Break out the Easy Bake Oven, Tonka Truck: Missouri History Museum exhibit focuses on toy nostalgia | St. Louis Public Radio

Break out the Easy Bake Oven, Tonka Truck: Missouri History Museum exhibit focuses on toy nostalgia

Nov 23, 2016

Baby Boomers, rejoice! A nostalgic throwback exhibit has rolled into town highlighting the toys of yesteryear. Hailing from the Minnesota State Historical Society, you can view collections of toys from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s through January 22, 2017 at the Missouri History Museum.

Sharon Smith, curator of Civic and Personal Identity at the Missouri History Museum, joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to discuss the exhibit and what separates toys of Baby Boomers’ childhoods from the rest.

In her mind, what makes this era a heyday for toys was the clash of television marketing and the massive amount of kids entering the population following World War II.

“The market was right for an explosion of toys,” Smith said.

The exhibit highlights favorites like the Slinky, Tonka Trucks, Easy Bake Ovens and shows advances made in educational toys, dolls, board games and plastics. All told, there are a couple hundred toys on display, including hula hoops you can actually hula hoop in, Barbies, Matchbox and Hotwheels toy cars.

Over these three decades, visitors can also chart the change (or lack of change) in gender norms.

Maybe most interesting, however, are the toys that were absolute failures. The museum has categorized these as “problem toys.”

“Problem toys were toys that for whatever reason had some problem, whether they were unsafe, gave off a particular fear with parents,” Smith said. “Jarts Lawn Darts, for example. They were really unsafe. They were a game that caused lots and lots of accidents. It is great to look at that case and say ‘oh my gosh I played with all those things.’”

As for toys that may bring up some sweet memories for St. Louisans? Smith pulled examples of a cork ball and bat as well as skates that attached to your shoes.

Related Event

What: Toys of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s

When: Oct. 29, 2016 through Jan. 22, 2017

Where: Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park

More information.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.