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31st October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Emily Hill
Videographer – Dan Cash

00.03 – Bal: I started off by having a little plastic one, which wasn’t very good because his arms wouldn’t bend. Like his hair was plastic, it was just drawn on. But then I got an Action Man who bends and turns and everything, so he was a lot of fun.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: But then we got the Hulk. And Hulk was the same as Action Man but bigger and stronger. Action Man was the wimp when they were fighting then.

Emily: Yeah. Did you play with them all together?

Bal: I did yeah. Great fun.

Emily: And did you play these games with your brothers and sisters?

Bal: No. I was a bit. Well, the problem was that when my sister starting playing she decided Barbie wanted to marry Action Man and I had no idea why, so Action Man was the wimp now, and he’s gone away, so had to fight the other guy. So it wasn’t fair but yeah, Action Man was – it was better than her marrying the Hulk.

0.53 – Bal: So she stole Action Man, and he, all he did was lay down all the time because he was married now. He wasn’t much fun. But we took his guns off him, yeah, he didn’t need them any more.

1.06 – Emily: Do you remember any of these kind of toys being advertised, or friends having them and you kind of . . .

Bal: Not the Hulk, no. It was like one of a kind for me. My friend had the Action Man villain, who was Dr X or something and he was amazing so when we sat in the car together he says ‘Can we swap? Can I play with Hulk?’ and I was sort of ‘Ooh. Alright. Just for this.’ So yeah. But he was nothing compared to the Hulk.

1.32 – Bal: The Hulk was very important. And then, they – his response to everything was ‘Hulk smash.’ So if you wind him up he gets mad and then he smashes things and that’s his big power. So when I got told off I went ‘Argh, smash’. And then I got in more trouble. And they say I’ve got anger issues now and I think mm, it’s the way I was brought up, you know?

Emily: And so it’s that kind of play where he affected your?

Bal: Yes, he did, in a big way

Emily: Yeah. Did you ever find that, or maybe not at the time, but now, that those kinds of toys were kind of violent in some way?

Bal: Looking back, yeah. I mean today’s society, they don’t like kids to have guns or you know, there’s always violence, there’s always fighting. Yeah, it’s always been that way because like growing up in the 80s. Late 70s, 80s. Yeah, it’s always been that way and it is now, today. It’s always fighting. For the girls it seems to be a princess kind of way of living.

Emily: Did you kind of realise that division when you were younger with your sister? Did you find that her games didn’t interest you, or?

Bal: Very much, yeah. She was all about marriage and shopping and she had a set that was about drinking tea, you know, like a little tea set. So that didn’t interest me at all. There’s no gun or nothing.

Emily: Hulk didn’t take tea!

Bal: No. [laughter]

3.04 – Emily: Do you still have any of these toys?

Bal: Unfortunately I lost the Hulk. And I remember that day in a big way because we had a telephone box up the top of the green. We went in there, my mum made the phone call and I put my Hulk down and then I’ve gone home and I’ve gone ‘Where’s Hulk?’ So we went back and he was gone.

Emily: He’s gone

Bal: Yeah. So I’d love to find him again. ‘Cos he’s the same size as Action Man but big and angry. It was really good. So yeah, I’d love to see him again.

Emily: Was that a sad day?

Bal: Very, yeah. I still think – I used to walk up there and each time we went shopping I’d go ‘Can we go past there again, just in case he’s back?’ Yeah, it was very sad.

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31st October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Emily Hill
Videographer – Dan Cash

00.04 – Emily: Okay. Where were you born and when?

Bal: Okay. I was born in Croydon in 1974, and that’s slightly in Kent, on the border between Kent and London.

Emily: And is that where you spent your childhood?

Bal: No, I moved up to London where I was about seven or eight, and I spent the rest of my years in Thamesmead, which is like Southeast London.

0.31 – Emily: And did you have a specific teddy bear that you remember from your childhood?

Bal: I did. When I was very young, I had a lovely teddy bear which was called Blue Ted, and he was about this big, a teddy bear with little arms out, and a little button nose which I – sorry, button eyes. I used to chew on them, when I was very young Yeah, I loved him so much I took him everywhere. I used to drag him down the street as my best friend, sleep with him, and I knew that when I went to bed my mum would take him and wash him. And then put him back into bed with me.

Emily: And do you remember how you got him?

Bal: No. No idea.

Emily: So you were quite – how old were you, do you think?

Bal: Gosh. I suppose I may have been like two or three. Yeah, and growing up to about like five or something, yeah, had him for ages.

Emily: And what kind of play did you play with him? Was it with other people, or …

Bal: No, it was just me and him really.

Emily: Imagination kind of game?

Bal: Pretty much, yeah. He was like a best friend.

Emily: Did you have any others and sisters that you grew up with?

Bal: I do. At the time, I had one older sister, who was a year older. And by the time I’d grown to around seven I had a younger brother, so seven years younger.

Emily: And did you ever share your bear with them?

Bal: Not the bear, no. ‘Cos he was mine. But he had his own like teddies.

2.03 – Emily: Could you describe him a bit more? Do you know what material? Did he have fur?

Bal: He was fur, yeah, and he was just standing straight up. He was about this tall, if I remember correctly. His arms sticking out to the side.

Emily: What colour was he?

Bal: Blue. Blue Ted, yeah.

Emily: Oh I see [laughs]. And how did you feel about – was it a him or a her?

Bal: It was a him, yeah

Emily: How did you feel about him?

Bal: I loved him, yeah. He was my companion, my best friend. Yeah.

Emily: And is he the kind of stand out toy you remember from your childhood?

Bal: As a youngster, very much, yeah

Emily: And he was kind of a comforter, it sounds like?

Bal: He was, yeah. He was always there.

Emily: And do you still have him?

Bal: I don’t, no

Emily: Do you remember when you, did you lose him, or?

Bal: I don’t know to be honest. I don’t know what happened to him.

Emily: Didn’t get handed down, or?

Bal: I don’t think he did. No. It’d a pity, but I don’t know.

Emily: And what are your best memories of him?

Bal: Going everywhere. And at the time I had like a baseball cap which was kind of an army baseball cap, and it was too big for me and it would always come down like this, but he could wear it as well, so we had fun.

Emily: Did you have any other teddy bears, or just him?

Bal: No, just him.

03.31 – Emily: So, dolls. Did you play with any dolls?

Bal: Not so much dolls, but action figures.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Action Men. Yeah

Emily: And can you tell me about them? Did you have multiple . . . ?

Bal: I did. I started off by having a little plastic one, which wasn’t very good because his arms wouldn’t bend. Like his hair was plastic, it was just drawn on. But then I got an Action Man who bends and turns and everything, and he was a lot of fun.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: But then we got the Hulk. And Hulk was the same as Action Man but bigger and stronger. Action Man was the wimp when they were fighting then.

Emily: Yeah. Did you play with them all together?

Bal: I did yeah. Great fun.

Emily: And did you play these games with your brothers and sisters?

Bal: No. I was a bit. Well, the problem was that when my sister starting playing she decided Barbie wanted to marry Action Man and I had no idea why, so Action Man was the wimp now, and he’s gone away, so had to fight the other guy. So it wasn’t fair but yeah, Action Man was – it was better than her marrying the Hulk.

Emily: And did you have a kind of like idea that Barbies were the girls’ toys and Ken almost became effeminate when he was . . .

Bal: She didn’t have Ken, but she had a few different Barbies.

Emily: Oh of course, Action Man, sorry.

Bal: So she stole Action Man, and he, all he did was lay down all the time because he was married now. He wasn’t much fun. But we took his guns off him, yeah, he didn’t need them any more.

Emily: Do you remember how you came to own these? Were they gifts, or?

Bal: Gosh. I think they were gifts, they were presents bought for me.

Emily: Do you ever remember unwrapping them at Christmas, or?

05.10 – Bal: Um, I don’t remember with the Hulk, to be honest. I think it was a birthday. Yeah, it could have been.

Emily: Do you remember any of these kind of toys being advertised, or friends having them and you kind of . . .

Bal: Not the Hulk, no. It was like one of a kind for me. My friend had the Action Man villain, who was Dr X or something and he was amazing so when we sat in the car together he says ‘Can we swap? Can I play with Hulk?’ and I was sort of ‘Ooh. Alright. Just for this.’ So yeah. But he was nothing compared to Hulk.

Emily: Yeah. So you felt that some of these toys were better than others, or?

Bal: Yeah, Hulk was just amazing. I was glad I had him.

Emily: How important were these to you? Did you?

Bal: The Hulk was very important. And then, they – his response to everything was ‘Hulk smash.’ So if you wind him up he gets mad and then he smashes things and that’s his big power. So when I got told off I went ‘Argh, smash’. And then I got in more trouble And they say I’ve got anger issues now and I think mm, it’s the way I was brought you, you know?

Emily: And so it’s that kind of play where he affected your?

