEGA Genesis, there are so many great gifts to choose from, but the one that still sticks out for me is the G.I. Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. Hovercraft.  This came out in 1984, so I was five or six when I received it. 


“This was a Santa gift because, unlike the other wrapped gifts that were under the tree most of December, this showed up on Christmas day already assembled.  I remember coming downstairs and seeing this beautiful gift under the tree, and being filled with excitement and awe.  How did Santa know I wanted this?


“I was always a fan of G.I. Joe action figures growing up, but the vehicles provided so many more options in terms of creative playtime, and the hovercraft did not disappoint.  It came with an action figure, actual shooting plastic missiles, an escape life boat, and the fans on the back that spun with the push of a button.


“But the best part in my opinion was that it actually floated.  I could now carry out missions in the bathtub or kiddy pool during the summer.


This toy “caught me at the right time in my love of G.I. Joe and Santa Claus belief.  I wish I still had it, along with so many other toys from my childhood.  After writing you this, it sorta brings back that exciting feeling all over again.  I may even buy it on eBay.  It’s $135 …”


— Chris Schlichting, Davenport

Super duper Daisy Red Ryder BB gun

“My favorite present, like Ralphie in “Christmas Story,” was a Daisy Red Ryder, but mine was the super-duper model holding 50 BBs and was a pump action.


“I, too, got mine in 4th grade with the admonishment from my mother not to “shoot my eye out.” Sixty-five years later, I can still hear her dire warnings.


— Rob Fiedler


“When rural America was home to about half the population, the semi-annual arrival of hefty mail-order catalogs was a gala event. The “wish books” of the past season were turned over to children for cutting.

“With scissors in hand on the clothing sections, the kids came up with large families of paper dolls.

“I remember at first we selected one figure to be the mother doll. Then we’d go through the pages to find figures that had the arms and head to same, to be cut out for the clothes. Shoulder tabs were cut to the clothes so they could be fitted to the doll. After our mother had a full wardrobe, we went to the men’s and children’s sections to finish our family.

“If some of the clothes were printed in black and white, we colored them to suit our tastes. When each of us had a complete family, we moved to the stairway where each of us had a couple of step to set up a household.

“I remember I had a shirt box that I kept my family of dolls in and added to when the next catalog was available to cut.

“My family moved a lot and sometimes after a move, my paper dolls were no where to be found. I have a vast collection of printed paper doll books and magazine pages, but I still think the catalog dolls were wonderful.”


Puzzletown, the Flintstones

Judy Stouffer, of Davenport, sent in stories of two favorite toys, one a Flintstones playset she received as a child for Christmas in 1960 or 1961, and the other a Richard Scarry-inspired Puzzletown that she bought as an adult at a garage after her two daughters were grown because she always liked Scarry’s books. Scarry (1919-1994) was an American author and illustrator of about 300 children’s books.


“The Flintstones” was a 1960s prime-time cartoon show that inspired the playset that Stouffer still has.


“I set it up so I could send pictures. …,” Stouffer wrote in an email. “They (the Flinstones) were very popular and (the set) was on my Christmas list. My mom always did her best to get us kids what she could. I think my lists were pretty long!


“It was hard picking out one toy. I have a lot of them yet today. My two daughters and my granddaughter have played with them also.”


Puzzletown was a series of toy sets made in the mid-1970s by Playskool featuring plastic figures of Scarry characters as well as wood-board “wall” pieces and roof pieces that could be assembled in a variety of ways to build different structures.


Stouffer purchased a couple of the sets, and then along came granddaughter Harper and the sets “became her favorite toy when she visited me,” Stouffer wrote.


— Judy Stouffer, Davenport 


A doll with brown eyes

“I first saw the doll that Santa would bring to me in Toyland at Younkers in downtown Des Moines.

“I was the only one in our immediate family of four who had brown eyes.  My mother said I noticed right away that the doll, a 20-inch Dy Dee baby doll, had brown eyes.  That was a rarity in those days. 


“Years later, she told me that she had gone home and told my dad that I was going to get that doll even if it meant we didn’t eat!  (I got the doll, and we didn’t go hungry.)  I have the receipt from the purchase, which specifies the doll with brown eyes.

“Newborn-size baby clothes fit her, and she wore some of the garments my mother had saved when I was an infant.

“My several-years-younger sister, a neighbor girl, and I spent hours in the summer feeding our babies water and changing diapers, which my mother had made.

“Today, she rests in a box in a closet.  Her body has deteriorated in the nearly 70 years I’ve had her.  I have kept her all these years because she was my all-time favorite toy!”


— Kay Kramer, Bettendorf

“Definitely my Evil Knievel stunt bike!!! Also I had a Flip Wilson doll that had Flip on one side and Geraldine on the other … “

(Knieval was an American stunt performer and entertainer who died in 2007. Wilson was a comedian and actor who hosted a variety show in 1970-74 featuring the recurring character of Geraldine.)