Saturday, April 4, 2009

Toy Story 2

Regular readers may look at the accompanying pictures for this post and think, "Oh, right, the toy jet plane. You've already told us about that." Very true, but this one's mine. If you've stumbled upon this blog and haven't read my original Toy Story post, you may find it helpful to read it first. You can find it here.

When we left off, I had bid unsuccessfully for a Marx battery-operated jet plane just like this one. After that, I kept an eye on eBay in hopes that another might someday appear. I didn't have long to wait. Within a week, there was a second one up for auction. That one eluded me too. A few weeks after that, however, the aircraft that you see pictured here appeared on eBay and, this time, I prevailed.

I must compliment the seller, who goes by the handle of cjwile on eBay. The toy was shipped promptly, finding its way all the way from San Antonio, Texas, to my humble southern Ontario home, within a single week. It was very nicely packaged and arrived in excellent condition, looking exactly as it did in the pictures posted on eBay.

I was somewhat disappointed, when I first turned the jet on, to find that the two inboard engines no longer light. I don't fault the seller for this. She never claimed that all the engines lit up; only that the toy worked, which it does. I chastise myself for neglecting to ask. Even so, had I known of this slight deficiency, I would likely have purchased the airplane anyway. It's not as though I plan to spend hours actually running it. It will become a treasured display piece.

Apparently, this particular toy is not at all rare, despite its age. I've seen several examples on-line now and there have already been more since I purchased mine. It must have been a very popular toy in its day, and the fact that there seem to be a fair number out there still in good, working condition over 40 years after the Louis Marx Company stopped producing them is a testament to their quality.

To begin with, the airplane is made mostly of tin, not plastic. This makes it much lighter than it would be if made of plastic, and gives it a much shinier finish. The markings, including the TWA logo, the passenger windows and the cockpit windows are painted on. They are not stickers or decals. In fact, the entire aircraft appears to have been spray painted and then had a clear coat of lacquer applied for an extra glossy finish and added protection.

I was amazed to learn, after doing some more creative Googling, that this toy jet plane is actually modeled after a real one; specifically a TWA Boeing 707. I found a picture of the actual aircraft on and found that the markings have been more or less faithfully reproduced, right down to the registration number on the tail! When's the last time you saw that amount of attention to detail in a toy?

Touches like this doubtless made this toy costlier to produce but they also make it more attractive and durable. Decals or stickers would surely peel away or fade over time. Aside from a few minor scratches, this toy looks almost like new. I did some reading up on the Louis Marx Company after I found this airplane. Back in the 1950's, they were the world's biggest toy maker, and I'm certain that this had to do with the company's motto, "Quality is not optional".

Judging by this particular toy, this was more than just an impressive-sounding slogan for the Marx toy company. Nobody makes toys like this anymore today.

Today, almost all toys are made of plastic and pre-printed decals are applied instead of painting the markings because it's cheaper and maximizes profit. Sadly, that's all that today's manufacturers seem concerned about. Nobody seems to take any pride in what they produce anymore because pride doesn't contribute to the bottom line.

I don't lay the blame for this entirely at the feet of the manufacturers. The consumer is as much at fault. How many of us are willing to pay a little extra for quality workmanship? Too many people look only at the price tag. By doing this, we encourage manufacturers to cut corners wherever possible to minimize costs. They're only giving us exactly what we ask for.

Okay, I'll dismount my soap box for this week. I got my airplane, and I feel good about that. I feel as though I got a little piece of my childhood back.

Memories, especially old memories, can sometimes feel almost like dreams. Think of a vivid dream that you've had, and then compare it to an old memory. Don't they seem much the same? Both were just as real in your experience. How can you be sure that the memory actually happened? This is not an original idea of my own. I believe Marcel Proust essentially said the same thing.

Until recently, I had this memory of a toy airplane that I owned as a very young child. I couldn't remember exactly what the airplane looked like. I remembered that it was red, white and silver, that its engines flashed on and off with red lights and that it made a loud, piercing sound. I didn't know who made it and I hadn't seen one like it since. Perhaps I had only dreamed it? But now, I know that I didn't only dream it, because I have something tangible; something that I can see and hear and touch. My airplane has become real again.

Since it was an old photograph of my sister and myself that led me to find my beloved toy jet plane, I thought it only appropriate to bring things around full circle, as it were, and close this chapter of my life with an updated photograph, showing me, my sister, and the legendary airplane, reunited at last, after all these years.


Martin said...

You know, I have these old model rocket engines that we could strap to that thing. Size C engines. Bet it would GO!

Tubes said...

Love the updated photo!Nice touch.