First Things

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Memories Of A Former Kid

It’s Christmas, when we all become kids again.
The holidays bring to mind the toys of childhood, and for many,
those toys were farm-related. Most were mass-produced devices. Some
held up under the rigors of backyard use; others were cheap and
self-destructed almost instantly. But none were as elegantly
executed as the pieces crafted by the master builders profiled in
this issue of Farm Collector: If a child raised in the
1930s had risen Christmas morning to find a toy as fine as these
beneath his tree, his heart would surely have stopped.

Scratch-built masterpieces, of course, are not intended for
play. They are prized collectibles, to be admired but not put to
work. Perhaps their greatest value comes in the memories they
rekindle … memories of toys far simpler but no less cherished. Toy
builder Ev Weber has first-hand knowledge of that. As a child of
the Depression era, he remembers no toys beneath the Christmas
tree. But he does recall – and still has – the tractors and
implements he built himself. A tractor constructed from wood scraps
and a wagon fashioned from a cigar box elicit the strongest
reaction from those who visit his show displays. “They realized
what those meant,” he says, “because they, too, didn’t have
anything during the Depression.”

In an essay titled “Toys from Dad’s Workshop” published in “A
Farm Country Christmas,” artist and writer Bob Artley (whose
cartoons appear on this page in every issue of Farm
Collector
) has fond memories of the homemade farm toys his
father crafted each holiday season. Cloistered in his workshop, the
young farmer spent late evenings each December building toy barns,
outbuildings, windmills and trains for his sons. Artley’s parents
loved the tradition as much as the boys did: They planned and
schemed, dropped hints and added unique details. On Christmas
morning, the scent of freshly cut and painted lumber filled the
house.

Artley notes with regret that none of those handcrafted
treasures survived his childhood. “In hindsight, I cannot imagine
why we didn’t take better care of those heirlooms, which they
certainly were,” he muses. “But as children we did value them
highly as toys to use and to enjoy for that brief moment of
childhood.” Your own carpet-farming days are likely far behind you.
Take a moment this holiday season to recall them, and the toys that
once loomed as large as the real thing. Happy holidays from all of
us at Farm Collector

Leslie McManus, Editor
lmcmanus@ogdenpubs.com

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment