My grandson is no longer a baby. This Christmas Luke Vinson will be a fully-grown 18-month old toddler, capable of out-running his mother and screaming louder than either of his Labrador retrievers he lives with can bark.

Bruce Wallace

So, naturally, it is time to buy this big boy some big boy Christmas gifts.

Except the combination of Luke’s grandmother and his mother are stopping me at every turn. Each time I want to buy Luke a truck, a train set or some sort of Star Wars gizmo that fires a laser beam and vaporizes the neighbor’s cat, either grandma or Luke’s mom says, “Uh, try again – that toy says 3-plus years of age.”

This kid is going to have no fun whatsoever on Christmas day, unless something called a “Duplo” can entertain the child for more than 5-minutes.

You want to know why they say kids enjoy playing with the wrapping and the boxes more than they do the toys?

Because the wrapping and the boxes are more dangerous than the toys.

A kid can at least hide from his parents in a box – or club his younger brother over the head with it.

No, I’m not advocating we buy the kid some lawn darts (Those were the days!), but I don’t think a Tonka truck is going to kill him.

Back in the days when it was ok to provide a kid with a 1000-degree Fahrenheit hot glass kit.

No, seriously. The Gilbert Toy Company sold a “toy” glass blowing kit back in the 50’s – a complete kit for the young kiddo who wants to play with some molten glass.

But that only begins the famous “Dangerous Toy list.”

Remember those Cabbage Patch Dolls? I remember fighting a crazed mob of mother over a few Cabbage Patch Dolls for Luke’s mother when she was a 3-year old. A decade later, there was a Cabbage Patch who could eat the toy food provided, or purchased for her. What more could you ask for?

How about an “Off” button? Hmm…yep, no “off’ button and the Cabbage Patch munched fingers, hair – anything a child could put in the doll’s mouth.

It wasn’t too drastic. They only had to recall five or so, um, five, hundred……thousand of the crazed chewing dolls.

How about those Magnetics balls in the 80s? Those cool, marble-sized magnet balls allowed kids to build awesomegeometric shapes of all kinds.

Apparently the magnetic balls were also pretty tasty because kids would swallow them. And when they swallowed more than just a couple, those magnets began to find each other inside a child’s intestines. A few surgeries later, Magnetics were off the shelves.

But all of these dangerous toys combined were not even in the ballpark of the Gilbert Toy Company’s chemistry set they sold in 1950.

Actually, the name of this box set was the: U-038 Atomic Energy Lab.


The idea of this mad science lab in a box was for children – CHILDREN! – to “create and watch nuclear and chemical reactions using radioactive material.”

Again – no, I’m not kidding.

So, to put this in perspective, only five years after the United States of America vaporized Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World Qar II, somebody thought it would be a good idea to put some plutonium under the Christmas tree.

And my wife is giving me a hard time for wanting to buy my grandson a Tonka truck.

Of course, the Gilbert Toy Co. would say that this chemistry set might be just what a child needed to start them in the right direction for a career in chemistry or nuclear energy.

Provided they didn’t die a horrific cancerous death from eating the plutonium provided – four jars of low-grade uranium-bearing ore samples.

The product catalog actually endorsed this fun with the following: “Viewing Cloud Chamber action is closest man has come to watching the Atom!”

The kits were taken off the shelves after a year of low sales – kids realized that fireworks could blow things apart faster than taking the time to split an atom. It is still rumored that the Columbia University bought five of the atomic labs for their own chemistry department. Because college freshmen might have fun playing with atomic experiments?

All I wanted to buy Luke was a Tonka dump truck. And maybe the bulldozer. He could play with them this spring when I go visit and build him a sand box. Tonka trucks don’t explode and sand boxes usually don’t have atomic grade uranium buried in them.

Kids toys just aren’t what they used to be.