Paperwork: I’m happy to report I finally have a magnificent toy box

I don’t think I ever had a real toy box. But that has changed.

When I was very young and we visited friends – friends who had kids our age – I’d get excited. This did not happen often and my joy depended on who we were going to see.

Or I should say ... what we were going to see. Sadly, I remember the toys more than the playmates. Especially when their toy box (or often their bedroom floor) was a big treasure chest.

It was like Christmas morning, pulling out toys: farm implements, dump trucks, road graders, horses with little saddles, Army tanks and soldiers and more surprises.

My excitement was rooted in envy. I did not have that many toys. (So I had no real need for a toy chest.)

I have old black-and-whites of me wearing a cowboy hat and a pistol in holster. And there’s a photo of me on a tractor – the kind you pedal.

So I had toys, and I do recall stuff I treasured.

I loved those cap pistols with that special aroma. And baseball cards (probably valuable today) that were clipped to my bike spokes – the more “motor” noise the better.

I remember roller skates that had to be fastened with a “key” onto your shoes. I cranked and cranked that key but the skates seldom stayed long on my slippery, rubbery tennis shoe soles.

There were ice skates, baseball equipment, my first new bike. And I can’t leave out the large hunk of wood carved into a knife that I had shoved into a furry sheath. I took it with me climbing trees. (Think Tarzan).

Some toys were a big deal. Like the pool table that showed up in the basement on Christmas morning. It was not regulation size, but then neither was I. I kept that toy for years.

So, I had my toys as a kid. And here’s the thing ... I still do. And always will.

We all savor our toys. Doesn’t matter your age, somewhere you probably have a “toy box.”

Toys are the things we link to fun. They give us joy. There’s no age limit on that.

Toys evolve, of course. I’m not into cap guns anymore. (I do miss that aroma, though. And my Tarzan “knife.”)

Some toys we don’t leave behind. I have a friend who loves all things Superman. And another friend who buys expensive tiny replicas of historic soldiers. Both men are retired.

Today I have many toys. Here’s where I should offer a small confession. When visiting others, especially for the first time, I still explore their rooms for toys. In particular I am looking for my favorite toys. The kind that still make me want to grab and play.

Yes, I’m talking about books. I have hundreds stacked on shelves along several walls in my basement.

And it might please you to know that I can say with great certainty that a basement makes a magnificent toy box.

• Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His Paperwork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.