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Toy stories

Posted January 22, 2014 in Waukee

Nearly everyone can look back on their childhood and remember their favorite toys. It might have been that Red Ryder carbine action 200 shot range model air rifle that your dad was cool enough to let you have at age 8. Or it was Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots, He-Man figures, Transformers, G.I. Joe, Lincoln Logs, Lego bricks or any number of toys that have been popular throughout the years.

Ladies might remember Rainbow Bright, Barbie, My Little Pony, Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids.

No matter the toy, they hold special memories that can transport us back to happy times and carefree days.

These Waukee folks have held on to their treasures, displaying them or passing them along to their own children. But one thing’s for certain: they all agree toys are just plain old fun — even as an adult.

Field of dreams
As the title of the great Iowa movie suggests, there is something special about baseball. It’s as American as apple pie, and for many men, it becomes a right of passage. It is a way to connect with your dad when you’re young and holds great memories for those who play the game — even if it is only “a catch” in the backyard.

Chris McLinden kept the two gloves that he and his dad used to play catch with when he was a kid.

Chris McLinden kept the two gloves that he and his dad used to play catch with when he was a kid.

Chris McLinden grew up in Illinois where he and his dad used to spend many summer evenings after dinner playing catch outside. The family even had a home plate set up in the backyard. That’s where McLinden developed his love of  baseball, a sport he played from Little League through high school.

McLinden still has the baseball gloves he and his dad used all those years ago. He remembers he received one of them — a Wilson A2000 — in 1976 when he was a sophomore in high school. He remembers the year vividly because it was also the year his mother died. He says his memory was triggered recently because 1976 was also the year the song “Afternoon Delight” came out, recently resurrected with the release of the Anchorman 2 movie.

The other glove, the one his dad used, is much older. In fact, McLinden thinks it’s a glove a relative nicknamed “Finky,” who was a semi-pro baseball player, used. McLinden’s dad’s nickname was Inky, so he inherited it.

“That’s why I have held on to them so long,” he says. “That older glove really has some history to it. I think it may have been passed on to my grandfather before my dad, but I know it has been in our family for generations.”

Though his dad has since passed on, McLinden says he still thinks of him each time he sees the gloves. His daughter is now a senior in high school, but each year when the Iowa Cubs have their Father’s Day game, fathers and their kids are allowed onto the field to play catch before the game starts.

Photo by Todd Rullestad

Photo by Todd Rullestad

He has brought the gloves, and he and his daughter have enjoyed a nice game of catch each year. He says his wife and daughter think he’s a little crazy for suggesting it year after year, but deep down, his daughter thinks it’s cool.

“We always go down and play in remembrance of my father,” he says. “And we are sure to take those with us and use the same gloves that I used with my dad. It’s such a hoot. It’s mostly little kids, and now my daughter’s a senior, but I still love it.”

His daughter has also held on to some of her old toys, most notably her Barbie collection. Whenever she babysits or they have young visitors, they get played with, he says.

For McLinden, the gloves are just a special way to honor his relationship with his dad and remember those good times they had doing some classic father-son bonding.

“My dad and I played so much in the backyard,” he says. “It just brings back so many fond memories, and my dad and I had so much fun throwing the ball back and forth. It’s such a simple thing, and now I’d probably be on my iPad instead of in the backyard. It harkens back to a simpler time in life.”

A special horse
Those born in the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s will remember the classic bouncing rocking horse that could provide hours of entertainment for young riders. The 28-inch Wonder Horse was built on a steel base with a mounting bar on each side. The handle bar and footrests provided the rider with stability, and covered steel springs ensured endless bounces without pinching. Tamie Hopper received one of those horses as a young girl in 1961.

Tamie Hopper’s rocking horse is special to her because it was a gift from her grandfather when she was a young child.

Tamie Hopper’s rocking horse is special to her because it was a gift from her grandfather when she was a young child.

“I still have the original bouncing rocking horse my grandpa bought me because I was the first grandchild,” she says. “It was like $50, which was a ton of money then. He was a poor South Dakota farmer, so he saved all his money to get that for me.”

Though it has seen better days, Tamie says the horse is still in working condition. Her younger siblings played with it after her, and then it was stored for years in her brother’s garage. Now with two boys and two grandsons of her own, the toy is back at her house for new generations of kids to enjoy.

“It is a sentimental piece for me,” she says. “I always liked horses, and it was a talking horse you could bounce on and it would talk and it would neigh and whinny. It is one of those pull-string toys.”

In addition to keeping her old toys, she says she also kept ones that used to belong to her sons. Now when her grandsons come over, they have fun playing with the toys their dads once used. She says the most popular are Hot Wheels cars, especially the ones that came out in the 1980s that change colors.

“I remember going over to my grandparents’ house, and as a kid, they kept some toys there for us to play with,” she says. “We would race to get out stuff that we didn’t have at home. It was something we didn’t have, and that makes the best memories. One was like a tabletop pinball that you’d set up on a card table, and we’d fight over who got to play it.”

Her husband has also kept some baby toys that were his as a child, including rattles and a few other items.

“They might not be valuable, but they have great sentimental value,” she says.

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