Explore the History of Our Childhoods at the TOYS Exhibition

I experienced a mixture of nostalgia and absurdity when visiting a museum yesterday and seeing toys from my childhood on display in glass cases, complete with object labels. Not to mention that I felt old . . . very, very old.

This eternal 8-year-old might have a few gray hairs now, but I still love toys. Despite fearing the next display would be called “The Obsolete Man” and include a neatly labeled photograph of yours truly, I managed to have tons of fun at the traveling Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s exhibition, currently at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond.

The TOYS exhibition at the Virginia Historical Society includes a 1970s living room

The TOYS exhibition at the Virginia Historical Society includes a 1970s living room

Even beyond the toys themselves, there was much creativity on display. For each of the three decades covered, a simulated living room represented the era. I am a child of the late 1970s and early 1980s, so the 1970s living room felt quite familiar.

Sticking with the 1970s theme, I thought I would share a few of the photographs I took of favorite toys at the exhibition.

Kenner Play-Doh Ice Cream Truck (1975) as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Kenner Play-Doh Ice Cream Truck (1975) as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

I received a Play-Doh Ice Cream Truck around Christmas 1978. The resulting treats looked yummy, but eating Play-Doh was never my thing.

A well-loved set of Kenner’s “First 12” STAR WARS action figures (1977-1978), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Considering the high quality of most of the toys in the exhibition, I was surprised at the relative poor condition of the Star Wars figures on display. Note the discoloration on the stormtrooper, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Artoo. Even the figures I played with as a child remain in much better condition than many of these pieces. No matter the condition, however, no 1970s toy collection is complete without Star Wars figures.

Tonka's Aerial Ladder Fire Truck (1978), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Tonka’s Aerial Ladder Fire Truck (1978), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

In Christmas 1979, I received a Tonka fire truck similar to the one above but a slightly different model. Mine even included a firefighter action figure. Including hand-me-downs from my brother, I had enough fire trucks to run a full station. The 1979 Tonka was my favorite.

Hasbro's HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPOS game (1978), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Hasbro’s HUNGRY, HUNGRY HIPPOS game (1978), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Plastic mouths attempting to gobble up marbles make Hungry, Hungry Hippos one of the loudest games I ever played, which is part of what makes it so fun. I can remember playing this at a friend’s house around 1982. I also played Hungry, Hungry Hippos with my niece years later.

Hasbro's GI Joe Mercury Astronaut (1966), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

Hasbro’s GI Joe Mercury Astronaut (1966), as displayed at the TOYS exhibition

While the GI Joe Mercury Astronaut pictured above was before my time, I know a cool toy when I see one. Though not part of the Toys display as far as I saw, this toy originally came with a 45 RPM record containing highlights of John Glenn‘s 1962 Friendship 7 space flight. Somewhere along the way, I picked up this record at a yard sale in the 1980s. I wish I still had it. Incidentally, if ever there was a human personification of GI Joe, it had to be Glenn. As for this toy, it is officially on my Want list.

Whether you are an actual or eternal 8-year-old, the Toys of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s exhibition is worth checking out at the Virginia Historical Society, its final stop.

They say youth is fleeting. That may be true, but at least I can visit mine in a museum.


Toys will be available through December 31, 2017. Museum admission is always free, while tickets for the exhibition are $10 for adults. There is no charge for museum members or people 18 or younger.

10 thoughts on “Explore the History of Our Childhoods at the TOYS Exhibition

  1. Thanks for sharing the pics. I recently went to a toy exhibition in England and it was a pure nostalgia rush seeing all those old toys. I love the Star Wars figures on the stand because they are natural, mostly weapon-less, or have broken sabers, and haven’t been kitted out with repros. I think the discolouration is due to years of being displayed in a room with a lot of sunlight. Also love the G.I. Joe and Play-Doh truck. It was good they had the simulated rooms too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comments. Attempting to evade repro weapons and accessories is definitely a challenge when it comes to collecting vintage Star Wars figures. I agree that it is better to go without than settle for a repro.

      One thing I failed to mention in my post, though I am sure you noticed, is that the action display stand holding the figures might be the most valuable component of the Star Wars toys at the exhibit. It is unfortunately missing the cardboard backdrop, though. As above, better no backdrop than a repro.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Totally with you. I had a quick look at eBay, and it is on the expensive side (at least from my perspective) if in decent condition. I’m going to finish my Kenner 1977-1985 Star Wars figures collection before I move to something like this. It is definitely very cool, and I’m going to keep an eye out for it at antique stores, yard/garage sales, etc.

      I have to be careful on eBay, by the way. If I look too long, things have a way of showing up here a few days later!

      Like

  2. Pingback: Kenner’s “First 12” Figures Unlocked the Magic of STAR WARS | Pastimescapes

Comments are closed.