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Dentist has treasure trove of old toys

December 18, 1998

childhood toysBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




GREENCASTLE, Pa. - James H. Craig Jr.'s mother was a keeper.

Because of that, said Craig, 64, a Greencastle dentist, most of the toys he played with as a child were put away in the attic of the house in which he grew up at 305 W. Washington St.

On Tuesday night, Craig was in his living room at 45 N. Carlisle St. surrounded by his toys and memories of a childhood a half-century ago.

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His parents, James H. and Annabel Craig bought the Washington Street house in 1932, the year they were married. James Jr. and his sister, Julie, grew up in the house, and his mother lived there until her death in 1988.

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When she died, Craig and his sister, who lives in Providence, R.I., sold the family home, and he found his toys while cleaning out the attic. They were and still are in good condition.

"My mother was a keeper," Craig said. "They never moved from that house. That's why the toys were still in the attic. They never wore out because they were durable."

His first recollection is of a small stuffed horse on a wheeled platform. "It was my pull toy. I was only about 2," he said.

A small metal tricycle with rubber wheels and pedals holds an early memory, too.

"My father taught me to ride it on the front porch. After that I rode it up and down the sidewalk. And that, too," he said, pointing to a little red wagon next to the tricycle.

The toys stayed in his attic for 10 years until the folks at Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle asked to borrow some for the museum's old-fashioned Christmas display last weekend.

"It was the first time I saw them since I put them up there," Craig said.

One of his favorites is a white, chipped but heavy, metal delivery truck sporting an H.J. Heinz logo. It's big, weighing a couple of pounds. Craig said he played with it on the front porch with his friends.

"A lot of houses had front porches in Greencastle," he said. "On rainy days my mother would order me outside to play on the porch."

He remembers liking toys that he and his friends could play with, like his trucks, a shooting gallery and a bowling alley, all of which are still in working order.

Some of the toys were high-tech for the time; they were powered by wind-up motors. Among them was a large red car with springy bumpers on each end. When it hit a wall or anything solid, it reversed directions.

A favorite wind-up toy is a metal, gaily colored blue submarine. "You wound it up and put it in the water. That baby would really go," he said.

"You could pull out the cork and put water in it and it would go under water. One time I put too much water in it and put it in the lake at Cowan's Gap State Park. It sank to the bottom and the lifeguard had to rescue it for me."

Other toys spread out on his living room rug were a wind-up motorcycle cop, a speed boat, a large metal model of a DC-6 airliner, a fire truck, a metal top and drum and a fireman climbing a ladder.

"I still have my Lightning Glider sled in the cellar," he said.

Craig said he knows his toys are valuable to collectors but he's never had them appraised. He doesn't even know what he's going to do with them. He has two grown children, but both are single. There are no grandchildren.

One possibility is donating them to the Allison-Antrim Museum, he said.

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