Posted by marshal on February 23, 2013 in Thoughts |

There is a lot of nostalgia going around lately, and I have to think it is because of all the baby boomers who are feeling their years. I must get at least one message a week asking me if I remember what some object is, usually something like the basket from a percolator. I usually don’t respond to these, since I like to look forward rather than to the past. However, last night as I was talking to my wife, I suddenly remembered some odd toys from when I was a kid. I thought that I would write about them and see if anyone else had things like these.
The first toy I remembered was a codebook with two slide-rule type devices. They were about the size of a wooden ruler, and had numbers and letters printed on both sides. There was a sliding piece that went down the middle of the ruler that also had numbers and letters on it. The rulers were for setting up substitution codes, and you had to have at least two of them, one for the person to code the message and one for the person to decode it. I don’t remember where these things came from, why we had them, and whatever happened to them. They were just something we had, and then didn’t – one of those odd things that occur in life.
The second toy I remember was more complicated, but it was obviously a World War II toy. The first part was a large map to put on the ground, – definitely on the ground and not inside the house. The second part of the toy was a box about the size of a cigar box. It had eyeholes in one end of it and a slanted mirror at the other end so that you could see the map beneath you. Here comes the tricky part; there was some way to aim the box at things on the map, and there were buttons on top of the box that dropped ‘bomb’ on the selected targets. The ‘bombs’ were actually heavy darts with long points on them to stick into the map. The ‘bombs’ were also capable of sticking into a basketball shoe if you weren’t careful. This was not the kind of toy OSHA or any other organization concerned with safety would approve of.
The last toy I remembered was not an individual toy, but a type, usually some sort of game. The pieces were stamped and painted metal, and they all seemed to come from “Occupied Japan,” a term used for a time after the war. The thing about these toys is that they were all recycled from other toys that were also stamped and painted. The fun thing was to try to take the current toy apart so that you could put it back together again, and then try to figure out what the original toy had been before it was recycled. I don’t think I ever did figure one out, but it was fun to try.
To summarize, I am not interested in trying to identify prosaic things like old-fashioned can openers, parts of percolators, or even skate keys; anyone can do that. What I would really like to see again is some of those Japanese toys, and perhaps a guide to the game they originally came from.

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