Bal: Yes, he did, in a big way

Emily: Yeah. Did you ever find that, or maybe not at the time, but now, that those kinds of toys were kind of violent in some way?

Bal: Looking back, yeah. I mean today’s society, they don’t like kids to have guns or you know, there’s always violence, always fighting. Yeah, it’s always been that way because like growing up in the 80s. Late 70s, 80s. Yeah, it’s always been that way and it is now, today. It’s always fighting. With girls it seems to be a princess kind of way of living.

Emily: Did you kind of realise that division when you were younger with your sister? Did you find that her games didn’t interest you, or?

Bal: Very much, yeah. She was all about marriage and shopping and she had a set that was about drinking tea, you know, like a little tea set. So that didn’t interest me at all. There’s no gun or nothing.

Emily: Hulk didn’t take tea!

Bal: No. [laughter]

Emily: Do you still have any of these toys?

Bal: Unfortunately I lost the Hulk. And I remember that day in a big way because we had a telephone box up the top of the green. I went in there, my mum made the phone call and I put my Hulk down and then I’ve gone home and I’ve gone ‘Where’s Hulk?’ So we went back and he’s gone.

Emily: He’s gone

Bal: Yeah. So I’d like to find him again. ‘Cos he’s the same size as Action Man but big and angry. It was really good. So yeah, I’d love to see him again.

Emily: Was that a sad day?

Bal: Very, yeah. I still think – I used to walk up there and every time we went shopping I’d go ‘Can we go past there again, just in case he’s back?’ Yeah, it was very sad.

Emily: And do you remember having anything to replace him, or was he kind of irreplaceable?

Bal: Yeah, nothing came close. No, nothing. At the time it was, you know, it was hard, ‘cos I always kind of thought ‘Where’s Hulk?’. I mean, I’d moved on from Blue Ted and I was now into action figures, Action Men style, yeah. Yeah, but no, there was no more Hulk after that.

Emily: Did you ever have kind of your friends over to play with these things? Did they? You mentioned that in the car you had a friend, did they all play together, or?

Bal: That’s right. We did all play together, but they never really played with Hulk that much, they had their own ones and I was always Hulk. I loved him.

Emily: Quite protective over him?

Bal: I was, yeah. I couldn’t imagine being a villain. I always wanted to be the big hero that smashes things.

Emily: That’s really interesting. So I guess your main toys were heroes rather than villains

Bal: Very much so, yeah

Emily: The James Bond villain didn’t . . . ?

Bal: Yeah, it’s not my thing.

Emily: appeal to you. That’s very interesting.9.27 – And construction toys. Did you have any construction toys?

Bal: I did have construction toys, yes. I had these little ones with black grains, like the ones which, so you’d drive them along and then you’d fill them up, like you’d use a forklift to pick up the little black grains and tip them in and move them around and unload there so it was, you know, on the kitchen table, just driving around and moving bits of dirt.

Emily: I haven’t heard of those before – were they truck sets, with . . .

Bal: Yeah, with kind of 5 or 6 in which was all kind of Matchbox sized, with yellow construction ones. Yeah.

10.04 – Emily: And you used to kind of construct things with it?

Bal: Moving dirt really

Emily: Do you remember how you came to own these?

Bal: No. I was very young as well.

Emily: Did you play with them with anyone else?

Bal: No, no. As a child the toys were mainly for indoors. I mean. Stuff like Blue Ted and Hulk I’d take with me but the rest of the stuff was mainly indoors. And my sister just wouldn’t play with them, so it was just me really.

Emily: Those kind of construction toys sound a bit more kind of unimaginary there. Unimaginary’s the wrong word. You were playing with them really literally.

Bal: That’s right.

Emily: So here was less. Yes. More literal kind of play.

Bal: Yeah. I mean we had stuff like Lego which was construction as well. And that was the stuff I played with with my sister. But you know, her ideas weren’t the same as mine. Whereas I’d built like a little train and put guns on it so I could shoot the bad guys, but she wouldn’t. Her idea was to like build a house with flowers outside. I said it’s a waste of all that big green space that you could use to build a big vehicle. So, you know . . .

Emily: Do you think that you learnt through that kind of play?

Bal: I did. Lego was brilliant, yeah. It was one of the best ones. I’d love to do it now you know, it’s that good.

Emily: Great fun

Bal: Yeah, it is

Emily: So was Lego your kind of, was it a communal Lego set, did you keep adding to it?

Bal: It was, yeah. Yep, whichever set we got we always added to it and just had a bucket full. A bucket full and you’d just tip it out and everyone just started playing. Me, my sister, and then my brother was older and I had to teach him how to shoot, you know.

