William and I went to see the fantastic Walnut Creek Model Railway today. It was packed with two and three-year-old boys and their dads.
The boys were all stunned, in awe, clinging to the handrails staring at the vast array of tracks, trains, buildings, vehicles, noises (thunder, rain, mood music) and lights (daybreak, night, lightening).
The dads were transfixed too, but you could tell their minds were elsewhere; pondering, as I was, the prospect of converting the garage into a giant re-creation of the Sante Fe Southern Railway, complete with mountain scenery, and a scale replica of the town of Lamy.
When I was William's age, my dad made me something like that. I was too young at the time to remember it exactly now, but there was a large track nailed to a board that lay flat when it was brought down by a hinge on the wall. My brother still has the locomotive that was my dad's pride-and-joy. I remember very clearly that I thought it was awesome.
Then again, I remember my other favorite toys with similar joy. Did you have any of these?
- Scalextric - Electric racing cars, powered by hand-held throttles. It was almost impossible to maintain high speeds and keep the cars on the track, but that became part of the fun. I remember creating 50-lap Grand Prix races wherein I would simply replace any car that had somersaulted across the living room back onto the track and continue as if this sort of thing happened all the time in real racing.
- Subbuteo -The idea of subbuteo (flicking small soccer players attached to hemispherical bases around a green baize soccer field in pursuit of a ball half the size of the entire player) seems ludicrous now...but my dirty secret is that I still have a set in the garage that I bought on eBay a few years ago. Anyone want a game?
- LEGO -When I was a boy, Lego involved real creativity. You couldn't just BUY the Star Wars set...you had to painstakingly build your own Millennium Falcon with only square or rectangular pieces, and the planet Naboo had to be created from scratch with shoes boxes for terrain and a large bed sheet for landscape.
- Marbles -I feel like I should be 65 years-old to admit I played with marbles, but I had hundreds of them, and somehow used to imagine them to be anything from two sets of armies to cars that I would send hurtling around my loop-the-loop track!
- The Hornby Train Set -It was awesome, and as I recall, there was another bigger set that I had in my teens. I'm pretty sure it was really my dad's toy...but that's okay. I can relate now.
That reminds me...must go and decide whether I'm going to put Lamy high up above the bikes, or across the top of the work bench...