“Come along, Paddington. We’ll take you home, and you can have a nice, hot bath. Then you can tell me all about South America. I’m sure you must have had lots of wonderful adventures.”
“I have,” said Paddington earnestly. “Lots. Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear.”
from A Bear Called Paddington
written by Michael Bond
illustrations by Peggy Fortnum
Houghton Mifflin, 1958
We all have our favorite childhood toys. Some feel more real than others. I named my favorite doll Rosebud. Her face was beautiful—-rosy cheeks, a perpetual smile, and blue eyes that closed when she lay down. She wore a filmy pink dress that came down to her pudgy knees. She wore undies, too. I shaped her hair into a handle, perfect for hauling her around.
Rosebud always agreed or disagreed with me by nodding or shaking her head, and after many years of togetherness, she started showing her age. Her head was getting pretty loose on her neck. The fiber of her body was starting to let go of her plastic head.
When it became clear that Rosebud’s life (head) was literally hanging by a thread, my grandmother came to the rescue. She told me she knew someone at a doll hospital who could fix Rosebud up good as new, and I trusted Rosebud to my grandmother’s care.
Two weeks went by and Rosebud was still at the hospital. I asked and asked for her. Finally, I think my grandmother gave up hoping I’d forget about her and she returned Rosebud, not good as new, but same as she was. The hospital couldn’t help after all.
Part of me wanted to keep Rosebud, but I knew deep down that I had outlived her. I found an old shoe box and carefully tucked Rosebud in with tissue paper and covered her up. I got my brother to dig a hole in the backyard where we buried our fish and turtles. We gave Rosebud a few moments of silence and then we moved on.
Another of our favorites were The Halsam Toy Company’s American Plastic Bricks, the forerunner to LEGO’s. (Here's a fascinating history of the company.) My brother and I had scads and of them stored in empty five-pound Chock-Full-a-Nuts coffee cans. We spent hours and hours building houses, factories, and castles with them.
Toys are really tools for children. They teach, foster imaginative and creative play, and encourage social interactions with friends, siblings, and grown-ups. The Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, is the location of the National Toy Hall of Fame. It “houses the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of historical materials related to play.”
Margaret Woodbury Strong was born into a wealthy family. She collected all sorts of items in a little bag she carried as her parents showed her the world. She “played with dolls in a Japanese teahouse, rode an elephant in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and toured the waterfronts of Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Canton.” (from: Museum of Play)
By the 1960s, when Margaret was in her late 60s, she had collected over 27,000 items and organized them into over 50 categories. Most were related to children’s play.
She added two wings to her home to accommodate her staggering (and growing) collection. She thought of this part of her home as a museum and in 1968, she received a provisional charter from New York for the “Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum of Fascination.” She had willed her collections and most of her money to fund and maintain the museum. Thirteen years after her death a year later (1969), the Strong Museum was opened to the public in downtown Rochester, New York.
The Strong serves a global audience on site, on-line, and through its International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the National Toy Hall of Fame, the World Video Game Hall of Fame, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, the Woodbury School, and the American Journal of Play.
The National Toy Hall of Fame is gathering experts to evaluate this year’s new inductees. You can join me in voting for this year’s Player’s Choice award. View all the nominees here. Find the ballot and vote here, but do it today! Voting closes at midnight tomorrow, September 21. Winners will be revealed Thursday, November 10, 2022.
If your favorite toy is not part of the collection yet, you can nominate a toy to be considered for the November 2023 induction. Here are the selection criteria and nomination form.
-—be curious! (and play!)