A vintage ticket to fly and dream: the Fisher-Price Airport

Fisher-Price Airport

The most recent addition to our collection of vintage Fisher-Price toys: the Play Family Airport. On a wintry day like this, don’t you wish you could be a little Fisher-Price person and jump into that Fisher-Price plane and fly away south?

I don’t know about you folks, but I am really, really tired of this winter. As I write this, it is snowing outside the Manse windows. Again. Meanwhile, I heard yesterday that we are on track for this being the coldest February ever. Yikes! People’s nerves are stretched by all this cold and snow, I tell you. At least, mine are. I bet yours are too – unless you happen to be reading this in some sunny southern getaway.

Ah, but speaking of sunny southern getaways, doesn’t weather like this make you long to get on a plane and go somewhere nice? Somewhere different? Preferably somewhere warm? Well, have I got the thing for that! Yes, it’s the Fisher-Price Play Family Airport!

All right, you can’t actually jet off from the Play Family Airport. But you can be a kid again, and dream.

Fisher-Price School

The schoolmarm waits for her pupils at our Fisher-Price School.

The airport is my latest addition to a small collection of great Fisher-Price toys from back in the 1960s and ’70s – not coincidentally, the years when I was a little kid growing up here at the Manse and playing with such toys with my sister and brothers. Those were the days when, in my opinion, Fisher-Price stuff was more elegantly designed than it is now. It was more compact and less plasticky and princessy.

(Mind you, the Fisher-Price Little People were small enough that they later were deemed a choking hazard for little kids, which I suppose wasn’t the best thing. But hey, I never knew anybody who choked on them. And they were a lot cuter than the plastic not-very-little Fisher Price people you get today.)

I wrote some time ago (that post is here) about my delight in acquiring a Fisher-Price Garage, which as I recall pretty much every household had back in the days of my Queensborough childhood and was truly the best toy ever. You could run your cars up and down the ramps, or move them in the elevator that dinged at every floor, or turn them around on the top-level car turner, or fill them up with gas at the bottom-level gas pump – and it was all just a whale of a time. Good for keeping kids quiet and occupied for hours.

After that, thanks to yard sales and auction sales and antique barns, I was able to add to the collection the Fisher-Price School, the Fisher-Price Two-Tune TV, the Fisher-Price Hickory-Dickory-Dock Radio, the Fisher-Price Jalopy, the Fisher-Price School Bus, and that rocking Fisher-Price toy with the multicoloured plastic rings for baby to stack one on top of another. All in fairly decent shape, though the school and the garage are missing a lot of the Little People they originally came with. (Perhaps they disappeared down various toddlers’ throats…)

Vintage Fisher-Price toys

Our vintage Fisher-Price Two-Tune TV, Jalopy, and whatever that colourful ring thing is called.

Anyway, I was pretty happy with this fun little collection, which needs only Raymond’s grandson Henry to come visit for some serious fun to be had. And the best part of it was that none of these Fisher-Price treasures had cost more than a few dollars; one or two of them I picked up at yard sales for less than a buck. Yay!

But then last summer, when Raymond and I were vacationing down in Maine and taking part in one of our favourite vacationing-in-Maine activities, which is to visit antiques and collectibles warehouses, I came upon a Fisher-Price Play Family Airport for sale. Now this was a find – mainly because it was a piece of the Fisher-Price universe with which I was utterly unfamiliar. While everyone had the Fisher-Price Garage back in the day, and there were lots of Fisher-Price schoolhouses and barns and buses around, nobody that I knew had a Fisher-Price Airport. I’d never even heard of it, let alone seen it.

So even though it was over my usual Fisher-Price price limit, I decided it would have to come to the Manse. Because, you know, the only thing better than a vintage Fisher-Price toy is a relatively rare vintage Fisher-Price toy.

According to the website This Old Toy, the Fisher-Price Play Family Airport was made for only four years, from 1972 to 1976. (Ah, 1972 to 1976. Those were good years, weren’t they?)

I love our little Fisher-Price airport! Not that I spend much in the way of time with it; when I pulled it out the other evening to take the pictures that you can see here, it was the first time I’d really examined everything about it in detail – but it makes me smile when I see it tucked away in its spot in the Manse’s children’s corner.

