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Homemade Toys

During the Depression there was no money for toys or books so you played with what was handed down from better days or made your own. Tools were scarce too. You were lucky if you had more than a hand saw, screwdriver, hammer, and pliers. We did have a coping saw but had to be very careful to saw straight up and down, not to pinch on the curves, or get the blade too hot or it would snap.

We didn't have a drill so we burned a hole in the hub of our model airplane propellers, which were carved with a pocket knife, by heating a nail red hot in the cook stove fire and holding it with pliers. Mother didn't care too much for the odor of burning pine wood in her kitchen, either!

If you needed to cut a wire you hammered it flat on the concrete or a rock and flexed it until it broke. To smooth rough wood without expensive sandpaper a piece of broken glass worked very well. Taught you to be careful, too!

Everything was made from orange crates, apple boxes, and cigar boxes which were begged from the grocery and drug stores. I can't remember paying for any lumber except a five foot board to make a racing car and three of us had to pool resources to buy that. The boxes were dismantled carefully and the nails straightened out for future use. Apple boxes were the 'premium' lumber.

Model airplane bodies were cut from the ends of orange crates and propellers carved from the scraps. Wings and tails were fashioned from the side boards. Wheels were a problem so most of our planes had none. If we needed glue it was a flour and water paste.

Rubber guns were our specialty. Several could be cut from each orange crate end board. A wooden, spring clothes pin was mounted on the handle and strips of old inner tubes cut for ammunition. Every boy had several guns and dozens of rubber strips. Gang fights were frequent.

Racing cars were a big project. In addition to a five foot plank you needed the wheels and axles from an old baby buggy or coaster wagon, a broom stick for a steering column, some kind of a steering wheel, and scraps of lumber to build a seat at the back and a cowl at the front. Ropes tied to the front axle ends and wound in opposite directions on the broom stick allowed some steering control. These were very popular with the driver--not so much with the pusher.

Every summer we spliced three or four orange crates together to make a lemonade stand but I can't say we ever made any profit. My sister (Marjorie) even had a dressing table in her bedroom at one time made from three orange crates spliced together and covered with a skirt she had fashioned.

This was originally written February 22, 1995 and sent to "Reminisce" magazine, Greendale, WI but no reply was ever received. V. L. Scott


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