I have this horrible behavior of collecting things. A bad habit of not being able to throw out old stuff. It’s dangerous. If I’m not careful, all that stuff can build up and fill up my house so much I could get buried in the rubble. It’s really just objects of affection that I’ll keep lying around. Things that have no monetary worth and their only value is sentiment. I have shoe boxes of stuff since college alone that are filled with memorabilia that their only purpose is to remind me of what I was going through at the time. However, there were those little things I left behind, physically and also somewhere in the depths of my cranium, as I grew up and moved out of my parents’ house that I really cherished.
Since I’ve moved back to my home city I’ve rediscovered a few of those old treasures at the house I was raised. Visiting my parents recently, they had a table full of old paperwork and boxes they had been going through. On the table among the waste was an old, tin coin bank, black with gold trim worn away on the edges and a big combination wheel that did not work. Made in England exclusively for Avon. Inside were obscure old coins that I collected in my childhood.
Something called a Wooden Dickel: Half dime, half nickel, stolen at Butler & Sons Western Emporium in Phoenix, AZ. I’m not even sure if they’re still in business.
Un Peso from 1971 and a $20 Dinero piece. Francs and Canadian dimes and pennies. Deutsche Mark. All of which I have no idea where I obtained them, because I certainly was not a world traveller circa ten years old.
Commemorative copper coins from the Arizona Mining Association.
A 1957 nickel.
A 1935 penny.
The little bank also held flattened pennies I would put on the train tracks that ran next to my old friend’s house in South Phoenix. I remember showing my father and his affectionate words to me upon hearing what I had done, “You don’t put pennies on the railroad tracks! You’ll make the train derail, and EVERYONE will DIE!” Lies our fathers tell us. I’m not sure if he said this to try to keep me alive, or if he believed it because his father said the same thing to him.
That little bank got my mind going. Where was the rest of my old stuff? My old baseball cards and whatnot? For these, I had to venture into the attic space, which in summer in Phoenix is a nice 110+ degrees. But it’s dry. Until you start seeping buckets of sweat.
Buried in a far, dark corner behind stacks of christmas boxes and three plastic Wise Men was a Rubbermaid tub that held the rest of my most precious childhood treasures. Just one little tub. I hauled it down and popped it open to find old combat boots I would wear when I accompanied my father and brothers hunting. They might actually fit me now. A couple of car speakers an Army recruiter gave to me to bribe me to join. I promptly gave those to Nephew David. The rest? Things I had actually cared about at one point.
There were rolls of old Star Wars posters. (Yeah. That was on my wall.) Two more coin banks containing obscure tokens and pennies. Robie the Robotic Banker from Radio Shack that would eat the coins, and a metal 1915 Model T Ford. Classic Coke bottles. Two glass commemorative Batman Forever mugs from McDonald’s. A Spalding shoe box full of Chevron Commemorative model cars still in the original packaging that were made in England. (Those are actually worth something.) The box also contained a deck of Batman Returns playing cards, an Operation Desert Storm “Support our troops” pin, a bag of marbles. Oh, and live ammunition. A 9mm shell with a live primer!
That’s right. Because apparently I used to belong to a gang of ruffians that would terrorize the neighborhood, challenging other kids to a game of marbles, and perhaps a gun fight.
In all seriousness, though, not sure how this got past my dad. He would take me out to the desert and taught me to shoot, and he was always very strict and diligent about gun safety. If he had found out, I can just hear him now, “You don’t keep live rounds in a shoe box! It could be set off by one of your millions of stupid action figures and fire into someone’s head! And EVERYONE will DIE!”
My father shouted a lot.
Then, of course, there were my baseball cards. I had binders full of them. I amassed quiet a few between ’89 and ’92. I mostly had Topps, but there were some Fleer and Donruss in there, which, apparently, isn’t called Donruss anymore. They are all still, surprisingly, in great condition. It was fun looking through those old cards and seeing how much I remembered them. All my favorites were in there. Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Jose Canseco, Ken Griffey, Jr., Wade Boggs, Bo Jackson, Cal Ripken, Jr., Darryl Strawberry, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, and Mark McGwire, before the roids. I collected any and all kinds of cards. I had these large cards, twice the size of a regular baseball card, and miniature Topps cards that were in Cracker Jack boxes for a limited time.
I don’t know why I stopped collecting.
In my old bedroom I lived until I was 16, there is still the glow-in-the-dark solar system pasted to the ceiling. Those have been stuck to the ceiling for a little over 20 years. It’s awesome. In my solar system, the moon isn’t anywhere near planet Earth, and the majority of the planets would eventually collide in their rotation around the sun, which was the light on the ceiling.
It was actually endearing to see that my parents left those on there. Even after they added the ceiling fan.
What childhood toys did you cherish? What did you collect as a kid and left behind when you moved out?