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The toys which ‘played’ a huge part in your childhood

Lynn Edwards with some of the wide display of toys in Harlow Products.
Lynn Edwards with some of the wide display of toys in Harlow Products.

As a lad, going “down town” was an experience to be endured, until that is, we came to a toy shop, and with it, the chance to get a new car or plastic soldier.

Toy cars, in those days, were mainly made by Matchbox, Dinky or Corgi and came in boxes, which as soon as you got home, were ripped open and discarded – big mistake!

For now, those very cardboard boxes are the things that, as far as collectors are concerned, add so much money to the value of the cars that went inside.

Over the years, those tiny (in the case of the Matchbox models) toy metal cars have either been binned, lost or pushed in the loft to gather dust.

Any that have survived will no doubt be missing their original packaging, a real cause for regret when hoping for a “cash in the attic” moment.

Still, thinking back, the pleasure gained from playing with such finely detailed miniature vehicles as old Zephyrs, Zodiacs and the like, remains priceless.

Like all my mates, I spent endless hours playing with them indoors and outdoors, in the street and schoolyard; having transported them in my trouser pocket.

Of course, if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have kept the boxes in pristine condition and counted the coppers proffered by collectors. But then I wouldn’t have taken the cars out and wheeled them, spun them, crashed them and, well ... played with them.

And the same is true of the Britains or Timpo’s soldiers and figures that were such a big part of a boy’s growing up.

Cowboys and Indians, moulded in plastic and painted in the gaudiest of colours, could be found in houses up and down the land, along with uniformed soldiers from all periods of history.

Again, no thought was given to their care; they were there to be lined-up, knocked over, buried in the soil and – enjoyed.

I can still remember the thrill of waiting week after week (because they cost so much more than the normal-sized soldier) until the time came to choose one of Louis Marx’s six inch plastic figures.

Over the years, I was bought Second World War British infantrymen (dull green in colour) German soldiers (in grey) and American troops (in dark green).

My favourite, though, was an American Indian bowman, who was made of bright red plastic. The Marx figures and the superbly detailed Britains soldiers (which were made-up of lots of component parts) were the bee’s knees of toys, and can often be found for sale on eBay.

Such toys sparked the imagination and though nowadays they may have seen better days, at the time – were worth their weight in gold.

l Following on from the recent article about Jim Calvert and how he saved a young boy from injury in a road accident, the “lad” in question has been in touch.

He is Terry Gardner, and he wrote: “I was reading an article about Jim Calvert in your nostalgia section. His nephew told a story about the time when he was involved in an accident on the coast road and saved a lad from serious injury.

“I am the lad in question, and yes, he risked his own life to save me. My name is Terry Gardner and I went on to play for Marsden Juniors till I was 18 years of age.

“I will never forget his act of bravery.”