11.59 – Emily: Yeah, I was going to ask, This idea of heroes and villains, did you get that, do that think you maybe were inspired by stories or television that you’d been watching?

Bal: Yeah. I liked the comics of the Hulk and Spiderman. So they were very good. Very important to me.

Emily: That must have been interesting to almost have the real things after you’d been reading?

Bal: Yeah. It’s a pity, ‘cos they’ve got a lot more figures. They’ve got a Lego Spiderman, and I’m like ‘Wow. I could have done with him a few years back.’

Emily: And your Lego sets. You mentioned the flowers and I know those, the flowers, I had some. The flowers on the Lego sets were the kind of girl versions. So did you have, do you remember having maybe, your sister had her Lego, I know it was all in the same, but did you notice that these – did they come as pink blocks as well?

Bal: I don’t remember pink blocks, but I remember there being flowers and doors and windows, and the door wasn’t much good to me.

Emily: Do you think your sister enjoyed Lego as much as you did?

Bal: No, I don’t think she did because she let me play with it mostly, and she was very, being one year older, she was more possessive about the stuff, so – like with Action Man – she’s see what she wants and she’s take it. So Hulk’s got no one to fight. With the Lego, she kind of had her My Little Pony and Barbie and Sindy, I remember I think she was lucky, she had a doll which was like this high off the floor.

Emily: A metre

Bal: Yeah, really big. She got it and she used to put her clothes on it because it was taller than she is. She had the doll stuff and I had sort of like the Lego, which I really liked.

13.52 – Emily: Did you ever bring any of these toys into school?

Bal: To school? I remember taking a small pull back car, about the size of my hand. At the time it was lovely, because it had doors that opened. So you pull it back, it would go. Me and my friend, mine was a sports car and his was a Jaguar and it was like a posh car, with the bonnet opens and the doors and the back and I thought ‘That’s really nice.’ We went driving along on the walls and in the dirt. We swapped and we go with each others and I found his doors opened too often and the front kept flipping up and the back, so I thought ‘nah, I’d rather have my one!’

Emily: You were happy with yours.

Bal: Yeah.

Emily: It’s interesting how much more children compare toys. Did you find that you played . . . You said that sometimes you played Action Man indoors because toys were mainly indoor sort of games. When you moved from Kent to London did you find you played with different toys or you played differently? Was there less outside play?

14.57 – Bal: No, there was more. As I got older I played with more things, move on to like skateboards and bikes you know. We started to travel out a bit further. Whereas before it was more staying indoors.

Emily: Do you remember your, maybe your last toys before they were a bit too, maybe you were a bit too old for them?

Bal: I think the last ones we had was a thing called M.A.S.K where there were these little figures. There was a cartoon on TV and there were masks that they put on and they were like shoot things or lift things or, yes, so I got into that, with my little brother, and we had, we could both kind of collect the stuff. But one day my mum said “you’re getting a bit old for these”. So I give all my toys, those ones especially, to my brother, and it was only like at the weekends, when my mum’s not looking – “come on, let’s play for an hour.”

Emily: Yeah, that’s really interesting, you kind of remember the age. You didn’t feel that you wanted to stop playing with toys?

16.00 – Bal: No, it was very hard. Very hard to give up. Yeah I kind of wish that we had – if it was just me as a child we could have kept them in a box, ‘cos I hear that’s what people do. But they went to my brother and when he got older I think they were thrown out.

Emily: Yeah. Do your family have any toys left? You said your sister still has the . . .

Bal: Well, unfortunately she did have but we don’t . . . I’m the last one left of the family so the – the rest have gone.

Emily: Do you have any other toys you want to talk about?

Bal: At the moment or in the past? ‘Cos at the moment I don’t really have any.

16.36 – Emily (overlapping). Yeah, at the moment if you have any. Yeah, in the past.

Bal: I think Star Wars was fairly important yeah, all the way through. It was great fun to play.

Emily: Was that action figures or?

Bal: Little action figures yeah, in the 80s. The Millennium Falcon was like this big. It was huge. And it was … You can’t really play with a toy that big and like run around the room so much. But you can park it, and all the men get in and out.

Emily: Can you describe it? Is it plastic?

Bal: It was plastic, yeah. And you had like a part on the round part which lifts off and then comes back on. I’ve seen them today in the shops and they’re really expensive. There’s like Lego versions for eighty pounds. So yeah, we couldn’t afford that. I don’t know how they do it these days you know. So many toys.

