In my travels about the internet today, I found out that Arlee Bird had a childhood fondness for colorful Cowboys & Indians. I, too, enjoyed a good bag of plastic combatants back in the day. Cowboys, Indians, army men, Frito dinosaurs...all provided a pleasant interlude from running around the neighborhood barefoot, playing kick the can.
But my most favorite toy was a Johnny West collection. I had Johnny, Jane, Jay, and Josie. They had clothes and horses and tack and guns and cooking utensils and dogs and a Jeep with a trailer and a buckboard wagon and a cardboard ranch. Everything a plastic poseable family could want. Here's a family photo I found on the internet:
And their method of transportation when they didn't want to saddle up:
When they wanted to rough it:
And the old homestead:
When I wasn't riding the range with the Wests, I loved a rousing game of Feeley Meeley. The object of the game was to reach into a hole in the box and grab the item that you needed for the card that you drew. No fair peeking, either. It's called Feeley Meeley, not Lookey Mookey. The box looked like this:
And you had to find these items:
Yeah. That's what kids played with back in the day. Not Nintendos. Not X-Boxes. Not phone apps. It was a simpler time. We read books from the library, or ordered at school through Scholastic. Books like Trixie Belden and the Bobbsey Twins and the Boxcar Children and the Black Stallion mysteries and Misty of Chincoteague. A Kindle or Nook? Bwah, ha, ha! We would have laughed ourselves silly at that thought. We listened to our music on transistor radios. I had a little red rectangular one in a brown leather case, with a strap. And later, I had a ball-shaped Panasonic that was the epitome of coolness. We could buy albums to play on our stereos, or hit singles, for which you needed a little round plastic dealybobber to get your turntable to play it at the right speed. Because singles were 45s, not 78s. That stood for rpm. How many revolutions per minute your vinyl disc made.
Calculators cost a fortune, and Texas Instruments cornered the market. Kids would not be caught dead carrying a backpack. Everybody had a blue cloth-covered ring binder with loose-leaf paper, yellow #2 pencils with Frito Bandito erasers, and called each other on party lines by first dialing a two-letter/one-number exchange. For example, PL6-4983. The lunch ladies served up real home-cookin' in the cafeteria, like beans and ham, or chicken pot pie, or beef stew, or fried chicken. Sides were lima beans or stewed tomatoes or spinach (with vinegar dispensers on the tables). Dessert was gingerbread or cake or vanilla ice cream in plastic cups with cardboard lids and flat wooden spoons. We ran around on our two recesses playing tag and kickball, and had P.E. every day where we did calisthenics and played dodgeball and suffered through interminable tumbling units. Every so often, we had a drill that had something to do with those yellow hazard triangles placed all around the school. And in the summer, school was the place to go eat a sugar cube with some kind of vaccine on it.
Funny, the things you start to remember without even trying.