By Keith Whitson
The coast was clear. I placed my finger underneath the fold and gently eased up the corner. As I pulled the well tucked flap away, I caught a glimpse of what was hidden underneath. The photo and the wording told the story. Quickly, I placed the flap back around, resealed the item and hid all traces of any tampering.
I would be about as anxious as a young boy could be right about now if it was the 1960s and ‘70s. Christmas as a child was huge. I more than likely had already secretly peeped at every gift I could. Still, I knew there must be more hidden somewhere.
Everyone gathered at my grandparents’ home on Christmas Eve to open gifts. Santa would leave a few additional items to be found on Christmas morning.
Most of our shopping was done in downtown Johnson City. There was no mall, Toys “R” Us or online shopping. In fact, there was no “line” to get on at that time, except maybe the clothes line. I don’t consider myself old, but I have witnessed major changes in my lifetime and I am not sure they are all for the better.
My toys required a little bit of technology and a whole lot of my imagination. G.I. Joe went on some amazing adventures in his plastic Jeep. Peanuts characters, Matchbox cars, Hot Wheels and more brought great excitement as I ripped the paper off, gave a quick glance and reached for the next gift to open.
I was recently curious about toys of the generations. I did a Google search, something impossible as a child, and found the following.
In the 1910s, the most popular toys were a Teddy bear, Erector Set and Lionel trains.
In the 1920s toys were Crayola Crayons, Tinker Toys and Raggedy Ann.
The 1930s brought Monopoly and a Viewmaster Slide Viewer.
The 1940s saw Scrabble, Slinky and Silly Putty as the top picks.
In the 1950s children loved Yahtzee, Hula Hoop, Barbie and Play-Doh.
In the 1960s, the most popular toys were G.I. Joe, Etch a Sketch and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
In the 1970s you had UNO, Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars, Pong, Connect Four and Speak and Spell. I recall games such as Pong. It was one of the earliest arcade type video games. It used 2-D graphics. Two straight lines on the screen represented paddles which you would use to knock a dot back and forth.
In the 1980s we were driven crazy by Rubik’s Cube. We also enjoyed Koosh Ball Transformers, Teddy Ruxpin, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lego.
In the 1990s the list included Pog, Beanie Babies, Power Rangers, Buzz Lightyear and Tickle Me Elmo. That decade also brought us the Game Boy with its most popular game, Tetris. It became the must-have item. There was also the Furby, an electronic toy which you had to “raise.” There were mad rushes to grab up one before the store sold out again.
The 2000s brought us Razor Scooters, Bratz Dolls, RoboSapiens and Tamagotchi Connexions, It was also the decade that brought millions of families together – in front of their TVs. They were all glued to their Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, Playstation 2, Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii.
It may also be the last time many families looked each other in the face. A selfie now and then, sent through a text message, is all parents see of their child’s face. Otherwise, it is never lifted from the screen of a handheld device.
In looking at top picks for 2016, I found much more advanced game gear, drones and devices I had no idea what they are. I am sure each comes with a detailed guide of how to use them. For me, I might eventually figure it out. For today’s youth, they pick it up and instantly start enjoying the device. I will just stick to using my imagination. It has gotten me this far in life.
The last time I entered a Toys “R” Us store I was overwhelmed and panicked. It was a mad house of hurried adults going in circles. It can be entertaining if you’re not one of them.
To all the readers of this column, I wish you a blessed Christmas. May you find happiness in this joyous season. May your credit card not have a meltdown before you do. May your health be good, your family together, your needs met and your hearts full of love.
Remember, the best gift of all is, indeed, “the reason for the season.” Share that gift with everyone you meet. It never needs updating or replacing because of a newer model. It has been the top gift for every generation.