17.28 – Emily: Did you remember any toys that you weren’t allowed, or they were too expensive?

Bal: I do now. Another one was Transformers. And there was the main big guy, Optimus Prime, who everyone had. But the main bad guy was Megatron and they didn’t sell him. He was like £80 I think at the time but all you see was a picture of him in the Argos. And no one had him. None of my friends, you know. I think it was so he was going to be the rare one. And now he must be worth hundreds of pounds.

18.07 – Emily: You mention the Argos catalogue. Do you remember flicking though that as a boy?

Bal: I do, yes. All the time. To see what I couldn’t afford but I could always dream of.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember – ‘cos I know there was, I used to open the Argos catalogue maybe in the boy part and think ‘Ugh, not interested’ and then do you remember, ‘cos there’s kind of sections isn’t there?

Bal: That’s right

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Yeah, I remember looking at the girls’ stuff and thinking no, it’s just Barbie and stuff. I found her smile a bit annoying. And her great big long neck. The more I looked at it, the more I thought ‘she’s a strange chick’. And she doesn’t bend as much as Action Man. And she only bends slightly, was it the arms or the legs where she … You know, she’s very robotic.

18.57 – Emily: You mentioned Star Wars toys. Did you see the films or?

Bal: I did, yeah. I saw the films. I loved them. Yeah it was brilliant, good fun. And I liked the new ones as well, even though the old ones I feel better because I had the toys for them. Yeah, I’ve always loved Star Wars.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember that being a kind of craze with your friends as well?

Bal: At the time I was quite young too so it was mainly me playing, and then when my brother got older we played together but you know, that wasn’t for too long. And then I was out of the toys, yeah.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember any particular crazes of toys that maybe everyone had to have and everyone had at school and you all really wanted?

Bal: I know marbles was very big to me. ‘Cos we used to play that in the playground. And once one person starts bringing in their marbles we got a little bag and we could all go in and see how many we could win for the day. It was special, it was good.

Emily: And did you play that at home as well? Did you make . . .

Bal: I did, yeah. I taught my little brother. Yeah, it was brilliant.

Emily: Did you construct any of the flumes they might go down or was it just kind of the game?

Bal: It was the game of marbles, yeah.

Emily: Can you describe that?

Bal: Well, we could either play it as one against one, and you would kind of move to the side and you’d try to hit the other one. If you hit it you win it. Or the other one we played was like bowls, where you’d roll one down towards the wall and then try to get our balls as close to it. So we’d have about five bowls and we’d try to see who’s closest. That was good fun too.

Emily: Did you play it on the playground?

Bal: We did, yeah. And there were like two different styles. You had that one where you flick it and then we had this other one that was French or something. You’d pick the marble up and put your thumb down and then you’d pull back and you’d flick it. So this one was much better. It was, once we got into it. It was great to aim like that and then have it hit. It was amazing.

Emily: I’ve never heard of that game. Were you allowed to do these kinds of things at school?

Bal: We were.

Emily: I know maybe schools and children these days are a bit more again

Bal: Yeah. It was in primary school so that was about nine or ten, so I think that was a good age for marbles.

Emily: And is there anything else you can, any other toys you can remember? Any that you want to talk about?

Bal: I think they’re my main ones. They’re my favourites.

Emily: Do you think that you have a good – you seem to have a really amazing memory of your toys. Is that because they meant a lot to you? An important part of your childhood?

Bal: They did, yeah. That was the most important part yeah. That was the most important part yeah. I think probably more important than family at times. Was having my toys, because they meant the world to me.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Yeah. Blue Ted was my, almost like my partner. Like a wife or a husband or something you know. The two of us, yeah. Giving them up was really difficult. And that’s why, if I could find them now I’d buy them, just to put them at the side, to feel them again.

Emily: It’s a real memory I guess as well, if you

Bal: It is

Emily: have that trigger, of you remembering those things.

Bal: Yeah. They were very good.

Emily: Thank you very much.

Bal: Okay. Thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS 22.31

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31st October 2014
Location: Brighton Toy and Model Museum
Interviewer – Emily Hill
Videographer – Dan Cash

00.00 – Emily: Okay. Where were you born and when?

Bal: Okay. I was born in Croydon in 1974, and that’s slightly in Kent, on the border between Kent and London.

Emily: And is that where you spent your childhood?

Bal: No, I moved up to London where I was about seven or eight, and I spent the rest of my years in Thamesmead, which is like Southeast London.

Emily: And did you have a specific teddy bear that you remember from your childhood?

