Because the Christmas season has arrived, the Tulsa World asked many people this question: What’s the best or most memorable toy you received as a child, and why?
Here are the responses.
Deana McCloud, executive director, Woody Guthrie Center: It was Christmas 1970, and I really, really wanted a Crissy doll. Her hair actually grew, at least by 70s standards. I absolutely knew that shape of box under the tree and made the mistake of telling my dad. Christmas morning, I pounced on that package and found that he had wrapped up an empty Coke bottle in place of my doll. I did get the doll, but it was a good lesson that I passed on to my own kids — even if you know what’s in those packages, never gloat about knowing what’s under the tree. The gift buyer appreciates the fun of a surprise — one way or another.
Glenn Burkett, Santa Claus for hire: The most memorable toy I ever got was a Roy Rogers ranch set. Roy Rogers was king of the cowboys in … about ’52 or maybe ’53. I was about 5 years old. We didn’t have lots of things like indoor plumbing or television or video games. Times were still hard in rural east Texas following WWII, but Christmas was pretty special. The ranch set was pretty special, but I also got a double-barrel shotgun that fired corks. I was the baby of the family. I had an older brother and two older sisters. We wore homemade clothing and hand-me-downs, and by some standards we were poor, but we never knew it.
Jim Ross, WWE Hall of Fame pro wrestling announcer: As an only child who was raised in Adair County, I loved my vibrating football game except for the obnoxious noise that it made. I’m happy to say I never “coached” a losing game. At least that’s how I remember it.
Steve Scott, local broadcaster: A puppy. A snot-nosed kid in Sapulpa getting a plump little puppy for Christmas? Hallmark perfect!
Robert Taylor, Santa Claus for hire: My first bicycle was pretty amazing. I can remember coming down the stairs and seeing it for the first time. A year or two before, I got a new tricycle for Christmas, and I rode it around outside and left it parked in the driveway. My brother-in-law went to leave, and he backed up over it, smashing it and making it to where you could never ride it again. I had my new tricycle for about two hours before it was demolished. It taught me to never leave anything behind the cars in the driveway.
Deion Imade, 1430 radio personality, OSU pregame/post-game analyst: Me and my two other brothers got brand new bikes, which was dope because we could ride together and we didn’t have to share. We didn’t even ask for them. It was such a huge surprise.
Teresa Knox, Church Studio owner: I received a pair of Mork from Ork rainbow suspenders. I looked up to Robin Williams’ character (in the television series “Mork & Mindy”) as he adjusted to earth life. Wearing those suspenders gave me a sense of being cool, funny and fashionable as I was navigating being a kid in the late 1970s. (Knox said she might try to find a pair of rainbow suspenders on eBay.)
John Cooper, Red Dirt Rangers: My favorite was a toy truck I got when I was about 4 years old. I really wanted to be a fireman, and it came with a hat, as well. I was crazy excited when I got it.
Gail Kinney, Vintage Tulsa Show: I remember opening up a Lite-Brite set one year and being so excited because I had wanted one for years. It took a long time for my parents to give in to that request. My mom didn’t want to worry about sucking up the little light pegs in her vacuum cleaner.
Ted Owens, former ORU and Kansas basketball coach: A basketball with the laces. I shared it with my two brothers. It led to a lifetime of love with the great game.
Jana Jae, fiddler
My most memorable Christmas gift was at age 5 when I so wanted a pet kitten. Finally I was promised the kitten IF I would stop biting my nails for a full two weeks. I remember well the struggle with that, but really, really wanted that darling pet and companion. It cured me for life — I never bit my nails again and got the beautiful white kitty on Christmas Day with a big red bow around her neck! Pure bliss! I still treasure the memory of the struggle, freedom from that habit, and the happiness of success. It was a very Merry Christmas and a lifetime gift.
Dexter Nelson II, OKPOP: An action figure set from the movie “Batman Forever” was my favorite toy for a majority of my childhood. Because it was the first Batman movie I saw, even still today, “Batman Forever” remains my favorite Batman movie. I was probably like 4 or 5 when I had it.
Travis Kidd, musician: A go cart, because I was amazed that I actually got it. It reassured me — I was in the fourth grade — that Santa was, in fact, for real!
Danny O’Connor, The Outsiders House Museum: The Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. I’m guessing 1973-74 in New York it was the toy every kid wanted that year.
Because we were poor, I was surprised that my mother (Santa) bought it for me. We lived in the projects in Staten Island, and it was a rough place to live in the ’70s.
Anyways, I opened up the gift, got my stunt cycle, went downstairs and set it up in the middle of the street. A small crowd gathered in amazement as I wound it up. I wound it up as fast as I could, then hit the button to release him from the ramp.
The stunt cycle left at a blinding rate of speed, popping a wheelie down the street 5 feet, 10 feet, 15 feet away. We were all so ecstatic and then, out of nowhere, an older kid ran up and snatched up my Evel Knievel mid-wheelie. “Hey,” I screamed, but it was too late. The kid was gone as fast as he had appeared.
I grabbed what was left (Evel’s cycle ramp) and cried all the way back to the fifth floor of the Tyson Lane projects. New York City was no joke back then, but it made me who I am today. (O’Connor said that one day he’s going to buy another Evel Knievel cycle.)
Bob Carpenter, Tulsan, Washington Nationals broadcaster: A Lionel train, because my dad built a train board with a hole in the middle for the Christmas tree!
Shaun Perkins, Rural Oklahoma Museum of Poetry: The best Christmas present was a shoe box full of homemade Barbie doll clothes. Mom commissioned them from a teenage girl down the street, Debbie Vaughn (now Cole), who made the best wardrobe any Barbie could ever want — coats, gowns, pants, tops, bathing suit, the whole shenanigans. If only I still had them today!
Michael Vance, author: Two collections of short stories and seven novels by H.G. Wells. I still own both. Wells’ novel “The Time Machine” inspired me to become a writer.
Tom Green, IDL Ballroom owner: My Sears drum set. It set me on the path in the music industry.
Rickey J. Mizell, artist: My favorite was Mattel’s Strange Change Machine I got it in the late 60’s. It was cool because it was similar to the Creepy Crawlers, but you could heat up the creatures after making them and crush them back into a cube like they were before.
R.A. Jones, writer: One of the highlights of every holiday season of my youth was the arrival in the mail of the Sears Christmas catalog.
I would pore studiously over every page of its toy section again and again. Gradually I would narrow down the range of toys I most wanted. My family wasn’t poor, but it was large, so the number of gifts the parents could afford to purchase was necessarily limited. Each child knew he or she would be limited to no more than one or two special presents that they might hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning.
One particular year, I honed in on one particular toy I wanted more than any of the myriad others Sears had to offer. It was the Fort Apache play set.
As a child of the 1950s and ’60s, I had of course been inundated with exposure to Western movies and television shows that instilled me with a love for all things pertaining to that place and time that persists to this day.
As best I can recall: The playset consisted of plastic sections of stockade wall that linked together in a square. At least one corner also sported a guard post atop it. A tin building could be assembled that went inside the stockade. There were lots of toy soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, and horses for the latter. Opposing them were toy Indians and their steeds, plus one or two teepees.
There was one large obstacle I feared might stand between me and the possessing of the Fort Apache playset: its cost.
If memory serves correctly, Sears wanted the princely sum of $4.95 for this lusted-after play set. To a small child of that day, this represented a small fortune. Nonetheless, I let it be known that this was what I wanted most.
And on that Christmas Day, there it was, sitting under the tree in our living room! I played with it until, like the West itself, it gradually disappeared.