It is something a lot of kids have growing up. Either they had one or two, or a big whole collection full of them. They are still found in toy aisles today and have been there for generations.
Little toy cars.
Either you knew someone who had them or had them yourself. The generation before you was in the same boat, and very well the generation before them. They went under a title like Matchbox, Hot Wheels, and probably a bunch of other names. Not only were they found in toy aisles and stores, but other businesses even had them, many of them had their own that they offered, usually with decals of whatever business they had to remind you where they came from. They came in all shapes and sizes from regular old hatchbacks and family cars to 18 wheelers that hauled around trailers that usually had something printed on the side (or even better something inside those trailers.)
And many times, they were passed down from generation to the next generation. Video games wore out, toys got old and worn, Dolls would lose their looks and all the stuff they came with, but those little cars would keep going and going for decades at a time. Matchbox itself was started back in the 1950’s and by being small, not that expensive, and readily available, they have never disappeared since.
Matchbox and all the other clones out there keep making those little cars and playsets to drive them in. Kids will run those things through anything, all the while pretending a universal thing in people’s lives, going somewhere! It was never a time period thing, a marketing thing, or a fad thing that kept them going. The little molds of metal and plastic could be made to look like ANY cars.
In my experience, there were two sets. One was at my grandmother’s house. They collection tended to be older and most of the cars were basic colors with white racing stripes on them. Later on in life, I found out these came from an actual set that my father, my uncles, and my aunt all played with back in the 60’s as little kids, They were there when I was younger, and they were still there for the generation after me.
The other set was the one I owned. It sat in my closet in a badly made plastic wire basket. They weren’t some fancy set that I got when I was young. Literally, they were dozens of cars that I had collected over time. It ranged from the Ferrari’s and DeLoreans of my childhood, The the standard cars you would see on the street, right up to a truck that pulled a spaceship that I got from some local amusement park. When I got older and wasn’t playing with those anymore, they got passed on to my nephew (in a better container, that old basket didn’t age that well). He played with them as a kid too.
In the present time, they are still reminders of those little cars. Trying to clean up the cars section for a retail job was a big one. Weirdly, the kids were not the ones who made the messes, but they were buying. Things like Thomas the Tank Engine and Toy Story sometimes come on and make me think of those days too. Toys of all types tend to do that.
But more than an individual movie or show, those little cars can be an experience in themselves, no matter how you approach whatever you had. If you only had one or two, you still ran those things around just the same as someone who had dozens or hundreds. Many of those cars were based off REAL cars somewhere. So the gearheads could probably find the car they were looking for and then some and get the full sized one later on.
So with the news that the actual closing of Toys ‘R Us stores this week, it’s fun to think back to something that must have made them a lot of money and done a lot of business for them. Those little cars have been around for 60 something years and get passed down 3 or 4 generations, so they must be doing something right!