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Where’s the Energizer bunny when I really need him?

Whatever happened to toys that don’t use batteries?


It seems like every plaything Ginny buys for our great-grandkids uses batteries to play music, growl like a dinosaur/monster, scoot across the floor, talk like a cartoon character or gyrate robotically.


And all that noise and movement, I’m here to tell you, eats up batteries. 


Well, except for the most annoying ones, like the bird of some sort that kept chirping. It just wouldn’t shut up despite our desperate attempts to shut it off. We could just walk into the playroom and the bird would squawk loud enough to make the heart race.


I don’t want to sound fiendish but that crazy bird MAY have had help in migrating to a more welcoming climate.


Xander, our 6-year-old, started out a Spider-man aficionado but has since moved on to other he-men, to Godzilla and dinosaurs. In fact, he can identify and pronounce the names of more dinosaur species than most adults get robocalls in a day’s time.


But Xander isn’t a one-trick pony. He has other interests as well. For instance, he likes to take the clothes off Barbie dolls. I guess that means he’s inquisitive.


But Xander definitely has some mechanical genes. He enjoys creating things with blocks and Legos and other interlocking toys.


His 5-year-old cousin Ava plays with dolls as well, even putting Barbie's clothes back on. But she was ecstatic when Ginny bought her a garbage truck.


Go figure.


Anyway, the garbage truck can make engine noises and a horn blast, lights up and has more bells and whistles than my brand-new Camry. And it’s not really a “garbage” truck. Plastered all over the body is RECYCLE TRUCK.


Our playroom has more cars and trucks than a vehicle auction yard. If placed end-to-end, they would stretch to the Toys “R” Us in Greensboro.


There are musical instruments in our house. The great-grands call the two ukuleles their guitars. But the stringed toys aren't sophisticated enough to be tuned so playing them is a problem.


There are a couple of piano keyboards. One looks like a piano and has to be played by hand. The other is a keyboard that plays its own music. That means more batteries to be replaced.


When I was a kid, we had a piano, the upright kind that two of my brothers practiced on. The only tune I’ve ever learned to play is “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestles makes the very best, chocolate.”


As for toys, I’ve wracked my brain and can’t think of a single one that needed batteries. I had cars and trucks and airplanes and trains. All of them were impelled by the efforts of the one playing with them.


OK, there were some with windup mechanisms that would move them forward for short distances. But then they would need to be rewound.


I can remember “flying” an airplane, holding it in the air while making engine noises. I’d take off from the kitchen table, fly around the house and land on the coffee table. No need to lower the flaps.


The same scenario played out with cars and trucks and trains. Hold it in your hand and make it go.


By the way, all my toys were either metal or wood. I can’t remember having a plastic plaything.


The first time I had to rely on batteries was in my early teens when my parents gave me a transistor radio. It was small enough to fit in my shirt pocket and had an earphone that plugged into the radio and one ear.


The nine-volt battery had to be replaced after I’d been listening for several hours to “1320 WCOG — All-American.” The Greensboro station always had the latest hit songs from the Top 40.


Later, I took my transistor radio to college, where WKIX in Raleigh was the favorite station. I’d listen to Bob Jones and, yes, the late Charlie Brown, whose “On the Beach” is still played on Sundays at WZOO.


I don’t know what happened to my transistor radio, or, for that matter, all those toys of my youth. But, thanks to Ginny, I have lots of toys, mostly plastic, to play with.


As I always tell folks, we have more toys than a daycare. 


But not enough batteries to keep them running.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.