Tonka Memories

My wife and I were out on a recent Saturday, and she wanted to make a quick pit stop at Target. I can’t even tell you now what we were shopping for, dog food perhaps? Maybe toilet paper? Whatever it was, it wasn’t the sexiest of products. I gave my wife a questioning look, but she promised that we would be quick. 

I asked if I had the word “gullible” plastered on my forehead?

Where’d we go five minutes later? Of course, Target. When we got inside the store, I reminded her what we were there to buy. She promised me again that the trip would be a quick one, “Oh chill Brian, it won’t be long.” 

Of course, we weren’t in the store two minutes, and she wanted to look at a blouse we passed in the women’s section and then some boots. I tapped my watch giving her a subtle reminder, but I knew I had lost the discussion.

Oh, we have to buy one!

When our kids were little, we used to read to them a picture book called The Poky Little Puppy. I’d like to claim that she continued to be the slowpoke between the two of us, but, well, I can’t. The poky puppy on this trip was me. We were walking past the toy section and out in the middle of the aisle the store had a large display of Tonka Front Loaders.

My wife was twenty yards ahead of me and I was still oohing and awing over the Tonkas. When I was a kid, Tonka’s were the best. I had a Tonka Mighty Dump Truck and there was little that the truck couldn’t handle. They still have the best slogan: “Made with Steel. Build Tonka Tough.” Now that’s a cool toy.

As a young kid, I was certain of two things: My mom loved me to the moon and back and my Tonka could survive anything and was going to be there until the end of time. Cold War Soviet nuclear bombs could destroy my little town and, most definitely, my elementary school, but my Tonka would still survive. 

The trucks were made of sturdy steel and looked like the real deal. The Tonka bed moved up and own and was guaranteed for life. I played with it everywhere. I would haul my Army men, my baseball cards, anything I had. I would play with the truck inside or out, it didn’t matter. 

My brother had the exact same model and sometimes he’d let me play with his too. I loved playing with both, because then I could really act like I was clearing out the dirt in the yard. 

Uh-oh, what have I done?

While I loved my truck, it was also the cause of one of my biggest worries as a kid. I was playing one afternoon after school and had both trucks, pushing them down our small hill. I had been at it for a while, playing first by myself and then later with a neighbor. The neighbor kid was playing a little aggressive with the trucks. I worried about him breaking something, but this was Tonka, this wasn’t any run of the mill toy, what could he destroy?

When it came time to clean up and go inside, I noticed the unbelievable. The window on my brother’s truck was cracked. My heart felt to the ground. My mom noticed me crying and asked what was wrong. I knew she’d be fine, but my middle brother was going to have a fit. I had broken his truck.

I needn’t have been upset. My brother took one look and reminded me that the Tonka with the red scratch in the rear load and now a broken window was mine, not his. I realize now that he had long moved past playing with trucks. If the truck had been his, I doubt he would have cared. 

Of course, I didn’t know that then. 

One tough toy

I still consider my Tonka, broken window or not, to be the most durable toy I ever owned. I put my truck through everything, and the thing survived. My wife did eventually return and watch me oogling the Tonka Front Loader. After a few jokes about me being a kid and still playing with toys, we eventually moved on, but I thought about my old truck the rest of the day. 

I’m not sure whatever happened to it. I suspect my mom gave it to neighbors or sold it off years later when she auctioned off most of the things from our old house. Wherever it is, I’m certain it’s still in relatively good shape today. 

Timex used to advertise itself with the slogan: “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” Tonka was cut from the same cloth, it most certainly kept on ticking.

35 thoughts on “Tonka Memories

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  1. My kiddos have my younger brothers’ Tonka trucks, now. They’re nowhere nesr in a good shape as they used to be, but so far the kids havent managed to actually break them. They break everything else.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a lovely memory of a treasured childhood toy – and all the happy associations and life lessons you made with them. Tonka trucks are a great reminder of how sturdy and quality toys were made back then. Today, less so!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m with you, Ab! I was thinking the same thing. I can almost imagine the ‘heft’ in my hands…I was the girl who liked Match Box cars and Tonka trucks, too. I loved that I could cart things around in them because they were sturdy! Thank you and Brian for the fun reminders! 😊😊😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh my, Tonka and Match box cars! Throw in a few Legos and Lincoln logs, little Army men and my Johnny West cowboy and horses and seven-year old me would be in Heaven. Fun reminders. I’m supposed to run a bunch of errands today. I think I need to dig in our basement now and see if I can find any of those old toys. Ha, ha.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes…load up that payloader…tote all the other toys around…and I’ll confess, I threw in a few Barbies…they enjoyed the Tonka trucks more than those stupid pink Barbie convertibles! 🤣😎🤣


    2. Yes, if my eyes weren’t glazed over by my memories, I would’ve noticed that the new Tonka didn’t look as rock solid as the ones from my era. It looked new, I’ll give it that, but I saw lots of plastic versus steal. I feel for parents today too. The price looked a little steep to me. I still contemplated buying it for myself. Yes, I’m a big kid.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In a world of planned obsolescence, what a wonderful story of the ever-enduring Tonka truck, Wouldn’t it be great if our kitchen appliances lasted as long? May you live out the rest of your days with fond and glorious memories with your mighty Tonka. Would that we could say the same for the washing machine.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I didnt play with trucks, but my first watch was a Timex and I loved that watch. I think eventually one of the hands worked loose and I had to gwt a new watch. I dont think anything was ever as good as that first Timex watch. Those memories are priceless ❤️😁

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had no idea that brand was still around Brian! I never owned a Tonka truck but I did have a Barbie car that probably should have been built by Tonka rather than Mattel. I was a wild driver when I was young and I often crashed my Barbies into pretty solid structures. They always bounced back but the lovely pink convertible really needed some body work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, Deb, my knowledge to toys today is pretty weak. I’ve gotten out of touch, so it was cool seeing it in the aisle. I do remember Barbie’s pink convertible not being as sturdy as you might think. Now back in the day, I would not have wanted to see the convertible going up against the dump truck. Think there would have been some permanent damage there. Ha, ha. I have to say though, Barbie had one cool car. Loved that convertible. Ha, ha.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How funny, the idea of a Barbie versus Tonka stand off. My Barbie could be pretty bad**s but I tend to think Tonka would have come out on top in that match 😉


  6. My grandparent’s youngest child and oldest grandchild weren’t too far apart, so my cousins and I got to play with our parent’s old toys… GI Joe, barn animals, and the trusty Tonka. I’m trying to think which 90s era toy I would oogle over if I saw at the store today… maybe the Little Tikes turtle sandbox or Spirograph haha!! Such cherished memories those old toys hold.


  7. This is so fun to read, Brian, I’m glad that your brother didn’t kick your butt! My favorite toys were model boats since we lived on a lake back then. My sister still owns a home on that beautiful lake.


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