When you were a child, what were your favorite toys? Sometimes, I will get on Pinterest and totally lose track of time browsing through vintage/retro pictures of all kinds of stuff, but for some reason my favorite thing to browse is toys. From the little green plastic soldiers and the plastic cowboys and Indians (that came in a wide assortment of colors) to the G.I. Joe action figures (not dolls!) by Hasbro and the Best of the West collection by Marx, and from Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels by Mattel to a wide assortment of bright yellow Tonka Toys, there was never a dull moment in my sandbox.
Sometimes I would spend hours with the Tonka Toys, excavating, dozing, scraping, and reshaping the lay of the land. I would carve out valleys, raise up mountains, and lay down roads in the sand. When I finished, I removed my Tonka Toys and set up an epic battle between the plastic cowboys and Indians. Once all the figures were in place, I would get my Red Ryder BB gun and start picking off the bad guys. Sometimes I was an Indian, sometimes I was a cowboy, but every time, I was on the winning side.
GI Joe action figures were another one of my favorite toys. I had two of the GI Joe dolls (pictured below). I had a footlocker to keep their gear in and I had a Jeep with a trailer that had a search light mounted in it. Those two soldiers and I went on many missions together.
But my all-time favorite toys were from the Marx Best of the West collection. These were hands down the best toys I have ever played with. They were 11” tall action figures dolls from the old West. As a matter of fact, the main character in this family of dolls was named Johnny West. I was very fortunate to have several of the characters along with their horses and every character came with a ton of accessories.
Why are toys like these so great? Because to play with them you must use your imagination. It is as simple as that and it is so very sad that no one makes toys like this anymore. I think almost all the Best of the West accessories would be considered a choking hazard now, not to mention the political incorrectness of having toy weapons and the cultural appropriation of native Americans. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Imagination is something we need to cultivate in our children and playtime is the most fertile soil in which to sow those seeds, nurture them, and watch them grow into a bountiful harvest, because while imagination is cultivated in our youth through play, it is used in our adult lives to overcome many obstacles in both our careers and our personal lives. Make sure your children play and make sure they have the “right” toys to play with. And make time to play with them! It is an investment that will reap many returns for all involved, I promise.
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” ~Albert Einstein