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Boomers Relish Gifts From Their Youth

December 16, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a six-part series about MDT staff memories of Gifts of Christmas Past. Check back next week for the final installment.

Staffers at the Missouri Division of Tourism recently were asked to share memories of their favorite Gifts from Christmas Past, with the caveat their responses should be:

  • Totally superficial
  • Related to gifts received before age 17 or 18.

Overall, the results were varied, but fairly heavy on dolls and music-playing devices.

We’ll now focus on three of our baby boomers Barb, Mary, and Cyndi. Out of respect, we won’t (intentionally) divulge anyone’s age.

Note these stories are a bit less soul-crushing than those of their boomer counterparts (see previous installment).

We’ll start with Battlin’ Barb, who loves her some Battling Tops.

Battling Tops are a Christmas tradition with Barb’s family, apparently dating back to a time before electricity existed. Actually, you can find a lot of info about this toy online; there’s also this horrible commercial:

One of Barb's all-time favorites (image from

One of Barb’s all-time favorites (image from

“My brother, three sisters and I received Battling Tops annually from the time we were young through our high school years,” Barb says. “We had Battling Tops tournaments and wore the game out every year.”

Despite being a techie who loves her iPhone, iPad and Wi-Fi, Barb can’t – or won’t – let go of her Battling Tops. In fact, just a couple of years ago, she found a set, bought five games, and sent one to each of her siblings.

“The tradition continues,” Barb says.

On to Mary, whose favorite gift was a cotton-candy maker. Her memories of the machine are somewhat hazy, but there are a few things she knows for sure.

“It worked really well spinning sugar into candy and had a fast-spinning metal bowl that you poured the sugar into,” says Mary.

Also, the metal bowl got really hot and probably wasn’t safe for kids – with or without adult supervision.

“I’m sure that little machine was capable of producing second- or third-degree burns,” Mary says. “It’s not like those pansy ones they sell now. I also seem to remember sometimes eating burnt sugar instead of cotton candy, but I still loved it.”

Mary’s not sure how long she kept the machine – probably until it stopped working or “mom wouldn’t let me waste any more sugar” – and was unsure of its retail price.

As a side note, the staff at MDT thanks the family members who purchased this item for Mary. It seems to have inspired a love preparing goodies. Mary is one heck of a cook. In fact, we don’t call staff meal days “carry-ins,” we prefer “Mary-ins.”

Mary also recalled getting a Wollensak tape recorder she desperately wanted. Sadly, it broke very quickly, despite its hefty $60 price tag.

“I think I probably did too much rewind and fast forward,” Mary admits.

We’ll close with Cyndi, whose favorite gift was … wait for it … a TV. No, not a huge LED, but a black-and-white set with a 12- or 14-inch screen.

“I was probably in kindergarten and starting to wonder if there was a Santa Claus,” says Cyndi. “When we got a TV for our room, my sister and I knew, without a doubt, he was real. There was no way we could afford a TV and it was just way cool to have a TV in your room.”

Well, they don’t make ’em like they used to. That set lasted between 10 and 15 years. And many years later, Cyndi found out it actually was a used set to begin with!

Cyndi also has fond memories of a hula hoop, which she received at the height of the gyrating device’s fame.

“They were very popular, so I had to have one,” Cyndi admits. “I have to say, I got rather good on it and would play for hours outside.”

The treasured plastic hoop, worth about $10, was discovered not that long ago during a cleaning expedition at Cyndi’s family farm.

That was a well-spent $10.

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