Darby Kelly is 7. She likes Barbie and American Girl dolls, but one of her Christmas wishes could just as easily be on a grown-up’s list.
“I want an iPod,” the Edmonds girl said.
She’s hardly alone among her peers. My oldest grandson, about to turn 5, has a tot’s version of a digital camera. His brother, soon to be 2, knows how to swipe a cellphone screen to look at pictures. Today’s kids have never known a world without sophisticated technology.
On Tuesday, Darby and her 6-year-old sister, Fallon, were at the Edmonds Historical Museum, where the current exhibit is “Once Upon a Toy.” A collection of vintage playthings, it includes dolls from the early 1900s, Flexible Flyer sleds from the Depression era, and more recent toys — troll dolls, Beanie Babies and a classic Etch A Sketch nearly unchanged since its introduction in 1960.
Open 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, the exhibit is on view until Jan. 15.
Those bygone treasures sit silently in museum display cases — no bells, whistles or loud electronic beeps — but in today’s hurry-up, high-tech world they have something to say. They offer a thought-provoking contrast to the gadgets on 2016 hottest-toy lists.
I’m old enough to remember when a tablet was something to scribble on with crayons or a No. 2 pencil. The first skateboard I rode was homemade in the 1960s with wheels from old roller skates.
My favorite childhood Christmas gift was a tetherball set, which my dad anchored by making a concrete base in an old tire. Although I was almost middle-school age, I spent hours outside punching that tetherball with my brother or neighborhood kids. A half-century later, I wonder — is childhood now being cut short as kids “play” with the same technology their parents use?
The nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood defines its mission as working “to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers.” Earlier this month, the organization announced nominees for its 2016 TOADY (Toys Oppressive and Destructive to Young Children) Awards for Worst Toy of the Year.
On the list for the dubious award is View-Master Batman: The Animated Series Virtual Reality Pack, a headset that has an app compatible with a smartphone. There is also Pokemon GO, which critics say puts kids at risk by mapping their movements and possibly providing data for advertising purposes.
“The hottest toys of 2016 have one thing in common: technology,” wrote Parija Kavilanz in an article posted Tuesday on the CNNMoney website. Kavilanz described Hatchimals, a $60 interactive pet, as the “buzziest toy of the season.” And the Code-A-Pillar, by Fisher Price, is a motorized caterpillar that supposedly will begin teaching preschoolers how to write code.
If all this has you longing for the days of building forts by putting blankets over the backs of chairs, stop by the Edmonds Historical Museum, which is in the city’s 1910 Carnegie Library building. Darby and Fallon, who had Tuesday off from Holy Rosary School, were there with their aunt, Caitlin Kelly, the museum’s director.
At 33, Caitlin Kelly relates to toys from the 1980s and ’90s. The Barbie dolls in the display are hers, and she had trolls that were a next generation of the troll dolls I had in the ’60s.
Kelly provided details on some of the exhibit’s antiques. There are early 20th century dolls, made by the Effanbee Doll Company, with bisque porcelain heads. A winter sports collection includes metal clamp-on ice skates, a 1935 “Pursuit” model Flexible Flyer sled, and a 1930s Broadmount hockey stick.
Political correctness apparently wasn’t the order of the day in the 1930s, when a tin wind-up Army tank was made by Louis Marx and Co. An armed World War I Doughboy pops out of the toy tank. From later years, the wackiest item on display may be a Happy Days Fonzie Paper Doll set. I can now say I’ve seen the Fonz in boxer shorts.
Kelly said members of the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society and Museum shared nostalgic memories during a recent preview of the exhibit. “Everybody loves toys,” she said.
I fell for an inanimate puppy in the display, a Trippel-Trappel pull-toy dachshund on wheels. The little brown dog, made in about 1910 by the German toymaker Gebruder Bing, is a mohair version of my real buddy Oscar, a dachshund-chihuahua mix.
While many kids hope for high-tech surprises, its seems some adults yearn for toys of simpler times. Last week I found two of those antique Trippel-Trappel dachshunds on the eBay bidding website. One had already sold, but the other was still available — for $180. And Santa, I’ve been good.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Edmonds Historical Museum’s exhibit “Once Upon a Toy” is on display through Jan. 15. The museum, at 118 Fifth Ave. N. in downtown Edmonds, is open 1-4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. The museum is collecting new, packaged underwear and warm socks for the nonprofit Clothes for Kids. Suggested donation to support the museum is $5 for adults, $2 for students. Information: www.historicedmonds.org/