Bal: I did. When I was very young, I had a lovely teddy bear which was called Blue Ted, and he was about this big, a teddy bear with little arms out, and a little button nose which I – sorry, button eyes. I used to chew on them, when I was very young Yeah, I loved him so much I took him everywhere. I used to drag him down the street as my best friend, sleep with him, and I knew that when I went to bed my mum would take him and wash him. And then put him back into bed with me.

Emily: And do you remember how you got him?

Bal: No. No idea.

Emily: So you were quite – how old were you, do you think?

Bal: Gosh. I suppose I may have been like two or three. Yeah, and growing up to about like five or something, yeah, had him for ages.

Emily: And what kind of play did you play with him? Was it with other people, or …

Bal: No, it was just me and him really.

Emily: Imagination kind of game?

Bal: Pretty much, yeah. He was like a best friend.

Emily: Did you have any others and sisters that you grew up with?

Bal: I do. At the time, I had one older sister, who was a year older. And by the time I’d grown to around seven I had a younger brother, so seven years younger.

Emily: And did you ever share your bear with them?

Bal: Not the bear, no. ‘Cos he was mine. But he had his own like teddies.

2.06 – Emily: Could you describe him a bit more? Do you know what material? Did he have fur?

Bal: He was fur, yeah, and he was just standing straight up. He was about this tall, if I remember correctly. His arms sticking out to the side.

Emily: What colour was he?

Bal: Blue. Blue Ted, yeah.

Emily: Oh I see [laughs]. And how did you feel about – was it a him or a her?

Bal: It was a him, yeah

Emily: How did you feel about him?

Bal: I loved him, yeah. He was my companion, my best friend. Yeah.

Emily: And is he the kind of stand out toy you remember from your childhood?

Bal: As a youngster, very much, yeah

Emily: And he was kind of a comforter, it sounds like?

Bal: He was, yeah. He was always there.

Emily: And do you still have him?

Bal: I don’t, no

Emily: Do you remember when you, did you lose him, or?

Bal: I don’t know to be honest. I don’t know what happened to him.

Emily: Didn’t get handed down, or?

Bal: I don’t think he did. No. It’d a pity, but I don’t know.

Emily: And what are your best memories of him?

Bal: Going everywhere. And at the time I had like a baseball cap which was kind of an army baseball cap, and it was too big for me and it would always come down like this, but he could wear it as well, so we had fun.

Emily: Did you have any other teddy bears, or just him?

Bal: No, just him.

03.34 – Emily: So, dolls. Did you play with any dolls?

Bal: Not so much dolls, but action figures.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Action Men. Yeah

Emily: And can you tell me about them? Did you have multiple . . . ?

Bal: I did. I started off by having a little plastic one, which wasn’t very good because his arms wouldn’t bend. Like his hair was plastic, it was just drawn on. But then I got an Action Man who bends and turns and everything, and he was a lot of fun.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: But then we got the Hulk. And Hulk was the same as Action Man but bigger and stronger. Action Man was the wimp when they were fighting then.

Emily: Yeah. Did you play with them all together?

Bal: I did yeah. Great fun.

Emily: And did you play these games with your brothers and sisters?

Bal: No. I was a bit. Well, the problem was that when my sister starting playing she decided Barbie wanted to marry Action Man and I had no idea why, so Action Man was the wimp now, and he’s gone away, so had to fight the other guy. So it wasn’t fair but yeah, Action Man was – it was better than her marrying the Hulk.

Emily: And did you have a kind of like idea that Barbies were the girls’ toys and Ken almost became effeminate when he was . . .

Bal: She didn’t have Ken, but she had a few different Barbies.

Emily: Oh of course, Action Man, sorry.

Bal: So she stole Action Man, and he, all he did was lay down all the time because he was married now. He wasn’t much fun. But we took his guns off him, yeah, he didn’t need them any more.

Emily: Do you remember how you came to own these? Were they gifts, or?

Bal: Gosh. I think they were gifts, they were presents bought for me.

Emily: Do you ever remember unwrapping them at Christmas, or?

05.13 – Bal: Um, I don’t remember with the Hulk, to be honest. I think it was a birthday. Yeah, it could have been.

Emily: Do you remember any of these kind of toys being advertised, or friends having them and you kind of . . .

Bal: Not the Hulk, no. It was like one of a kind for me. My friend had the Action Man villain, who was Dr X or something and he was amazing so when we sat in the car together he says ‘Can we swap? Can I play with Hulk?’ and I was sort of ‘Ooh. Alright. Just for this.’ So yeah. But he was nothing compared to Hulk.

