The holidays are a time when most of us do a lot of reminiscing and think about family traditions or what we associate with certain days of the year. For many of us, we are immediately reminded of our childhood when a certain toy is mentioned. It brings you back to the countless days and hours you spent playing with that toy and how much joy it brought you, even if for a brief period of time.
In light of our second annual Room In Your Heart toy donation campaign from The Lenox Hotel, we asked some of our Lenox staff members to share their favorite childhood toy memories. As the season goes on, we will keep adding more and we hope this will inspire you to come down to The Lenox and donate an item or two to the Wonderfund!
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO DANIEL DONAHUE, PRESIDENT
My favorite toy as a child was a little monkey called Monchhichi. She was a little monkey that came everywhere with me. I got her on my 4th birthday and she became my best friend. I would not go anywhere without her. I mean, it was bad; car rides with no seatbelt on, dinner table every night, bathroom. I even once tried to bring in the bathtub with me. She was my best friend for years. One day she was gone, I don’t know what exactly happened to her, but my parents bought more toys, so I eventually forgot about her. Fast forward 20 years, my brother got me the same doll for Christmas as one of my gifts, since he thought it would be funny. I, on the other hand, cried. Every day I make my bed and she lays there until I get home.
I know she is an ugly doll, don’t judge!
My brother and I as kids had many the royal battle with the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Nothing develops that brotherly bond like knocking each other’s block off.
DIRECTOR OF REVENUE & DISTRIBUTION
My favorite present wasn’t actually a gift, but a gift my brother, Brian got. Although Santa was running a few days late, when Playstation 2 came out, Brian was extremely lucky to receive it as a Christmas gift. But there was a problem. Our TV was too old to work with the Playstation and we needed an adapter. Or we lost power the day it arrived and couldn’t play. Or our heat stopped working and we needed to leave our house. Clearly, I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I remember we couldn’t play with it right away. However, that afternoon my parents drove us over to our grandparents’ house (they had left for a Florida vacation right after Christmas) and the two of us brought along the Playstation and NHL 2001, the game that came bundled with it. Brian and I hooked it up to their TV and played together for hours despite not really being hockey fans. I’ll never forget that Christmas, not for the actual gift, but for the time we spent together.
SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM COORDINATOR
Getting a new set of K’nex as a gift was the BEST, and my excitement would only grow if I saw gift wrapped in the shape of the unique style the K’nex pieces came in. K’nex were great because I could stick to building the easier formations like the butterfly or dinosaur, while my older brother was busy assembling fully formed windmills and cars. As I got older, I learned how to follow the instructions for more complex figures, or just use my imagination and make something new!
SENIOR SALES MANAGER
Growing up we were a pretty big hockey family. My two older brothers played and of course I had to do everything they did, so at a young age I ditched the figure skates for hockey skates. Winters were mainly spent in our driveway playing hockey; I was typically forced by my brothers to play goalie so they could practice their slap shot with a frozen tennis ball. In an effort to find something I could beat them at, I asked for a table top hockey for Christmas one year. Our games got pretty competitive and usually ended in fights, but hey at least it gave me a break from saving frozen tennis balls in 20-degree weather.
Here is a bonus picture of me playing hockey with my dad!
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
When I was a kid, any time I got a good report card or if there was a special occasion, it meant I got to pick out a new matchbox car. At the time, I thought life didn’t really get any better than that. I also had a large mat with a city map on it that you could use the cars on – I would spend hours playing with them. I now realize that life does get better _ I get to watch all three of my nephews use the same cars and mat that I played with when I was a kid. My mom saved them all and whenever my nephews are at my parents’ house they do exactly the same thing I used to do. It’s a very cool thing to see that, despite all the technology, these toys are still relevant and loved.
GUEST EXPERIENCE AMBASSADOR
I was a super social child who always loved to be in the thick of the action; be it at a family event or even creating imaginary pretend scenarios. I enjoyed playing school, restaurant and even hotel and I always loved to talk. One Christmas, I received the most amazing doll, Chatty Cathy! Through the wonder of a pull tab hidden under her lush curls, the doll actually spoke. Although her phrases were limited, they occurred in a random order and always had a liberal sprinkling of “I love you’s” in the mix, just enough magical anticipation for hours of play. Although extremely low-tech by today’s standards Chatty Cathy was a wonder in her time and the envy of all my friends.
In 1994, there were many toys that could have been found on my letter to Santa, but one in particular that was #1 on my Christmas list was the American Girl doll Molly. As a four-eyed seven-year-old girl, I felt this doll resembled and embodied me minus the brown hair. Every American Girl doll has a story and similar to Molly’s story, I too was an aspiring tap dancer who was desperate for attention and was not a fan of math problems. Molly traveled everywhere with me, to friend’s sleepovers, to family trips to grandma’s house to the dinner table; she even had her own suitcase of clothes. I’m positive if you were to ask my grandmother what the best gift she ever gave to me was, she would say it was my American Girl doll. Today, American Girl still reigns as one of the best doll shops in the United States, where you can even create your own doll that matches your style and spirit.
There are many toys that I have loved throughout my childhood, but there was on that stood out and proves to have stood the test of time: The Star Wars Power of the Force Electric Millennium Falcon. The picture included here is unfortunately not my own. My personal Millennium Falcon, while still at my parents’ house is, almost certainly missing pieces and buried in a box labeled “kids toys” deep within the metropolis of our various basement boxed belongings.
