There’re something’s that remind me of that Norman Rockwell-Americana feeling from my youth. Catching fire flies on a hot summer night. Riding our bicycles to the local Dairy Queen for ice cream. Playing “man-hunt” on a summer’s eve. Watching fireworks. Seeing a matinee of a summer blockbuster. Putting a quarter in an old school arcade and playing a video game. Then the grand-daddy of them all, going to the local toy store with my parents.
Growing up, there were three toy store companies. Child’s World, Kay-bee Toy Store and Hobby and of course Toys R Us. There was one Child’s World (mascot a panda), two Kay-bee’s (mascot a toy soldier) and 2 Toys R Us (mascot a giraffe, my wife’s favorite animal).
Going to the toy store was like going to Santa’s workshop. You never knew what toy was there, you never knew what you’d get, but you knew you’d get something, even if it was just ONE toy instead of two. There were new toys. Toys you never heard of. Toys you already had but would want more of. It was one of the best days in a child’s life when they would go to the toy store.
As the years went by and I got older some stores began to close. Child’s World was the first to go. Kay-bee lost the hobby but stuck around to the 1990’s before finally closing as well. But Toys R Us was there. It was always there. There was one close to where I lived, on this highway called Route 4, which is where my mother took myself and my two siblings and where we were allowed to pick any toy we wanted, mine being the relic of my youth, my toy Holy Grail, the 12 inch Kenner Indiana Jones doll. I spent more days than I can count in that store, going there with my parents, then when I got my driver’s license on my own or with my friends on toy runs.
By the time I was driving it meant I was able to go to the other Toys R Us near us, this one located on a highway titled Route 17, and which, to me and my sister’s opinion, had the better stock of toys. Many summer nights were spent getting together with Rich, or my other friends, going to both Toys R Us stores to look for the newest Star Wars figures. I’ll never forget those nights, starting out with hitting the toy store then going on to do God-knows-what but enjoying ourselves, just hanging out and spending whatever money we made at our part-time jobs on the latest Star Wars figure.
It was something we’d do forever I figured, it certainly was something that I did with my girlfriend-soon-to-be-wife. Then earlier this year I heard that Toys R Us went into bankruptcy and they’d be closing their stores. The first to go near me was the one on Route 4, it closed last month. There I was, 43 years old, a toy site writer, staring at a toy store from my youth with shelves basically bare, a few toys here or there, looking like a neglected mouth with a few teeth left, a smile that’s missing pieces. Other shelves were bare, like a sun-bleached bone in the desert. Such a sad site for a toy collector and writer.
The Route 17 store would be closing this month and it was here where I found myself today with my wife. My sister also came along for the ride and it seemed everyone else had the mindset to hit Toys R Us today because there were plenty of people in the store, except most of the store was roped off, the shelves bare, whatever was left was in the front.
Looking around I could remember going in there when I was younger, going to the Star Wars section, looking behind each figure on the peg for the one figure I needed to complete my collection. It seemed so far away that I did that yet just like yesterday. Then it hit me. This was my final toy run.
Sure there’s still Target and Wal-Mart to buy toys, but they only have a few aisles dedicated to this hobby of mine. Comic book stores sell toys, but they overprice them so much I’d rather play with a stick and rock then pay those over priced prices. There’s the internet, but you can’t exactly go on a toy run when you just need to sit at your computer to buy the toy and click next day shipping.
So, my final toy run. While I didn’t get a toy, I did get plenty of memories from toy runs past, and that’s something that money just can’t buy. So thank you Toys R Us, for the many toy runs of the past and for the final toy run I got to go on today.