Christmas without Toys Я Us will become the panic before Christmas! Sorry, but I have been going to toy stores since I was in my baby carriage back in 1954. I still remember my dad bringing me to pick out a Tonka construction set – looking up at the top shelf and pointing to the yellow road grader, red and green dump truck, and yellow bulldozer. My dad asked the store owner to take them down for me.

Last year, at her office, my wife selected from the company Christmas tree a wish list for an eight-year-old girl who wrote that she just wanted a doll. My wife is an accountant with no imagination when it comes to gifts (including for me). She broke into a cold sweat and had that panicked look in her eyes, as though she had been asked to perform open heart surgery.

For me, it was no problem. Uncle Tony grabbed his wife by the hand and off to Toys Я Us we went. In one hour I had picked out Rey from Star Wars, Wonder Woman, Queen Elsa from Frozen, and Moana. I made sure we covered all bases for that little girl so she would have a merry Christmas.

Toy shopping at Christmas time used to mean going to a toy store – not eBay or Amazon. It meant heading out on a cold, snowy night while the kids were home with hubby, and getting to touch and select the toys your kids wanted from Santa.

Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, Santa’s workshop toy search started with the Sears, J. C. Penney, or Montgomery Ward catalog. Along with countless TV commercials, those catalogs stimulated the minds of children regarding what they needed to tell or write to Santa about what they wanted for Christmas. Mom and dad then reached out to one of the thousands of mom and pop toy stores around the country. Beginning in 1957, Toys Я Us started to put those small stores out of business, little by little.

I remember standing in front of the window of the town toy store, looking at the Lionel train set running around the whole display. In the middle was a Chatty Cathy doll and next to it a Barbie doll in her black and white bathing suit. Games were piled high in the corner of the window. A Marx Blue and Gray Civil War playset was arranged on a board that hung on wire from the ceiling in the window. In the back of the display were Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books next to an Easy-Bake oven. A Lite-Brite was lit up to stir the imaginations of both boys and girls. There was always a red and green Tonka dump truck filled with Christmas balls in the display window.

Where can you see that now? Going to a Target, Walmart, or Kohl’s is not the same as going to a real toy store! The UPS man looks nothing like Santa! Toys Я Us was the closest we had to the North Pole and it gave us everything, including one-stop shopping for Christmas toys. But don’t panic; write a letter to Santa and see what happens this year.

To one and all, have a merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

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