Do you remember your favorite childhood toy? I don’t recall many toys from my younger years, but I had one toy that I could never forget. This most memorable toy reflected a simpler, less litigious time in America. These were the good ol’ days, when a boy had the God-given right to burn his fingers on molten plastic, or play with ungrounded electric appliances.
For our birthdays this year, Nicki wanted to do something different. She remembered our earlier discussions about our most memorable childhood toys, and set out to find the exact toys that Deb and I talked about. After months of hunting and bidding, she found our toys, still in their boxes, and still very playable.
Deb’s favorite toy was a doll named Velvet, a 15-inch doll with hair that grew. Velvet was released in 1970, as a companion product to the taller 18-inch Crissy doll that similarly grew her hair. When Debbie opened her gift, she immediately remembered the box it came in and the heavy yarn carrying handle at the top. She remembered learning how to braid hair with her Velvet doll. A button on the doll’s belly allowed her hair to be pulled to longer lengths, while a rotary dial on her back could be turned to retract her hair back into her head.
My favorite toy was the Strange Change Machine, which dates to 1967. The toy came with 16 plastic cubes that would unfold into various dinosaurs and monsters when heated in a chamber. A plastic landscape was included, and background scenery was printed on the back of the instruction sheet. Nicki found a set that was surprisingly complete, with 13 of the original 16 cubes. The monsters could then be re-heated in the chamber, placed into the vise-like “compression chamber”, and squeezed back into their original cube shapes, complete with the Mattel logo embossed into their sides to instill a sense of brand loyalty in little children.
I fondly recall sitting on my back porch with my original Strange Change Machine. I would place a cube into the hot toy using my bare fingers, because only a wimp used the blue plastic tongs. When the toy unfolded minutes later, I would again use my bare fingers to extract the hot beast from the chamber, which would when stick to my fingers. After heating a few monsters to life, I would get little blisters on my fingers, a badge of honor for the little evil scientist I imagined I was.
I never thought I’d see another Strange Change Machine again, much less play with one. When I opened the gift at Nicki’s house, I was instantly transported back to my back porch. Thankfully, my excitement helped me fight back the tears of joy – evil scientists don’t cry, right? I couldn’t wait to test this toy, so on Nicki’s kitchen counter, I powered up the machine and felt it warm up. We tested a plastic cube, which unfolded into a little beast after several minutes. Nicki then operated the compression chamber to squeeze it back to a cube, and the trip was complete. I never thought I’d experience that again.
Thanks Nicki! We enjoyed our trips back to those simpler days.