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Friday, November 12, 2010
Making Toys from Household Items
I was a child of the Great Depression. We had purchased toys but we made or had made for us toys that were simply put together from things around the home. It didn't have as much to do with saving money as it did with the culture of the time. We were not so far removed from our pioneer ancestry and doing for oneself was ingrained in us.
The pound loaf of Kraft cheese used to come in a wood box. A couple of empty cheese boxes could be turned into a two story doll house. A little glue held the two boxes together , one atop the other. You then cut and folded heavy paper accordian fashion to make stairs from one floor to another. Cardboard cut into the right size made walls separating each box into two or three rooms. Empty wood spools could be turned into furniture. I cord was made on a spool knitter, coiled and sewn to make a rug. You were only limited by your imagination.
Food was canned in tin cans, not aluminum which crushes so easily. With two empty cans you had a toy. You punched two holes in the top of each can. The holes were opposite each other. You cut two pieces of clothes line each about 4 feet long, ran one piece through the holes in each can and tied the ends in a knot. Each can now had a loop of rope attached to it. Then you could stand with one foot on each can and holding on to the rope walk on your newly made stilts.
Cigar boxes were a big prize. When enpty they could hold all your secret treasures.
A large button made a great toy. You cut a piece of heavy string about two yards long. Size would depend on the size of the child. Put the ends through the two button holes and tie them in a knot. Now you have two loops each eighteen inches long and a large button hanging in the middle. You start twirling the button winding up the string until the string is tightly wound. Then you pull both loops at once. The string unwinds and rewinds spinning the button and making a very satisfactory whirring noise.
Girls were encouraged to do those things that supposedly taught the skills one would need when keeping house. We made doll clothes, baked using toy baking sets and had tea parties. Boys were encouraged to use hammer and nails, and one of the toys every boy made, and I hated, was a rubber band gun. All you needed was a piece of wood onto which you affixed a spring clothes pin, and a rubber band. You put one end of the rubber band on the end of the wood "barrel" of your gun , stretched it tight and put the other end into the clothes pin. Then you pressed on the clothes pin, it opened, and the rubber band went flying. Girls were always being chased by any boy in the neighborhood with a rubber band gun.
I don't suppose you could make any one of these toys now. Of course the wood boxes are no more, but I suspect even clothes line, clothes pins and button boxes are rare in todays homes. However, if you can make a button whizzer for a young child in your family, I bet they will think you're a genius.