Play remembered today

December 27, 2008|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU

TRI-STATE -- Today, they spearhead business growth, delight symphony and sports audiences, catch and try criminals, keep official records, and lead governments, a media company, schools, a library and a church.

But ask them a simple question -- Growing up, what was your favorite toy? -- and the decades fade away, taking them back to a time when they were kids at play.

For this Christmastime story, The Herald-Mail contacted 16 Tri-State-area grown-ups whose names will be familiar to many.

Because they responded in the same spirit that the question was asked, we share the stories of a time past.

Elizabeth Schulzemusic director and conductor,Maryland Symphony Orchestra, Hagerstown

The memory is precious, and the memory of one participant, even more so.

"The one that I remember and the one that was the most meaningful to me was a very simple toy," said Elizabeth Schulze, who was born in Evanston, Ill.

"It was almost like a giant tablecloth that would go across the card table. All the sides came all the way down the sides, so the card table became a house. The top became a roof and there were little cutouts for windows. I don't remember if it was printed on or embroidered," she said.


"I was probably 2 or 3 when I received it. And I just remember my grandpa being very, very sweet and hunching under the card table to have tea with me. I remember serving tea to him in little tiny cups.

"My grandpa, he was from Ireland and he loved tea. He was so thrilled to join me and my teddy bears under the table."

Dennis WeaverClerk of the Circuit Court,Washington County

"The one I used the most was my bicycle. The one I remember most was like a toy gun, like a rifle," Dennis Weaver recalled.

He said he used to "mess with" Erector Sets, building cranes and such, but it was the toy rifle that really captured his imagination.

"It was a plastic, Western-style level cap gun. We grew up in Maugansville, in the shadow of the newly-built I-81 at Showalter Road, which served as an amazing playground for me and my friends," said Weaver, 55.

"There was very little traffic on the highway at that time and we played cowboys and Indians, army, and elephant hunter on the highway, between the steel beams just under the bridges, crawling through the water drainage tunnels, and in the high grass growing in the center of the cloverleaf ramps.

"We would run across the highway to the embankment at the ramps, where we would be shot by the enemy waiting below, and promptly roll to the bottom of the embankment, dying a horrific death!" Weaver said, the excitement still showing.

William McLaughlinChambersburg (Pa.) Borough Council president

"A Red Ryder Daisy air rifle," William McLaughlin said. "Everybody wanted one when I was growing up. They weren't considered some kind of evil thing."

Red Ryder was a cowboy character in the movies and on television.

McLaughlin, 59, remembers growing up in suburban Philadelphia, watching Red Ryder on black-and-white TV, then carrying the rifle outside to play with his friends.

"It was the late '50s and all our fathers had been in World War II," McLaughlin said. "We were refighting World War II."

Mildred "Mickey" MyersSmithsburg mayor

"I was pretty much a tomboy and I guess my favorite toy of all time was probably when I got a real good baseball bat and the baseball stuff that went with it," said Mildred "Mickey" Myers, 74, who grew up in Chewsville.

"I wished at the time when I was little that they had an organized ball league that girls could get in, like Little League. But they didn't."

Nonetheless, when she was in fifth through eighth grades or so at Chewsville School, the boys would invite her to play on field days because she "was always a pretty good ballplayer."

The bat was a Louisville Slugger.

"It wasn't a whole lot, but I can remember it and I used it all the time," Myers said. "I really loved playing ball.

"My nickname is Mickey and guess who my idol was? Mickey Mantle. I've been called Mickey most of my life."

Merle Elliottretired Hagerstown accounting executive,active in economic development, civic causes

"My favorite toy was probably a big white tractor-trailer truck," said Merle Elliott, 78, who grew up on Main Avenue in Hagerstown's West End.

"I can picture playing in the yard and driving it and experimenting with backing up. It was a toy -- probably 6 inches long, bigger than toy cars. But playing in the dirt and zooming along with the car racer, I liked the truck best.

"We were a poor family," he said when asked for a childhood photo. "That wasn't a necessity of life."

Thus, the photo he found is in a 1946 booklet for county schools. A young Elliott is shown dazzling four female observers as he works in a school chemistry lab. The cutline reads, "A young scientist preparing to live in the atomic world."

Although he didn't stick with it, chemistry fascinated him, especially because he was growing up near the company that made chemical kits for children the world over.

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