Tough Guys Like Toys
By Michaele Birney Arneson
April 1, 2003
my husband and I moved a few years ago, he was in charge of the
garage. With him being a general contractor, you might imagine that
the garage was stacked floor to ceiling with everything ranging
from assorted screws and bolts to larger toys--I mean, tools--that
do something related to construction.
manage it all, he implemented the $2 rule: Any single item, or collection
of items-- such as a half-used box of nails--that could be bought
for $2 or less was given away, recycled or thrown out. He figured
that since he was more likely to go out and buy an item of that
value rather than search amongst unpacked boxes marked “stuff,”
he might as well get rid of it.
I think this was all a smokescreen to create more room for his TONKA
When we gathered up our belongings, he condensed his sentimental
items into less than two boxes. Mine consisted of an entire U-Haul
truck, with a second truck containing our furniture. But, as he
kept reminding me, we could not leave his trucks behind.
I finally asked him what was so important about those trucks that
had been stored away in a back corner of the garage. He fondly recalled
how each year for his birthday and Christmas his grandparents would
give him a TONKA catalog ahead of the event, and when he had decided
which one to add to his collection, the three of them would head
off to the store to purchase it.
Mighty Front Loader
course, as a boy, he was fascinated by their image as a “tough
boy” toy and did not understand the craftsmanship that the
brand was built on or the affordability that added to overall market
appeal. However, the original creators of TONKA—Mound Metalcraft
Company, located near Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota—understood
the formula so well that in 1947 their entire first-year inventory,
37,000 trucks in two designs, was sold out in just a few months.
Since then, more than 230 million trucks have been sold, with an
annual consumption of 119,000 pounds of yellow paint and 5.1 million
pounds of sheet metal to produce its growing line. It now includes
more than 30 trucks, vehicles, and play sets manufactured and marketed
by Hasbro, Inc. In 2000, TONKA was inducted into the National Toy
Hall of Fame, which recognizes toys that have played a vital role
in the lives of children and that have inspired and helped kids
Not all of my husband’s trucks have made it through his various
stages of life. The few stored in the back corner of the garage
are the remaining physical connection to his childhood memories
of sandbox construction lots, creations conceived by imagination
and special time with his grandparents. That’s a durability
that extends further than what Mound Metalcraft probably envisioned.
But don’t let him know I told you all this. He’s a tough
Bio: Michaele Birney Arneson is a freelance writer and
editor, specializing in children’s topics, education and employment,
health science, and environmental issues.