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Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Before TV, electronic gadgets, computers and video games, kids made up their own games and with the help of an adult who could come up with string, bits of wood or whatever was needed, often made their own toys.
My grandfather was the CEO of a coffee company. The company had a fleet of delivery trucks that came into the plant through a big door that opened on to the street. Just inside that door was a large metal trash can full of roasted peanuts in the shell. Everyone that came into the plant helped themselves to peanuts. Even casual passers by on the street would step inside and get a handful of peanuts. Every now and then my grandfather would fill a brown paper bag with these peanuts and bring them home. Of course, if there were peanuts in the house there had to be peanut men. He made peanut men by pushing a small wire through the shells of the peanuts, stringing them together like stick men. .Because they were strung on wire, the peanut men could be posed in different positions. They were also almost indestructible. As circus acrobats they could fly through the air and take long falls to the floor without breaking. As super heroes they could fight the bad guys without getting hurt. They could even float, at least for a little while. Eventually, however, a peanut man would get a long break in one of his shells. Well, when that happened there was just one thing to do, smash him and eat the peanuts.
My grandfather also made walnut boats for us. He would take half a walnut shell and put a drop of wax from a candle in the bottom of the shell. While the wax was still soft he stuck the end of a used matchstick into it. That made the mast for a sail. The sail was cut out of paper and glued to the mast. In the bathtub blowing gently on the sail would make the walnut boat sail across the tub.
After it rained the gutter in front of our house would have a torrent of water running rapidly down the street to the storm drain. That is when walnut boats were the most fun. You were supposed to start your boat at the top of the gutter. It would race down the street, bobbing and twirling in the rapidly moving water. Of course, you had to run along side and catch it before it went down the drain, and you lost your boat. When you pulled your boat from the water you took it back to the starting point and let it race down again and again and again. Eventually the boat was lost or was filled with water and sank or you were so wet your mother made you come inside to get dry and warm.