With “authentic movie sounds”, a removable roof and various action parts, this thing was everything I couldn’t wanted to bring my beloved Star Wars movies to life. The fact that kids today (and let’s be honest, adults everywhere) have their own Star Wars movies to obsess over is something that warms my heart a million time over (and before you ask, I will absolutely be seeing the new movie in theaters opening day). But the beauty of a toy is that it doesn’t limit what a child’s imagination can do with it. My Millennium Falcon was a vehicle that could allow Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, the Green Power Ranger, and my Street Shark figures to join forces and run covert ops against the villainous hoards of toy horse figurines and the dreaded Furbies that would never die in my sister’s room. Those memories are something I will always have to look back on fondly.
DIRECTOR OF CATERING
I asked my Mom what my favorite toy was as a child and she told me it was our family cat, Booster. I guess I would carry him around the house on my shoulders and occasionally dress him up. The funniest part is that I had a lisp so I would chase him around the house yelling “Booothhherrrrrr”. Booster showed up on our doorstep on a freezing cold winter’s night in January, and he was starving with no tags so we had to take him in! My mom, sister and one of my brothers were allergic to cats so I had to BEG my family to keep him. At first, he slept by the heater in the basement and then within days, everyone fell in love with him and he was part of our family for 10 years!
I was quite into Barbie’s when I was younger. To me, there was no such thing as too many accessories or dolls or outfits. So, one year Santa brought me a big Barbie Dream House and I loved it so much. I would make up elaborate stories for all the different Barbie dolls and sit in my room for hours and just immerse myself into this “second life” if you will. While I had many favorite toys throughout my childhood years, whenever I think back on the one that I remember the most, that Barbie Dream House definitely takes the crown.
VICE PRESIDENT, OPERATIONS & SUSTAINABILITY
It was a year where I was done riding a skateboard that came pre-assembled from Toys-R-Us. I was doing tricks, ollies were easy, kickflips were a distant goal, jumping down steps and grinding rails was an everyday occurrence. So for Christmas, my dad brought me to a skate shop and let me walk through, picking out the parts for my ideal skateboard. The board itself is obviously important, but then you need to select the griptape, knowing that it’s going to cover the cool shaped wood that has been painted some funky color. The top will just be black once applied. But the board is not the only time to pick something that stands out and is cool. The wheels are a real showcase (even knowing that they’ll get dirty after a few days). I’m not sure why, but neon green stood out to me, so while going along with my dream skateboard, that’s what I indicated. Then there are the nuts and bolts (somewhat literally). The trucks (the axels that hold the wheels on and attach to the board itself) and the bearings (you’ve got options based on performance, speed, and price you want to spend). So we spent an hour or so in this amazing skate shop, and I walked out with nothing to show for it. But my wheels were certainly spinning. Christmas was close enough in view, but still far enough away to make my excitement fade into the background.
Christmas morning it all came rushing back. My sister and I ran out into the living room to see the bounty under the tree. But until my parents were up, we were left to only open our stockings and, as we started getting more crafty, make breakfast for my parents to encourage them to get up earlier. But that doesn’t mean you don’t survey the scene and imagine, based on the size and shape of the boxes, what might be in each present. But there was certainly no skateboard (unless it was left in it’s parts for me to assemble). It was an expensive gift, so perhaps it was too much, and I’d have to wait for February for my birthday. We went through all the presents when my parents woke up – and it was certainly a nice Christmas. But it wasn’t great. A little underwhelming for me as an 11 year old. Until my dad said, “Oh, I forgot, there’s one more.” And hidden behind a door was the skateboard I had picked out, assembled and looking amazing. On a 29 degree day in NJ, there weren’t many people outside on Christmas day – but I was out, avoiding slush and ice, trying out my skateboard. It was the best Christmas I’ve ever had.
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING
Back in the early 70’s (yikes!) all the rage were Crissy and Velvet dolls – and it was number one on my Christmas wish list. These dolls had the ability to “grow” their hair from a spout on the top of their head, weird, I know but oh so cool! I received my Velvet doll in 1971 and I swear she never left my side, as you can see at my brother’s birthday celebration. The following year, I asked for her “friend” Mia, who had long dark hair. She didn’t last very long after my babysitter poured baby oil in her “spout” to loosen some tangles! Ha! Merry Christmas!
Every Saturday, I would go to a beer distributor in Pennsylvania to sweep the floor when I was a kid. Well, the Saturday before Christmas, I was there with about 3 or 4 guys, plus my father. They told me I couldn’t go into the cooler that day because there was a big gas leak. Turns out, my parents bought me a Schwinn Bike for Christmas that year and they hid it in that room in the beer distributor so I wouldn’t find out. I didn’t even know that happened until 5 years later!
MANAGER, BRIAR GROUP
My parents got me a Lite-Brite for my birthday when I was about 5 years old. I wouldn’t say it was my favorite toy by any means, but I did spend a good amount of time playing with it. More than anything, it just brings back memories of my childhood.
Included with the Lite-Brite were some re-usable templates, but my sisters and I had used them so often that the templates had become pretty darn useless. And so, I remember us always messing around with the pegs, making up our own figures and designs in the dark. The Lite-Brite lit up the room, along with our faces, time and time again…