One of the stores in downtown Stonington always seems to have some classic, vintage toys in its front display window. Last year the front window featured a balsa wood plane; this summer it is a glass jar of wooden tops. The tops drew me to the front window just as the Jetfire plane did, but I found myself wondering how many kids walking by even know what those wooden objects are.
The tops harken back to a day when many kids’ toys were made of wood–tops, Lincoln logs, train sets, and toy cars among them. (There weren’t many toys that required electricity in those days, save for E-Z Bake ovens and electric football; if you needed a power source for your robot or talking doll, then it was almost certainly those big D batteries.) Wooden toys were preferable, for both kid and parent, because they were solid and durable and pretty much unbreakable–unlike the flimsy plastic toys, which could crack or splinter easily, leaving a kid sad on Christmas Day.
I liked tops, because there was a certain learned skill involved in wrapping the string around the stem in the right way so that it didn’t get snarled and then giving the string just the right amount of pull. Too much of a yank,and the top went flying, not enough, and the top flopped over, but with the right tug the top would spin beautifully and stay upright for a while. A careful kid received an immediate reward for his/her patient attention to detail. That’s not a bad life lesson to be learned from a simple toy.
It’s nice to see that they still make wooden toys, like tops. From the look of that jar, I’d say customers have maybe bought a few, giving kids a chance to experience the simple pleasures of a top. Whether a kid will appreciate those pleasures in this era of video games and cell phones is anybody’s guess.