Raise your hand if you’ve ever cut a doll’s hair, thinking it would grow back. Bonus points if you trimmed the Barbie Style Head. (Thank goodness for Crissy, whose ponytail really could grow—unless, of course, you gave her a bob when her auburn locks were fully extended.) True confession: I gave my Chatty Cathy a tub bath, and she has spoken with a bit of a gurgle ever since. My unsympathetic older cousins called it “the Chatty Cathy death rattle.”
Nothing reveals our age more quickly than the classic toys we still remember fondly. Many popular toys for girls and boys of the 60s and 70s were grounded in real life—think Easy Bake Ovens, Suzy Homemaker small appliances, baby dolls, toy strollers, G. I. Joe, Matchbox cars, and Tonka trucks.
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Not to brag on my own generation of toymakers, but some of their creations are still on the market. Even 21st Century kids want to master that behind-the-back Frisbee catch; “walk the dog” with a Duncan yo-yo; coax a Slinky down the front steps; and hop on skateboards and Pogo sticks without landing in the emergency room. I think there’s still an ancient Etch-a-Sketch in our church nursery, but I doubt it works after all these years.
Kids of the 80s and 90s grew up with a little more fantasy and a lot more technology than some of us did—from My Little Pony, Polly Pocket, and Tickle Me Elmo to Nintendo. That’s probably why they’ve made millions on internet startups and app development while I’m still trying to remember my Facebook password.
Back in the day, boys were duking it out with Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots, while girls arranged dates for Ken and Barbie. (Our unsuspecting parents had no idea that the good folks at Mattel would eventually milk their wallets to a fare-thee-well, thanks to Francie, Casey, Skipper, Midge, Malibu Barbie, the Barbie Dreamhouse, and Barbie’s pink convertible—just for starters.)
Nothing against assembly-required toys and cerebral board games like Monopoly, but there’s something to be said for a really basic vintage toy. Like Play-Doh. Or Silly Putty. (Look! If you press it flat on a cartoon in the newspaper, Charlie Brown will be on the Silly Putty when you lift it off!! It’s AMAZING!!) Did anybody else have a Hoppity Hop—that big red rubber ball that you sat on and jumped up and down? We were actually propelling ourselves, but we were convinced that we were riding it.
I associate the 70s with electrical gadgetry and cameras, for some reason—transistor radios, Atari, walkie talkies, and Polaroid Square Shooter cameras. Egad, those self-developing Polaroid film cartridges were a hit on my teenage budget! And the camera itself was huge.
As for the decades that followed, I distinctly remember enduring the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers movie with my precious baby cousin in the 80s. But I had to consult younger colleagues for the 90s hit parade: Nintendo Game Boy, Cabbage Patch Kids, Moon Shoes, American Girl, Beanie Babies, Furby, and of course Totally Hair Barbie.
The kicker among toys from the 90s? Tamogotchi, an electronic “virtual pet,” which had to be cared for throughout the day. You’d never catch my generation falling for a virtual pet. Not when we had the Pet Rock.
While your classic toys might spill your age, here's how we'll know if you grew up in the South:
While you're trying to remember what happened to the furniture in Barbie's dreamhouse, tell us about that time in fourth grade when your school had a tornado drill . . .