This year Dad will take more than a vicarious interest in the opening of Junior's presents on Christmas morning. After many years of using Christmas as a front to get his hands on the toys he ostensibly bought for Junior, the old man is finally coming out in the open. Aware that Dad has more money to spend on his hobbies than Junior has, the nation's toymakers are slanting many of their products at the adult market.

It is no secret that Dad sits under the Christmas tree playing Casey Jones long after Junior has gone to bed, but this year, A.C.  Gilbert Co. has revived its realistic "HO" gauge train, the size most popular with grown-up hobbyists. The Wall Street Journal quotes Lionel president, Larry Cowan, as saying that more than half of the 65 million dollars worth of trains sold annually represent sales to "an adult buying for his own pleasure."

Local toy stores have left the "HO" gauge trains to the hobby shops this year, however, because of the heavy price cutting on the electric train market. At least one store owner who did not stock many trains has sold out his stock of them.

It will not be surprising in many homes to see big elbows pushing aside children as the old man moves in on the games. Photoelectric football, baseball and basketball units are selling especially well this Christmas, according to the manager of England Bros.' toy department. More complicated games that demand skill rather than chance are also being aimed at the adult market. Parker Bros., the manufacturers of Monopoly, have introduced a new game, Going to Jerusalem, for older children and adults. Tougher games such as Scrabble, that tax the mentalities of the players, are more popular with grandparents than with children.

Many of the newer games are based on television shows. Beat The Clock, Two for the Money, You Bet Your Life, What's My Line?, Dollar a Second, and Truth or Consequences are all selling in Pittsfield stores for $2.98 and $3.98. 

Elaborate models of ships and automobiles that are a challenge to adult ingenuity are also being displayed in local shops. Lord's Toyland has Ideal Toy Co.'s scale model of the SS United States. England's has models of sleek foreign cars as well as old fashioned autos. Sears' catalogue advertises as "a smart accessory for Dad's den" a 31-inch clipper ship model.

Of course, it's well known that Dad will buy a plaything and try to appease Mother by telling her that it is useful around the house. Taking advantage of this, Sears advertises a set of telephones to be used for communication for workshop to house, and from room to room as well as in children's games.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.