Play Stuff Blog

The Strong’s historians, curators, librarians, and other staff offer insights into and anecdotes about the critical role of play in human development and the ways in which toys, dolls, games, and video games reflect cultural history.

A Precursor to Wegmans?

Mary Valentine
The Strong Museum Trustee

Handmade toy produce truck, 2019. Courtesy of the author. When I was a kid I loved to play "grocery." Every Saturday morning, I would hear Mr. Maroni's old produce truck groan as it came up the hill, turned the corner and slowly limped down my street. I would throw open the screen door on the porch, scamper past the glider, and fly down the steps out front to be there just as the big, uncovered wood-sided truck ground to a stop directly in front of my house on Lafayette Avenue.

My mother would follow with her change purse in hand. From the crates of fiery red beefsteak tomatoes and the orange-fleshed yams, to the bright yellow bananas, and the purple eggplant, I got to gently place the chosen pieces into the faded and dented aluminum scale in the rear of the truck, and watch the arrow spin around and stop at the weight of each selected fruit or vegetable. Then Mr. Maroni placed my chosen produce into small paper bags and handed them to me with a smile.

Supermarket set, 1960s, gift of Lisa S. Hartman. The Strong, Rochester, New York.

Then came my favorite part of the game. My mom handed me her change purse, and I got to sift through the shiny coins and choose the right amount to pay for my treasures. I counted out each nickel, dime, and quarter and proudly handed them to Mr. Maroni. Sometimes I would even get change back!

I discovered at an early age that learning was fun, and a big part of that was my mother encouraging me to choose the vegetables and fruit from that old wooden truck. How to pay for my purchases taught me not just arithmetic, but the value of each precious coin and spending it wisely. It also gave me a feeling of accomplishment, independence, and made my mother proud.

The ability to try to make good choices and learn the value of money are traits I have tried to foster in my life. Every time I shop for produce, I still remember my mother telling me to pick out a shiny onion or shake a musk melon to hear the seeds inside that would tell me it was ripe. I use a credit card now to pay for my purchases, instead of counting out change. But I still smile as I approach the produce aisle and recall fond memories of the "grocery game." I think I'll thump a watermelon on my next trip to the store.

Thanks TEDx

 

Read more >

Preserving Memories: Baseball

In my last blog, I reminisced about spending summers with my mom’s parents, which led me to my career preserving cultural artifacts. And while my other grandparents didn’t shape my profession, my summers with them helped lead me to my love for baseball.

Read more >

Halloween Hoopla

I’ve got my Halloween candy ready for the trick-or-treaters and a plan for how I’m going to decorate my front door with construction paper bats, but it was still a bit of a surprise to arrive at the museum this morning and find half my colleagues dressed (tastefully,

Read more >

Remembering the Dark Tower

 

As I took the field and prepared for battle, a tiny yellow flag with a double-headed eagle marked my kingdom, the Citadel of Durnin.

Read more >

Did You Get Your Goo?

Now that the special is over, I am curious to see what you paid for World of Goo.  Do you think the game is a worthy investment?

Read more >

Get Your Goo

Here’s a neat opportunity you might want to seize from 2D Boy Games.

Their World of Goo is a unique and quirky physics-based puzzle game that won both the Design Innovation Award and the Technical Excellence Award at the Independent Games Festival in 2008.

Read more >

POW! - The Original Online Game?

Howdy Buckaroos!

If my greeting strikes a familiar chord with you then it is likely that:

1. You’re a native Rochestarian;

2. You’re my age, give or take a few years.

If you’re still clueless, let me help you out.

Ranger Bob

 

Read more >

Play it Again, Sam

Recently my wife and I heard Michael Feinstein in concert. Feinstein has earned fame not only as a pianist and singer of popular songs from Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood, but also as a dedicated researcher into the history of popular song in America. His knowledge was on full display during the concert, when he would often pause between songs and recount the back story of the next number.

Read more >

Showing Our Stuff

You might not think of museum curators as showoffs, but we are.  Personally, I love speaking in public and appearing on TV. However, the type of showing off that curators like best is the kind that involves sharing our collections with the world.

Read more >

Creating an Ideal Community

The games I love to play as an adult—strategy games such as Age of Empires: The Asian Dynasties and Sid Meier’s Civilization IV—are clearly influenced by my childhood favorites, perhaps most significantly Utopia for Mattel Intellivision.

Read more >

Pages