Tribute To Lionel Kiddie City
So a discussion on Twitter prompted me to think about my favorite childhood toy store and I thought I’d bring it here. I’ve been meaning to write this entry since I began this blog(I’m talking even pre-HorrorMovieBBQ days!) and while I’ve written tributes to other places and memories, for some reason this just always fell by the wayside. Well not after today. I’m gonna give you a trip down that blue and orange memory lane and help you turn that frown upside with a tribute to Lionel Kiddie City Toy Stores!!!!
In my area growing up, specifically the Annapolis location, Kiddie City was king. From what I’ve heard other locations where called Play World but I can’t recall one being in my area. That’s ok, because we had a darn good store to explore. And it remained an enormous part of my childhood until it closed around 1993. At that point, Toys R Us had moved in, no more than 2 miles, down the street on West Street directly across the street from the Annapolis Mall(which had a great KayBee but I’ll cover that much later. Well, hopefully not a decade later but I’ll get there). I mean there were other TRU stores in the DC/Baltimore area but I don’t think I even stepped foot in a Toys R Us until I was about 10 or so. Toys R Us was nice and all. I loved the colors, the freebies and giveaways, the character appearances and events and the selection was tremendous but even at that point, man…nothing took the place of my precious Kiddie City!!! Plus, as fun as Geoffrey the Giraffe was, he had NOTHING on Kaycee the Kangaroo!!!! Kaycee always has a giant smile on her face and it made you smile too!
During the late 80s/early 90s, this was my toy Valhalla. All my favorite toy lines were in this beautiful orange and blue paradise. Batman 89, GI Joe, WWF Hasbro and of course, the undisputed champions of that era: NINJA TURTLES. All at my (well…my mothers pocketbook’s) disposal. And if you don’t think Nintendo Mania wasn’t running wild here, then I feel bad for you son because many a NES game were purchased at this very fine store. Every toy that you see people my age and older getting nostalgic about now and the last 15 years or so were live on these shelves and ready to be given a happy home. I mean, sure I didn’t get my My Pet Monster but there were so many others to dive into as well!
I never ever forgot anything about that store. From the second you walked in and were greeted by racks and racks of bicycles for kids of all ages, the clearance section with numerous Police Academy and New Adventutes of HeMan figures, to the windy checkout aisles where the helpless employees in orange smocks had to hear me rant on and on about the new GI Joe Super Sonic Fighters and how excited I was to get a new Lt Falcon and act happy for me. Or maybe they were? I kinda want to imagine that a lot of them enjoyed their time talking to kids about goofy stuff.
Speaking of that Falcon that I found on that fateful day in 1991, I still have him 30 years later! He doesn’t stand on his own, his thumb is broken, his accessories are long gone but the memories of buying him and playing with him the backyard, the basement, in the snow, and everywhere in between remain. One of the few toys of my childhood that I still have and that I wouldn’t trade for anything!
In recent years in talking to my wife, other collectors and nostalgia buffs, I’d later find out that I wasn’t alone in my adulation for this store. Many others, online and in person, will get a big smile like they’re 6 again and go into great detail about all the fond memories they also had. For a store whose goal is to make money, it’s clear they also made more than a positive impact. And while profits are great, that’s definitely even more important.
I’ve talked about a lot of legit tragedies in my childhood and how it’s always been hard to say goodbye for a kid who lost so many early on. Well, Kiddie City was a huge sanctuary where I could escape those tragedies and issues that plagued me. Once it closed, there was a gigantic piece of my childhood that went with it. It’s kind of like how we as adults feel about Toys R Us closing in 2018. But to a kid? It’s a little more heartbreaking.
Since I was born in 1983, me and Kiddie City didn’t have a lot of time together. It was kinda like a close friend you had as a kid and just drifted apart as you got older. It was there for a very important era in my life and I’m just still very happy to retain these memories. I know everyone had their toy store or department store of choice We all had our favorite spots that we felt like no matter what else happened in our lives, we could rely on just a quick walk around our favorite toy store to cheer us up. Just like they said in the commercials, Kiddie City helped “turn that frown…UPSIDE DOWN!!!”.
The fact is we’re all lucky to have had these places as kids and especially at a time before technology became so easily accessible. I mean we’re extremely spoiled now! If we want something badly, we got order and it gets shipped that afternoon. But as a kid? Going in and being shocked at the new HeMan figures or the new NES game or perhaps getting your hopes up that mom had an extra 5 bucks to give you to grab that new Rowdy Roddy Piper Hasbro figure. That’s where the fun truly lied.
So to anyone who worked at Kiddie City at any point in their life, the cashiers had a bad day but still found a way to bring joy to our lives, the overnight staff who prolly needed a cigarette and a beer instead of putting together a Toy Biz Batcave display, to the unfortunate souls who had to don a Kaycee costume and take photos with kids on a hot day, thank you for providing us with such fond memories that none of us will ever forget. That store and that kangaroo truly meant the world to so many of us.