People at Play

The Lure of the Circus

When I was a kid, I used to dream about running away to join the circus to be a clown.  I loved the idea of being a clown—especially when my mother had come up with some particularly irksome chore. I found myself longing for the mystery and the majesty, the fun and the freedom of life under the big top. And still, every once in a while, for reasons that are not clear to me, I think about the circus.

The Squirrel Says “Go Fish”

Some 135 years ago, four squirrels romping merrily through the woods met an unfortunate end. But, fortunately for us, those squirrels found a place in a playful diorama in the museum’s collections. Situated in a well-decorated parlor, the four squirrels are now posed in an eternal game of cards. That made them a perfect illustration for the induction of playing cards into the National Toy Hall of Fame a month ago. But before the diorama could go out on exhibit, it required conservation treatment—cleaning and stabilization of the scene prior to photography and display.

Funny Papers: Spoofing the News

Playing with words and images can be funny: joke-telling, trickery, and satire allow us to be subversive without the repercussions that may accompany more malicious behavior. At seven or eight years old, my best friend and I produced a fake weekly newspaper. We pasted school portraits alongside our bylines and painstakingly crafted gossip columns, “horror-scopes,” quizzes, and bizarre feature stories about our classmates.

My Space

The summer of 1979 will live on in my childhood memories. At the ripe old age of nine, my neighborhood pals and I were already masters of summer vacation fun. We made numerous trips to the community pool; played innumerable backyard games of tag, hide-and-seek, and red light, green light; and spent countless hours dashing through our lawn sprinklers. We took every opportunity to play outside, where we would remain from dawn until dusk. Mom would call us in when it was time to eat lunch, then again for dinner, and finally, when it was time to call it a night.

Backyard Adventures

As a kid, my summers included family camping trips, excursions to the amusement park, and Fourth of July fireworks. But those were the landmark events that punctuated the extended freedom of June, July, and August. On a day-to-day basis, my activities centered on the fun we created ourselves. And the location for those activities tended to be the small patch of sun, shade, and lawn in our suburban backyard. These toy cars have the same wear patterns that I remember from my sandbox vehicles. Tootsietoy cars, about 1970.</body></html>