My 3 Favorite Toys as a Kid


Some of us never really grow up.

My kids know this about me. It’s said about many dads, really. But, it’s more than just making fart noises (with your mouth) and misbehaving in church. It’s holding fast to some of the things that connect us to our actual childhoods. Much of this is intangible.

Some of it is tangible.

My new friend Bacon Thompson, who puts a split hove to the blog Pig Love, asked followers to share their favorite toys from childhood. My (I won’t call her old) friend Michele from Old Dog, New Tits (I said it) asked for a post with a number in the title.

This is the best mash-up since KitKat. Or at least since Elvis Costello and Diana Krall.

dinosaur toys

3. Dinosaurs

The little plastic kind. But they had to be authentic. No Tyrannosauruses with three fingers. No quadrupedal carnivores with dragon tails. A kid knows the difference between a triceratops and a styracosaurus.

The toy didn’t have to roar or have moving parts; that’s what my imagination is for.

I had a load of these prehistoric beasts that met with an unkind fate.

I took them to the side of our house and buried them with plans for the greatest single excavation event performed by an elementary school kid. I just had to have lunch first.

I took enough time on my baloney sandwich that dad put down a new sidewalk on the same side of our house as archaeological history was to be made. Such a find would wait for another millennium.

2. Electronic football

6I was a blip on a screen – and a hall of famer in the making when I played electronic football.

These handheld games came with a silent mode that allowed us boys to play them long after bed time under the cover of our bed covers. They were late 1970s precursors to smart devices – only the worst thing we could do on them was turn off a game we were losing to start over.

Every boy seemed to have a different brand, and that’s where home field advantage was born. On mine, I was every bit Freeman McNeil and William Andrews, and virtually unstoppable. My game’s touchdown anthem sounded like the first bars of the theme song to The Bob Newhart Show.

On the real field, my game was much more like Bob Newhart’s – deadpan, and delivered with a stammer.

1. Star Wars figures

Frank Morado photo
Frank Morado photo

Specifically, my Stormtrooper. I still have him, yellowed with time and play, with limbs still tight because it meant so much to me. He’s been touched up with model paint in the great-intended but ill-crafted way of a 9-year-old boy.

(Maybe I was 13. What?)

There’s a reason Stormtroopers figure so prominently on my blog.

My dad lost his job at a meat packing plant in Greeley, Colo., during my prepubescent years. He worked odd jobs and odd hours to make ends meet, and it often meant missing him at meal time and even bed time. My birthday was no different that year.

And I missed my dad at my party.

Around the time cake had been dutifully destroyed, the headlights raced across the wall. Dad was home! He walked in the door, weary from the work day. I hugged him around his belly, and he said, “happy birthday.” He pulled my gifts out from his jean-jacket pocket.

It was two Star Wars figures – Han Solo and a Stormtrooper.

They weren’t in their packages, and had their guns in their hands. He had no idea why that made a kid like me giggle the way I did.

dad mugSee, I had this image of my dad, sitting in his truck outside Montgomery Ward, opening two packs of Star Wars figures. Wait, I just thought of him scouring the rack to pick out two figures. That was funny, too.

But the thought of dad opening their packages and putting their guns in their hands …

Star Wars figures and football cards were just tolerated clutter in the house with a son. My parents didn’t sort cards with me or play Star Wars. This is why the idea of my dad doing this for me after a long day at work was probably the best gift a boy could want.

The Stormtroopers? They’re a little shout-out to my dad, my legacy. And a sure sign to anyone who reads this blog that, no, I’ve never really grown up.

toy quote


  1. Great straight from the heart…nostalgia

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m all about the old-school.

  2. Holly says:

    Some awesome toys right there! Even better is when some of the toys we loved as kids are still around for our own kids to enjoy 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Hol – they kept me off the streets! Grace, when she was younger, loved to play with my Star Wars stuff – she called them my “mean toys.”

  3. laurie27wsmith says:

    3. A Zorro sword with a cavity on the end to put a piece of chalk in. Never have so many zeds been drawn on house walls by one small boy. 2. A Wyatt Earp, Buntline special Colt cap gun and a twin holster rig, I put my smaller gun in the left holster. I was the fastest draw in the street. 1. A packaged set of 6 Jaguar salon cars made between 1950-1959, by Matchbox but in a larger size. My old man stole them from where he worked, along with an attic load of tinned food and dry goods. I brought the packaged set and a dozen or so ordinary Matchbox cars to Australia, they were packed in our cabin trunk. When we lived on the migrant hostel, my brother who was four, took them out of the trunk and gave them to other kids so they’d let him play in the sandpit with them. When I found out I was devastated, I never even opened the boxes that the Jags came in. I guess there’s some irony and a moral to this tale.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Dude, you should have posted this as a blog! I’m duly impressed your Jaguar salon cars were stolen goods. The irony is sometimes tough to take, isn’t it?

