My friend L said recently that I should have married her husband! I was visiting her to commiserate over her broken collar bone and he invited me up to see……… no, not his etchings……. but a whole treasure chest (i.e. two story outbuilding) of boys’ toys – steam engines, meccano and a wonderful still-under-construction model railway. Wife L appears singularly unimpressed by these delights but I was captivated. I do understand what she means – I have often said to my husband that he should have married someone who enjoyed walking – I mean the serious kind which requires a certain kind of boot and wet-weather gear. No thanks – my hair would get wet!
As an adult I enjoy an occasional game of Scrabble and some years ago when Trivial Pursuit was popular I played a fair bit of that, but as a child I never much enjoyed board games of the Snakes & ladders or Ludo type. Apart from an asked-for game of Monopoly for my eighth birthday, I was far more interested in ‘doing’ type things so when we saw last year that an exhibition of children’s vintage construction toys (including the UK’s biggest exhibition of Meccano) was taking place at Enginuity, one of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums, a visit was a must.
Whilst the Meccano was interesting, what really took my eye as soon as we walked in was a gentleman wearing a hand knitted jumper….stay with me! The jumper depicted construction kit called Bayko. I’d tried to describe this kit to my husband some years before but since the name of it had slipped my mind, and he hadn’t recognisd my description, I’d forgotten all about it. Bayko was BRILLIANT – to my mind far more fun than either Meccano or Lego.
From said gentleman (who commented how wonderful it was to see such enthusiasm as I rediscovered this relic from my childhood) I learned that Bayko had been created in the 1930s and was designed to create scale 1:43 model buildings. Consisting of Bakelite ‘bricks’ that slotted onto metal poles which were pegged into a base, it achieved a much more realistic representation of a building than does Lego. I was thrilled to learn when talking to L’s husband that he remembered Bayco. If you look to the bottom of the second picture below, you will see a tiny model of the man in the jumper!
I wasn’t a great one for dolls (apart from Tressy (the Barbie type 12″ doll whose hair grew by means of a button on her tummy). Britain’s Floral Garden (scale 1:32) was one of my best loved toys and Christmas and birthdays often added bits to my collection. Ebay is great for sourcing pieces to grow collections of vintage toys and a little while ago I began once more collecting a few bits. Originally produced in lead, by the 1960s when I was playing with it, the main parts came in plastic. Tiny stems were planted into moulded garden borders using a special planting tool which forced the end into the ‘soil’ so that the flowers stood up. These were not just a generic flower shape but also identifiable species such as lupins, roses and sunflowers, snowdrops and crocus.
The borders were used to surround flock ‘lawn’ and cardboard crazy paving formed the garden paths. As well as flowers, hedges and trees, accessories included items such as a garden pond, greenhouse and lawnmower. I’ve since discovered that there were tiny people available too but I hadn’t known that at the time. I played for hours at a time creating my garden – which all seems a little ironic when you consider the fact that I dislike gardening and do absolutely nothing beyond deadheading the odd rose as I walk down the garden path!