Emily: Yeah. So you felt that some of these toys were better than others, or?

Bal: Yeah, Hulk was just amazing. I was glad I had him.

Emily: How important were these to you? Did you?

Bal: The Hulk was very important. And then, they – his response to everything was ‘Hulk smash.’ So if you wind him up he gets mad and then he smashes things and that’s his big power. So when I got told off I went ‘Argh, smash’. And then I got in more trouble And they say I’ve got anger issues now and I think mm, it’s the way I was brought you, you know?

Emily: And so it’s that kind of play where he affected your?

Bal: Yes, he did, in a big way

Emily: Yeah. Did you ever find that, or maybe not at the time, but now, that those kinds of toys were kind of violent in some way?

Bal: Looking back, yeah. I mean today’s society, they don’t like kids to have guns or you know, there’s always violence, always fighting. Yeah, it’s always been that way because like growing up in the 80s. Late 70s, 80s. Yeah, it’s always been that way and it is now, today. It’s always fighting. With girls it seems to be a princess kind of way of living.

Emily: Did you kind of realise that division when you were younger with your sister? Did you find that her games didn’t interest you, or?

Bal: Very much, yeah. She was all about marriage and shopping and she had a set that was about drinking tea, you know, like a little tea set. So that didn’t interest me at all. There’s no gun or nothing.

Emily: Hulk didn’t take tea!

Bal: No. [laughter]

Emily: Do you still have any of these toys?

Bal: Unfortunately I lost the Hulk. And I remember that day in a big way because we had a telephone box up the top of the green. I went in there, my mum made the phone call and I put my Hulk down and then I’ve gone home and I’ve gone ‘Where’s Hulk?’ So we went back and he’s gone.

Emily: He’s gone

Bal: Yeah. So I’d like to find him again. ‘Cos he’s the same size as Action Man but big and angry. It was really good. So yeah, I’d love to see him again.

Emily: Was that a sad day?

Bal: Very, yeah. I still think – I used to walk up there and every time we went shopping I’d go ‘Can we go past there again, just in case he’s back?’ Yeah, it was very sad.

Emily: And do you remember having anything to replace him, or was he kind of irreplaceable?

Bal: Yeah, nothing came close. No, nothing. At the time it was, you know, it was hard, ‘cos I always kind of thought ‘Where’s Hulk?’. I mean, I’d moved on from Blue Ted and I was now into action figures, Action Men style, yeah. Yeah, but no, there was no more Hulk after that.

Emily: Did you ever have kind of your friends over to play with these things? Did they? You mentioned that in the car you had a friend, did they all play together, or?

Bal: That’s right. We did all play together, but they never really played with Hulk that much, they had their own ones and I was always Hulk. I loved him.

Emily: Quite protective over him?

Bal: I was, yeah. I couldn’t imagine being a villain. I always wanted to be the big hero that smashes things.

Emily: That’s really interesting. So I guess your main toys were heroes rather than villains

Bal: Very much so, yeah

Emily: The James Bond villain didn’t . . . ?

Bal: Yeah, it’s not my thing.

Emily: appeal to you. That’s very interesting – And construction toys. Did you have any construction toys?

Bal: I did have construction toys, yes. I had these little ones with black grains, like the ones which, so you’d drive them along and then you’d fill them up, like you’d use a forklift to pick up the little black grains and tip them in and move them around and unload there so it was, you know, on the kitchen table, just driving around and moving bits of dirt.

Emily: I haven’t heard of those before – were they truck sets, with . . .

Bal: Yeah, with kind of 5 or 6 in which was all kind of Matchbox sized, with yellow construction ones. Yeah.

10.07 – Emily: And you used to kind of construct things with it?

Bal: Moving dirt really

Emily: Do you remember how you came to own these?

Bal: No. I was very young as well.

Emily: Did you play with them with anyone else?

Bal: No, no. As a child the toys were mainly for indoors. I mean. Stuff like Blue Ted and Hulk I’d take with me but the rest of the stuff was mainly indoors. And my sister just wouldn’t play with them, so it was just me really.

Emily: Those kind of construction toys sound a bit more kind of unimaginary there. Unimaginary’s the wrong word. You were playing with them really literally.

Bal: That’s right.

Emily: So here was less. Yes. More literal kind of play.

Bal: Yeah. I mean we had stuff like Lego which was construction as well. And that was the stuff I played with with my sister. But you know, her ideas weren’t the same as mine. Whereas I’d built like a little train and put guns on it so I could shoot the bad guys, but she wouldn’t. Her idea was to like build a house with flowers outside. I said it’s a waste of all that big green space that you could use to build a big vehicle. So, you know . . .