Those Fisher-Price designers were brilliant, if you ask me. Just look at all the good detail on my airport! You can see most of it in the photo at the top of this post: the baggage truck and carts, the helicopter, the baggage carousel. But here’s a closeup of the control tower with the air-traffic controller hard at work:

Fisher-Price Airport control tower

And here’s the Arrivals level, which is unfortunately a bit dark:

Fisher-Price Airport arrivals level

And best of all, here’s that big ol’ plane with the happy pilot at the controls and the happy flight attendant – actually, I am pretty sure she would have been called a stewardess back when this toy was made – just waiting to welcome you aboard:

Fisher-Price Airport plane is boarding

This, people, is one happy kids’ toy. And I am very happy to have it here at the Manse. Now if only I could climb those steps, get on that plane, ask the stewardess to bring me a refreshing beverage, and let the pilot fly me somewhere far, far from winter…

Showered with gifts (IV): the games people played

Probe and other vintage games

A windfall! Three vintage games, bestowed on us by our new friend Jan of Madoc.

Do you remember that old (1968) song Games People Play? It’s perhaps an appropriate one to have running around in my head (as can you, if you click here) as I start this latest instalment in my series of posts about interesting and delightful vintage things that kind folks who read this blog have given Raymond and me recently. (Instalment 1, about a midcentury jewelry holder for a dressing-table, is here; Instalment 2, about a collection of drawings of local churches by local artists, here; and you can read last night’s post, about a set of TV trays that made its way into the Manse at last, here.)

Now, I should clarify that while Joe South‘s song Games People Play is (according to the Wikipedia entry) “a protest song whose lyrics speak against various forms of hate, hypocrisy, inhumanity, and intolerance, both interpersonal and social,” what I’m talking about tonight are actual games. You know, board games. The kind people used to sit around card tables and play of a Saturday afternoon or long winter evening. I expect that in some homes people still do enjoy the fun and camaraderie of playing board games, and that’s actually quite brilliant.

While I am totally in favour of the theory of board games, however – the aforementioned fun and camaraderie and all that – I’m afraid that Raymond and I lead busy enough lives that there is very rarely time in practice for a rousing game of Monopoly, or Sorry!, or Masterpiece, or Yahtzee. But that sure doesn’t stop me from being happy every time I spot a vintage edition of one of these games that I so much enjoyed playing in my childhood here at the Manse in Queensborough. And as I’ve written in some earlier posts (like here and here and here), I seem to have the start of a fairly decent collection of those vintage games.

A collection that has been significantly enhanced in recent times, thanks to gifts from readers!

So let’s start at the top of this post, with the three games that we chose when Jan of Madoc called us up and invited us to come poke through a boxful of vintage games stored in her garage, and take whatever we liked. My heart leapt when I spotted Probe, which was a particular favourite of my paternal grandmother and, since it’s a word game, one that I always liked too. Get a load of the players wearing ties on the cover!

Then there was a 1970s (at least, so I’m guessing judging by the garish orange, brown and gold colour scheme) variant on the more traditional Hi-Q game, called Hi-Q Euclid. I’d never seen that one before, but really, how could I pass up that evocative colour scheme?

And finally there was a game I was not at all familiar with; it is English, I believe (the games came from Jan’s British father), and it is about Shakespeare, and since I’m a Shakespeare aficionado I could not possibly say no. Thanks so much, Jan!

Billionaire from John

Meanwhile our friend John passed on to us Billionaire, another in the very long line of board games made by good old Parker Brothers. The Parker Brothers collection here at the Manse is getting fairly substantial, but Billionaire had been a notable omission. The gift was especially appreciated since John himself is something of a collector (or at least keeper) of vintage toys and games. It was nice of him to part with this one to allow us to build our collection. Thank you, John!

Booby-Trap from Nicole

And finally, the most recent addition, also from Parker Brothers: Booby-Trap, from 1965. (Which means it fits perfectly into the era when I was a kid at the Manse, from 1964 to 1975.) Hey, it’s tantalizing! It’s terrific! It’s vintage, and in great shape! And it came from Nicole, who is Raymond’s second cousin once removed (are you following?), who’s a reader of Meanwhile, at the Manse (and so knew I liked vintage games) and lives with her husband, Tim, way off in east-central Massachusetts. How did Nicole and Tim happen to be here at the Manse, delivering this lovely gift? Well, get this: because Tim’s parents live in nearby Campbellford, Ont., where he went to high school a few years ago (as did I, after my family moved there from Queensborough), and was pals with my youngest brother Ken. Is it a small world or what?

Having Nicole and Tim come visit us was gift enough – Booby-Trap was just a bonus. As I think I said already in Instalment 2, the real gift is the friendship and kind gestures of readers who share things from our collective past. Things that now have a very happy new home at the Manse.

Clackers: the stupidest (and most painful) toy craze ever

ClackersDo you remember Clackers? If so, do your wrists hurt when you think about them?

Clackers were a sadistic toy that became popular in the early 1970s, if memory serves. During the peak years of my childhood growing up here at the Manse, in other words. Every household with kids had them; I think they were popular enough that they might even have been sold at Queensborough’s two general stores. They were good clean inexpensive fun. But stupid!

