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Remembering Dolgin’s

Growing up in Missouri, a lot of my Christmas gifts when I was young came from a catalog showroom called Dolgin’s. One of my earliest memories is going to Dolgin’s with my mom and aunt, who showed me some Tonka trucks and asked me which ones I liked best.

I know a lot of people remember going through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs, but I remember Dolgin’s catalogs the best.Read More »Remembering Dolgin’s

Need a load for your Marx plastic flatcar? Look to Tonka.

In the late 1950s, Marx sold a flatcar, labeled #5545 and lettered for the CB&Q (Chicago, Burlington & Quincy), with a large black clip in the middle. Marx shipped it with a pair of miniature trailers. These frequently got separated from the flatcar, so frequently you’ll find the car, sans vehicles, in the cheapie boxes at train stores and under the tables at train shows. The trailers are worth considerably more than the flatcar alone.

But there are some common, relatively inexpensive toys that work well on these common plastic freight cars.

Read More »Need a load for your Marx plastic flatcar? Look to Tonka.

This changes everything

I won’t post specifics in order to protect him, but I became a father this week. This is my first, a son.

Don’t expect any coherence in any of this. These are just some thoughts in the order they come to me.I’d never changed a diaper before in my life. The day he was born, I think I changed four. By the time I did the last one, I was even able to change one without him screaming bloody murder.

As I changed those diapers, it was so clear how vulnerable he is. He’s pretty much defenseless in every single way. Maybe that’s the idea, so parents will protect and nurture them.

They had to monitor his blood sugar really closely at first, and he screamed bloody murder whenever they took those samples. I tried to figure out how I could convince them to let me take the sample. Of course any sample I took would be from me, not from him.

Balancing your son’s long-term safety against comfort for the moment is a bit difficult. In the long term, all of those shots and other things will make him healthier. But there’s no way to explain any of that to him. All he knows is that strange people are hurting him and he can’t hear mom’s and dad’s voices anymore.

So far it looks like he has my ears, my eyes, my hair, and my wife’s nose and bone structure. The combination quickly made him popular with the female nurses. I hope his vision ends up being comparable to mine and my dad’s, but I sure hope he doesn’t end up being as prone to ear infections as I was. It also might be nice if he doesn’t get his first gray hair in the sixth grade like I did.

I’ve always been afraid to hold other people’s babies because I was afraid I might drop them. I haven’t had any trouble with him. It’s easier for some reason when it’s your own.

Trying to bribe a newborn with promises of a puppy, trains, and Tonka trucks doesn’t work. I didn’t think it would, but I thought it was worth a shot.

It’s also impossible to explain to the dog where my wife is and that she’s bringing a baby home. My dog loves kids, and any time kids come to visit, she’ll walk around the house looking for them even a couple of hours after they’ve left. I don’t know how she’ll react to a newborn, but once he’s big enough to crawl, she’ll have a playmate for the rest of her life.

I used to joke, derisively, that some people want to baptize their babies before, or right after, the umbilical cord is cut. I actually understand that attitude now. I still don’t agree with it (except in case of dire emergency of course), but now I see the perspective. I wasn’t there in the room holding a glass of water. But did the thought cross my mind? Yes.

Tin litho buildings for a traditional pre-war train layout

In 2004, after being back in the hobby a few months, I decided I didn’t want a train layout like the ones I saw in the magazines, which all take a hi-rail approach. The layouts looked nice, but they all had the same buildings and figures on them. I wanted to do something different. That got me looking for tin litho buildings for a traditional pre-war train layout. And it started a quest that continues to this day.

Don’t get me wrong. Today I have more than enough tin buildings to populate an 8×8 layout. Had I known what I was looking for from the start, it would have taken a lot less time. I might as well share my experience.

Read More »Tin litho buildings for a traditional pre-war train layout