      1. laurie27wsmith says:

        I’m thinking of throwing a few small post in on Wednesdays, this would have been right for it. I have a ton of anecdotes. Yep, irony’s tough. I used to tell people my folks were in the iron and steel business. Mum took in ironing and dad would steal.

  4. Lisa says:

    Awesome wonderful memories! And it’s so fun not completely growing up!! Hugz Lisa and Bear

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Lisa! I don’t know if I could grow up completely if I tried.

  5. mangocage says:

    I agree- it’s the imagination that really makes them come alive. It’s making me think of my favourite toys too. I’ve recently dug out my husband’s old lego people, complete with seventies hair and clothes- brilliant!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’d rather a toy leave something to imagination. What were your favorites? You can never go wrong with LEGOS, and no man should ever get rid of his.

  6. Since I was a girl and grew up in the late 70s, early 80s, it was Cabbage Patch Kids for me and can still see my own dad bringing me home not one, but two, because he put himself on the wait list in more then one place and ended up getting more then one from being on these wait lists. Great memories for sure and know I, too, never really completely grew up, because that little girl is tucked somewhere deep inside now.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I remember that craze. I think that little girl comes out in your writing, don’t you?

      1. I totally hope it does and I know she is there somewhere still 😉

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        I’d bet a stormtrooper on it.

  7. I grew up in the era of Care Bears and Rainbow Brite. But my favorite childhood toys weren’t even toys. They were books. A bookworm from an early age, books were always at the top of my wish list for Christmas and birthdays. Today we continue the tradition with our girls. You can never have enough books! Loved the insight into your childhood, Eli. What a great memory of your dad surprising you on your birthday!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That era came around when I was a bit older (but still had my own toys). Did you read Choose Your Own Adventure? I need to find the books that will get my girls to love reading. I think they’re getting close to finding them on their own.

      Thanks Nicole.

  8. PigLove says:

    OMP. These are awesome!! They bring back so many memories. Mom still has her football game like that. Snorts. Dad was playing it the other day. Awesome!! Thanks buddy for participating. XOXO – Bacon

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Bake. Even if the toys are long gone, the memories remain. I wonder if they’re sensitive about a football being called a pigskin and all (even though it’s cowhide).

      1. PigLove says:

        No sensitivities here. I come from a long line of participation in football. My ancestors go way back to the original days of football. In fact, some of them you call MVPP (most valuable pig players). When you think about it, we can’t have football with us piggies. If it wasn’t for us, it would just be a bunch of men on a field slapping each other on the butt. Right? Snorts. XOXO – Bacon

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        You’re one upstanding pig, Bake.

      3. PigLove says:

        Nods head – thank you my friend. I appreciate that. And just a heads up, we are working on that email for you. Hopefully I’ll have it together this week. XOXO – Bacon

  9. ksbeth says:

    oh, this is wonderful and i love your shout out to the man behind napoleon dyno. i loved my little plastic animals (would make up plays and stories with them), my golden books, and my easy bake oven.) i still love toys and now i can pretend they are for the grandies, (i have all kinds of mutant stuffed animals, children’s books and sparkly things).

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Jon Heder had it right! Golden books rocked, didn’t they? The best were read to oblivion. For one of the oldest dudes at my job, I have the most toys on my desk.

  10. Kir Piccini says:

    my favorite things as a child were books. I would sit in the library for hours and just read…I also loved playing cards with my mom or grandma. I know that I had toys I loved, but for the life of me I can’t think of any right now..I just remember the dog eared books that covered every inch of my house, ready for me to pick them up and go into another world.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I loved those summer reading programs at the library – the ones you got prizes for the books you read? It wasn’t even the prizes that made it awesome.

      And a deck of cards holds so much possibility. That could be a post in itself! Thanks Kir.

      1. Kir Piccini says:

        oh yes! I remember one in particular that had stickers on a castle, kings, queens, princesses etc and how I loved finishing a book and looking forward to the bookmark that signified that I was reading.

        I really loved this post, thank you for sharing it with us.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Thanks Kir – I look forward to getting back to your blog soon.

  11. tania2atee says:

    What a great story! And a great memory and tribute to your dad. Amazing.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Tania. He’s such an influence on me as a man and a dad. I’m glad to be his legacy.

  12. Twindaddy says:

    I happen to be a huge fan of stormtroopers.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I was always a little short to be a stormtrooper – how about you?

      1. Twindaddy says:

        Yeah, pretty much.

  13. This is the sweetest little post, Eli. Thanks for including it in Blog Posts by Number. P.S. My brother had the exact same “electronic” football game. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t understand it. Even then.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Hey thanks Michelle. I got in right under the deadline, didn’t I? I know, why did they call them electronic when they’re battery-powered? You really missed out.

      Those things worked out your thumbs like texting.

  14. Nicola Young says:

    Star Wars figures and plastic dinosaurs! Sounds just like my five year old. Times haven’t changed much have they? Top of my list would be my roller boots. I lived in them. Next would come Sindy doll and then probably my guitar, though not sure if it’s classed as a toy.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      That’s what it’s all about for a young boy, Nicola. Well, until he discovers football and girls.