Why stupid? And why sadistic? Well, here’s a post on an entertaining Facebook group to which I subscribe, called 1960’s and 1970’s Advertisements (never mind that the apostrophes are in the wrong place, she says, donning her editor’s hat) by one Kurt X Fischer that explains it quite well:

Today’s fun toy from our Lacerations Department is the infamous Clackers. These hard acrylic orbs were popular on school grounds and were bought in the millions by kids of all ages. The only issue they had, other than thousands of bruises, was the high speed orbs would shatter, sending very sharp high-velocity shards of Chinese plastic through the air, possibly blinding anyone within 30 yards.

Clackers

A photo of Clackers from the website Banned Toy Museum – which informs us that they were banned in 1985. Good riddance!

That about sums it up, Kurt; thanks! Yeah, the story about Clackers – which I think may have been an urban legend, because neither I nor anyone I know ever saw it happen – was that the brightly coloured acrylic orbs would sometimes shatter, sending dangerous shards every which way, notably toward nearby pairs of eyes. But a far more real and present Clackers danger was the bruises that Kurt mentions: you could clack away at those suckers for maybe 30 seconds at a time, but eventually you’d lose the rhythm and they’d lose their trajectory and one of those hard acrylic orbs would slam into your wristbone at high velocity.

And you’d say, “Ow!” And then you’d say to yourself, “I’m never doing that again.” But everybody around you would be clacking their Clackers, and those orbs in motion were such interesting-looking (and -sounding) things, and… you couldn’t resist. You’d try it again. And bruise your wrist again. And again. And again.

Man, were we dopey!

New at the Manse: the children’s corner

toy corner at the Manse

The new (old) toy corner in a sunny spot at the top of the front stairs of the Manse. Note the rocking horse, the vintage Fisher-Price stuff – and in the back, the classic Green Eggs and Ham.

If you’re a semi-regular follower of the adventures of Raymond and me at the Manse in Queensborough, you might recall that I’ve mentioned how excited I’ve been to find some vintage Fisher-Price toys (the parking garage, the schoolhouse, etc. – think back to your childhood and you’ll totally know what I mean) at the yard and auction sales that we love to frequent on our weekends in Hastings County. And I’ve also written about the midcentury board games and other toys that I get a kick out of adding to the collection. Well, I am happy to report that all those things now have their own place at the Manse, a nice little corner where any kids who happen by can amuse themselves to their heart’s content.

I suppose precisely no one will be surprised to learn that this toy corner is exactly where the toy corner was in the long-ago years when I was growing up at the Manse: a sunlit space at the top of the front stairs (not to be confused with the back stairs, of course), outside the bedroom that once upon a time my two younger brothers shared.

The star of our collection of toys and games is the rocking horse I discovered a few days ago at the Stratford (Ont.) Antique Warehouse that I swear is identical to one I myself had when I was small enough to fit into it. It was a little on the pricey side, but I knew I’d be immersed in non-buyer’s remorse if I drove away from Stratford without making it mine. And besides, Raymond’s new grandson, Henry, will, I think, have a great old time rocking in it once he’s big enough.

But there’s other good stuff in the toy corner (or, as Raymond calls it, Henry’s Corner) too: not just the aforementioned vintage Fisher-Price stuff, but a cedar chest full of those vintage games:

vintage games in the toybox

Monopoly, Ker-Plunk, Clue, Scrabble, Rack-O, Pit, Diplomacy, Masterpiece – we’ve got ’em all. Plus a Slinky for good measure.

Fisher-Price toys and Tinkertoys

Check out my find at the rear of this photo: a vintage box of Tinkertoys!

And there’s also another treasure that I found in Stratford (and paid too much for, but after a lot of agonizing I decided that I just had to have it): look past the Fisher-Price toys in this photo and you’ll spy something else that might take you back to your childhood. See the tall cylindrical box? Yes, it’s good old Tinkertoys! Remember the sound as you dumped out the wooden contents onto the kitchen floor of your childhood home and commenced to building something? Of course you do!

And finally, the books. Over the years I’ve managed to acquire a lot of nifty old kids’ books, of which the ones you can see in the photo at the top of this post are only a small fraction. But I want you to note the absolute classic in front, because what kids’ library is complete without Dr. Seuss‘s Green Eggs and Ham?

Which reminds me of something highly amusing that Saturday Night Live did a long time ago. Remember The Rev. Jesse Jackson reading Green Eggs and Ham? Well here he is again, bad TV quality and all. “I do not like them, Sam I Am! I do not like green eggs and ham!”