Not the faces of the toys – the faces of the men and women walking through the exhibit. Every face is lit up like a sunny day, with a brief cloud here and there in the eyes. You can actually see giggling girls and mischievous boys emerge from crusty old grown-ups as they grin in recognition and instinctively reach for a familiar doll or action figure, only to be stopped by the glass that contains it.
The Toys of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s exhibit offers strong nostalgia for baby-boomers and before, reminding them of days long ago spent in make-believe, creativity, and board games. Times were certainly not simpler then, but as children, we sure were. These toys were the ticket to super hero powers, dream homes, and magnificent feats of daring do.The exhibit is divided into three decades spanning two rooms. The first room is awash in the pastels and shiny chrome of the 1950’s to mid-1960’s. The second room takes on the earthy browns, golds, and avocado greens of the late 1960’s through 1970’s. Displayed are famous toys such as Howdy Doody, Barbie and all her friends at the Dream House, Sesame Street’s Ernie and Bert, and the Star Wars action figure collection. But there are a few, somewhat forgotten gems such as Gumby & Pokey, a Nancy Drew Mystery Game, Holly Hobby dolls, and a two-wheeler with a banana seat.
It’s an exhibit for the entire family. A fifteen-year-old may not understand why Pong was such an craze in the 1970’s, but she’ll certainly appreciate the opportunity to play it, as well as Space Invaders, at the console set up in the back of the exhibit. Smaller children can also play with Rock’em-Sock’em Robots, Hungry-Hungry Hippos, Hula Hoops and more.My own discovery was the Chrissy doll in the 70’s room. I had forgotten all about her.
She was a Christmas present when I was about seven years old. I wasn’t much into dolls, but Chrissy had red hair – like mine – and her hair would extend and shorten with the turn of a knob. So I loved her. And there she was – waiting for me as if to say she’d found a good place after all.
And then – I swear – she winked at me.
-Terry Menefee Gau. Program Associate