Those Special Christmas Toys

es, there are a few more things I miss about Christmas 25 years ago besides the hams, apples, grapes, house parties, the green Christmas tree, the posadas, the bitterly cold days, and the spiritual Christmas songs. I also miss those specially made toys, which our parents did especially for us.

First there were the spinning tops. Our parents traditionally shaped and carved these for us from the sea grape or guava branch because they were hard wood. But for Christmas we delighted in receiving a factory-made top which, or course came in several colors and shapes and sizes. Our guava tops took a rest while we cracked the imported ones made of soft pine.

An example of the tin can sankos.
Then there were the sankos- the tin can sankos and the wood pole sankos. Sankos were large tin cans fixed to strings. Children learned to walk and run on these sankos only to feel a little taller. The wood sankos were eight-foot poles that were rigged up with a little platform that served as a footrest. The footrest could be anything from one foot to three feet high and this is how high the child would be off the ground while walking with these sankos. We had running races with these sankos and even tested how deep into the sea one was able to walk with these. It was quite amusing and a challenge.

A tin can filled with sand and a string to pull it behind you also made a delightful toy. The object of this toy was to fabricate one that would make the most noise and also to withstand a long race down the street without it falling apart. So you could fill your tin can with sand, beans, pebbles, and even bottle stoppers to be able to create the most noise out of this toy.

Oh yes, we cannot forget those specially made rifles with a stick, a rubber band and a clothesline pin. The rubber band was stretched and held by the clothesline pin. When you pressed the end of the pin, it released the rubber, which catapulted any missile like a little pebble to its target.

Then there were the famous noisy “ruedas” or wheels. These were the metal rims of drums, round of course, and were propelled down the street using another piece of metal shaped like a hook. These made fabulous speed and dexterity races and were noisy as hell.

The sling shot used to be a favorite and simply used a “Y” shaped piece of branch and a piece of rubber band. Similar to this was the string sling called a “yun tun” (kind of a Chinese pronunciation). This released a piece of rock as a missile and was mostly used for distance throwing, not accuracy shots, though there were some guys who were quite dexterous at it too. Oh yes, a simple piece of string tied in one continuous piece made a good Christmas gift for boys and girls delighted in making diamonds with it. Some guys could make up to ten perfectly shaped diamonds with this string, while others made violins, bridges, and even the Eiffel Tower.

Airplane propellers were easy to fabricate. A piece of cardboard was shaped like a two-blade propeller and a hole bored through the center. A pin was inserted in the hole and held from behind allowing the breeze to spin the propeller. If there was no breeze, you would run down the street to make breeze hit your propeller while you made the sounds of an airplane. The best propellers were those that were colorful and would spin non-stop with the lightest of wind.

As you can appreciate these were mostly toys for boys but the fun of it was that girls did not want to be deprived of this “boy fun”, so they eagerly participated on the boy games too. They traditionally got their dolls and tea sets but sooner or later they would want to enjoy the boy games. As for a boy, if you really wanted to make his day, give him a pop shot gun or pistol. The only problem is that at five cents a roll, pop shots were expensive and we preferred to create the popping sound of the gun with the mouth. If someone wasted your pop shot, it could result into a real fight. These were some of the popular toys of 25 years ago and what fun it was to sing and play on a Merry Christmas Day, 25 five years ago.

From the author of Twenty Five Years Ago and Family, Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year to all readers and friends. May the joy of the past and the happiness of the present combine to make your life a truly blessed and special one.

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