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    A child’s wonder at a Star Wars thermos

    I was standing at a second table I had set up for my block’s annual yard sale when I overheard a mother talking to her son. The boy was about 5 years old and she was explaining the purpose of the plastic thermos in her hand.

    What’s it for? the boy asked. You take the top off and put cold water in it, the mother patiently told him. The boy still looked a little puzzled.

    She was holding a red Star Wars Ewok thermos with a beige lid. The thermos was sold as one of the companion toys to the 1983 “Return of the Jedi” movie. Ewoks are small bear-like creatures who live on the moon Endor, and made their first appearance in this movie. There were Ewok board games, plush toys, a village, comb, bubble bath, shampoo, among other products.

    Star Wars Ewok thermos from 1983.

    Star Wars Ewok thermos from 1983.

    Those early Star Wars movies are distant but pleasant memories for many people, and some of their associated products are sought after by Star Wars collectors. For this little boy, though, the mystery was in the thermos itself, not the creature painted on the front of it. It always fascinates me to watch as young children discover gadgets from the past – a rotary phone I had at a flea market a few years ago drew every child who passed my table.

    It’s not surprising that the boy didn’t recognize the thermos because we don’t use so bulky a container to keep our water cool these days. The new holders are slender and lightweight, and shaped like a soda or baby bottle. Most times we don’t bother to carry them at all (unless we’re working out or jogging); we just drop by a convenience store such as Wawa and buy a cold bottle of water.

    I have several of the lightweight bottles and a thin thermos that I no longer use because I, too, choose Wawa.

    Star Wars Ewok thermos with lunchbox. Photo from Old Vintage Goods at etsy.com.

    Star Wars Ewok thermos with lunchbox. Photo from Old Vintage Goods at etsy.com.

    Foot traffic was slow as molasses at the Sunday yard sale that my block shared with another. Only a handful of us set up tables. Near my end of the street it was just me and my neighbor, who was practically giving away her daughter’s books. She was hoping that a teacher would pass through and take them all.

    She gave away a 15,000-BTU air conditioner that had once been in her first-floor window. One couple with a small child and a father with a bad back considered taking it off her hands for $20, but decided against it. A pickup man, who was on the street for another matter, agreed to take it for free.

    Several people admired the Star Wars thermos but there were no takers – not even for $5. It drew the attention of another passer-by. That would sell on eBay, the man said as I nodded, knowing that was not the case. I had already listed it on eBay and it was not selling. A few on the site sold for $9.99 to $12.99, and those with accompanying lunchbox sold for a few dollars more. The blue Ewok thermos seemed to be more popular than the red.

    A Play Skook peg board and pieces.

    A Playskool pegboard and pieces.

    My table with the thermos held several vintage games and toys, but most of the people who browsed were young mothers and fathers with children under the age of 5. I’m sure many of the parents didn’t even remember most of the items.

    One woman a tad older and not accompanied by a child recalled the Playskool pegboard from her childhood. My game came with wooden pegs, cars, blocks and buildings to be used as landscape along a train track painted on the board. Noting all the small pieces, she now realized how dangerous they could be. (Playskool made more than 40 different toys by the 1930s, including pegboards – all meant to develop coordination and stimulate a child’s mind.)

    There were also marbles in a pouch, thick cardboard bingo cards and pick-up sticks on my table. I was never sure how the pick-up-sticks game was played (I never had one as a child), so I later Googled. There are several rules to the game, but the key is for each player to pick up one stick scattered haphazardly on a table without disturbing the others.

    marbles

    A pouch full of marbles drew the attention of one little girl.

    A group of little girls – who stopped by several times – caught sight of the pouch of marbles, with one of them wondering how you’d play with them. Shoot them, my neighbor said, probably remembering that from her own childhood.

    The girls were more interested in the dolls I was selling on another table. One chose a sweetly dressed Madame Alexander Renoir portrait doll in a pink dress that had paled a little from age, while another ignored the dolls and went for a furry gold dachshund.

    Did you grow up with any of these toys? What are your remembrances?

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