Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paper Gun

In my day, toys were simpler. They were either mechanical wind-ups or self-made. Sure, we had battery operated ones but they were mostly robots with flashing lights and machines guns that come out through chest doors going rat-a-tat-tat-tat. Or a battery-operated toy plane that blinked lights and bummed around on the floor making noise.

But do you remember paper dolls? 10 or 20 cents could get you a set to play for a long time. Not everyone could afford Barbie back then and the only dolls available had only one outfit and one pair of shoes. Many could close their eyes when laid down to sleep.

I had five sisters growing up, so I couldn't avoid playing girly toys with them. Tea parties, dress-ups, paper dolls, five stones, etc. - you name it. In a way it was good; it prepared me for working with women in the office later.

Because of my sisters, I also came to own a few dolls. I have a miniature one that's platinum haired and one for whom I had crocheted a scarf and hat during primary school art class. I have another set of super small-sized dolls (I would learn later in 2013 that they were called Liddle Kiddle Jewel Collection dolls made only between '68 and '70) that wore pixie make-up and elfish dresses. They are half-thumb-sized, barefoot and could even stand.

Sometime in my teens, I gave a set to a girl whom I had fancied in secondary school. I sent it along with a love letter but even that did not encourage a reply. In the end, I did not know what happened to the dolls. Fortunately my sister had a similar set and I could now offer proof that they existed! A pity I did not keep a copy of that love letter. It would be a hoot to reread it again now.

But I digress. I mentioned earlier that we used to make toys out of paper. Paper guns were something we constructed too, and often. This is because American Westerns (cowboy shows) were on TV almost daily when I was growing up.

A paper gun is easy to make: Two pieces of paper essentially slotted in together. We would paint and illustrate whatever we fancied on it. We even made bigger machine guns with discarded tubes and boxes.

But a paper gun I do remember (all thanks to a recent nostalgia TV program for reigniting my dormant memory cells) was not made of paper at all. It's made of metal and rather heavy. It took paper strips and punched them to make sound.

Because it worked like a hole puncher, this gun was very difficult to trigger. Try we did, at times using both hands. It was dangerous too as the release of the trigger would sometimes bite flesh. We had tiny fingers so serious injury would result if we were not extra careful.

My dad got a good scolding from my mom for buying us kids those guns. Why buy them such a dangerous toy! she yelled at him. My dad was a mechanical engineer, so it is understandable why he fancied such a toy gun. And we boys loved the gun because it looked very Space Age-like.

The most popular space shows on TV then were Ultraman, Thunderbirds (a puppet one), Astroboy, and of course, Superman and his American League of Hero kakis. Later, it was Space 1999 with Commander Koenig with his doctor girlfriend, Helen, on that renegade moon.

Besides spacey shows, there were also the spy movies from the US and Japan. Get Smart got us boys all in a gadget frenzy. How often we lifted one slipper to mimic agent Smart talking into his shoe walkie-talkie! And we would afterwards wish for watches that could do more than just tell time.

As a matter of fact, I did buy a toy watch from a vendor outside my school that displayed Morse code instead of a date. A 'book' that was both torch and gun. I wished for a walkie-talkie but did not get one. Instead, an uncle taught me how to make one with two cans and a string. But the distance was so short no self-respecting spy would use one, haha. Perhaps it would still be useful for clobbering opposing spies as a slingshot-tripping weapon kind of.

Besides paper guns, there was that four-square thing you folded and moved with both thumbs and forefingers saying, "Friendship, Courtship, Hatred, Love" to reveal hidden messages. That encouraged us kids to explore origami a little more.

Back then, everybody knew some local origami, like how to make sampans, frogs, cranes and a box-like ball which one had to blow into to poof up. These were our so-called paper craft traditions. I hope fathers and mothers in Singapore are still passing on such novel skills to their kids.

And with so much paper for recycling these days, they should bring back that metal paper gun. It could contribute to the recycling process by using strips from credit card bills (no need to use a shredder thus saving electricity!) and then punching them to bits. Heck, we could even use those many flyers we get from real estate agents as ammunition. Think about it. Endless ammunition = endless fun!

Previous story: Lao Fu Zhi; Next story: Strange Eating Habits

How to load the Paper Gun:

The inch+ Liddle Kiddle doll with
my own crotchet hat and scarf, a
skill I learnt in primary school.

Finally finding the same dolls at a flea market. These are
new ones you can also find at the shops. Came with key rings 
which I have removed from the top of their heads.

My own Jewelry Liddle Kiddles from the 60s.

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