      The guitar depends on the color, Nicola, or if it has a cartoon character on it.

  15. Aaaww, loved reading this and seeing a picture of your Dad! The birthday present story was your contribution to Karen’s advent calendar! My 3 favorite toys as a kid:
    1. A doll house that my parents made out of a discarded cabinet for stereo equipment. The compartment for the vinyl records was my car’s garage.
    2. Lego. My brother and I had streets. He was driving on them with all kinds of cars; I built houses with flowers and trees in the garden, fences and of course there were lots of Lego people. They all had a name.
    3. Books. I don’t think there was anything written by Enid Blyton that I haven’t read.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks TG. You’re right, I did off that one up for the advent calendar.
      I think I was cheated as a child, because we had so few lego people. We just had to make ones that looked like boxes with heads. I do remember a cool kit for the space shuttle.

      Call of the Wild was my favorite book as a kid. I gave my copy to Elise, but I don’t think she read it. It is a little brutal, but the books they give them for school are, too.

  16. Rorybore says:

    Our sandbox is full of those dinosaurs…..and you might even find some Star Wars figures, Lego and a naked Barbie (because the hell? why she’s always naked?) in there too. Half of that stuff always circles the tub with me when I am trying to find my zen during a hot soak.
    Yeah, I play with them.
    Polly Pocket totally digs Han Solo…. girls always love the scoundrel.
    Bah. Who wants to grow up anyway? 🙂

  17. tamaralikecamera says:

    My theme of Wednesday’s post is actually “Choose Your Own Adventure!”
    Anyway. Um. I still play with my bantha and my stormtroopers and the little Princess Leia that Scarlet carries everywhere.
    I still have all of my dinosaurs. I give them to my kids. Cassidy says they’re moldy and old and have no business being in this house. Or my parent’s house, for that matter.
    I say that my parents raised five kids who had each lost a parent – they wouldn’t dare throw away something that might be attached to something even better.
    I love the story about your dad.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Sweet! Those were the best books. Kind of freaky when I look back on the topics, but still.

      I think for my birthday I would like to see you post a vlog of you playing with the Bantha and making Bantha noises. You know what they are.

      Moldy dinosaurs deserve a chance, too. I think I read that on a T-shirt. Plus, those dinosaurs would get a pass even without the T-shirt.

      Glad you like the story about my dad. It explains a bit of the Stormtrooper prominence around here! I still want you to take a Stormtrooper pic for the blog.

  18. Kim says:

    Oh – that electronic football game – good memories!!! My brother had one but I used to play it!! And, we had the baseball one and I think basketball – I was never good at any of them but they were fun!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Those were the days, Kim. Awesome that you played it too – I thought girls were allergic! Baseball and basketball were OK, but electronic football was king.

  19. I remember playing electronic football in Mr. Wright’s eighth grade History class until he took it away from me. The rest was history. 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Did you ever get it back?

      Better yet, did you score?

  20. justemily3 says:

    What a great testament to toys. We lose so many along the way but there is some magic in a great toy. The one who got you through tough times and expanded your mind like nothing else could. The one that reminds you of your childhood when you forget that innocence you once had. Certain toys can be magic (toy story fan right here). Thanks for writing

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Toys kind of teach us to deal with the world, don’t they? And really, what I have now represents maybe 1% of what I had. (Anything more, and this would be a different post).

      One cool milestone is to see your kids play with stuff you did as a kid. Thanks for coming by Emily!

  21. Sandy Ramsey says:

    I always wondered about the stormtroopers and now I know. You got me with this one, Eli. I love the story about your dad!

    I remember the electronic football game. My brother had one…way back in the days when toys were toys. right?

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      It helped to find so many awesome images of stormtroopers on, and inspired the girls and me to make some of our own. Thanks Sandy!

      yes, toys were toys, and you had just a couple of buttons to push. I can’t get past the first world in Mario Bros., but I can put up 62 points on a chump football team with just my thumbs.

  22. Toys that you could play imaginary games with were the best! The only toy I really remember was my bug catcher. I loved that thing!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Grace loves hers – do you remember ant farms? I can’t imagine bringing a colony of ants into my house. They find the kitchen on their own!

  23. Rea Alducente says:

    I’d probably be giddy with Starwars toys too!! I wasn’t into girly stuff because I have a year younger brother and I wanted to compete with him so growing up, we played video games and played tamia and cards. Haha

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      They’re the best, aren’t they Rea? It helped that my little sister played Star Wars with me … the imagination power didn’t have to be only me.

  24. I was once at the park (as a child) with some of my Barbie dolls. I decided to bury one of them in the sand and left a big rock so I’d be able to find her again.

    I never did.

    I always wonder if some other kid was playing in the sand years later and found my poor little Barbie.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      I’m sorry Rox – I think my dinosaurs found her.

  25. LOVE this!!!
    Beautifully told, Eli!

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Thanks Gina! Glad I saw the prompt for this at Pig Love – it’s always been on my mind, I just hadn’t committed it to a post.

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