Bella Fontana

A weekly column about life in Bellefonte, PA, reprinted from the Centre Daily Times

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Toys are quick to capture attention, regardless of your age

The colorful downtown block of West High Street from South Spring to Water has so many attractions for kids it forms a little community of its own.

Despite the window display of smiling children and teens, Kennedy Dance Centre is not just for kids. I should know, having taken a jazz dance class there some years ago. When the instructor started talking recital, I made a quick exit.

Up the street is Steppin' Out, a shop specializing in dancewear and accessories. Among the leotards in the window are cute stuffed animals in toe shoes and porcelain dolls in ballet costume. They are not toys, the clerk informed me; they are gifts for kids who are interested in anything related to dance.

The owner of Go-Velo-City says his imported diecast vehicles are not toys either -- they are collectibles. He still has some wooden pull toys and puzzles from a line he is closing out.

Pure Imagination carries traditional books, toys and games. Grandparents like shopping there because they see the things they grew up with, such as Golden Books and metal wind-up toys.

Alphabet blocks are also a popular item. My grandson loves making towers and then laughing when they crash. He is not nicknamed "Godzilla" for nothing.

Around the corner on Spring Street, Dollar General has bulldozers, loaders, dump trucks and all kinds of big action toys in their window. There are dart blasters and punching balls, a light-up tour bus with sound and Flavas, cool couples on cycles.

At this point on my walk, I had to go to Subway to take a break. But there was no escape. Over my tuna special, I saw a sign announcing "Fun Toy with Kids' Pak."

After all the shiny new stuff, a trip to "Toyland," the current exhibit at the Bellefonte Museum for Centre County, seemed in order. Here were the soft-bodied baby dolls I remember playing with and the Barbie dolls my granddaughters played with, dolls that exist now only as a bin of body parts. A display of military vehicles and books from the World War II era recalled our days of plane spotting. Why kids were expected to know a Stuka from a Spitfire, I am not sure.

When I took some middle school students from State College through the Centre County Historical Museum in September, they were more interested in sabers and carved dragons and secret desk compartments than a cupboard full of antique toys. Fantasy, it seems, is the new reality.