Emily: Do you think that you learnt through that kind of play?

Bal: I did. Lego was brilliant, yeah. It was one of the best ones. I’d love to do it now you know, it’s that good.

Emily: Great fun

Bal: Yeah, it is

Emily: So was Lego your kind of, was it a communal Lego set, did you keep adding to it?

Bal: It was, yeah. Yep, whichever set we got we always added to it and just had a bucket full. A bucket full and you’d just tip it out and everyone just started playing. Me, my sister, and then my brother was older and I had to teach him how to shoot, you know.

12.02 – Emily: Yeah, I was going to ask, This idea of heroes and villains, did you get that, do that think you maybe were inspired by stories or television that you’d been watching?

Bal: Yeah. I liked the comics of the Hulk and Spiderman. So they were very good. Very important to me.

Emily: That must have been interesting to almost have the real things after you’d been reading?

Bal: Yeah. It’s a pity, ‘cos they’ve got a lot more figures. They’ve got a Lego Spiderman, and I’m like ‘Wow. I could have done with him a few years back.’

Emily: And your Lego sets. You mentioned the flowers and I know those, the flowers, I had some. The flowers on the Lego sets were the kind of girl versions. So did you have, do you remember having maybe, your sister had her Lego, I know it was all in the same, but did you notice that these – did they come as pink blocks as well?

Bal: I don’t remember pink blocks, but I remember there being flowers and doors and windows, and the door wasn’t much good to me.

Emily: Do you think your sister enjoyed Lego as much as you did?

Bal: No, I don’t think she did because she let me play with it mostly, and she was very, being one year older, she was more possessive about the stuff, so – like with Action Man – she’s see what she wants and she’s take it. So Hulk’s got no one to fight. With the Lego, she kind of had her My Little Pony and Barbie and Sindy, I remember I think she was lucky, she had a doll which was like this high off the floor.

Emily: A metre

Bal: Yeah, really big. She got it and she used to put her clothes on it because it was taller than she is. She had the doll stuff and I had sort of like the Lego, which I really liked.

13.55 – Emily: Did you ever bring any of these toys into school?

Bal: To school? I remember taking a small pull back car, about the size of my hand. At the time it was lovely, because it had doors that opened. So you pull it back, it would go. Me and my friend, mine was a sports car and his was a Jaguar and it was like a posh car, with the bonnet opens and the doors and the back and I thought ‘That’s really nice.’ We went driving along on the walls and in the dirt. We swapped and we go with each others and I found his doors opened too often and the front kept flipping up and the back, so I thought ‘nah, I’d rather have my one!’

Emily: You were happy with yours.

Bal: Yeah.

Emily: It’s interesting how much more children compare toys. Did you find that you played . . . You said that sometimes you played Action Man indoors because toys were mainly indoor sort of games. When you moved from Kent to London did you find you played with different toys or you played differently? Was there less outside play?

15.00 – Bal: No, there was more. As I got older I played with more things, move on to like skateboards and bikes you know. We started to travel out a bit further. Whereas before it was more staying indoors.

Emily: Do you remember your, maybe your last toys before they were a bit too, maybe you were a bit too old for them?

Bal: I think the last ones we had was a thing called M.A.S.K where there were these little figures. There was a cartoon on TV and there were masks that they put on and they were like shoot things or lift things or, yes, so I got into that, with my little brother, and we had, we could both kind of collect the stuff. But one day my mum said “you’re getting a bit old for these”. So I give all my toys, those ones especially, to my brother, and it was only like at the weekends, when my mum’s not looking – “come on, let’s play for an hour.”

Emily: Yeah, that’s really interesting, you kind of remember the age. You didn’t feel that you wanted to stop playing with toys?

16.02 – Bal: No, it was very hard. Very hard to give up. Yeah I kind of wish that we had – if it was just me as a child we could have kept them in a box, ‘cos I hear that’s what people do. But they went to my brother and when he got older I think they were thrown out.

Emily: Yeah. Do your family have any toys left? You said your sister still has the . . .

Bal: Well, unfortunately she did have but we don’t . . . I’m the last one left of the family so the – the rest have gone.

Emily: Do you have any other toys you want to talk about?

Bal: At the moment or in the past? ‘Cos at the moment I don’t really have any.

16.39 – Emily (overlapping). Yeah, at the moment if you have any. Yeah, in the past.

Bal: I think Star Wars was fairly important yeah, all the way through. It was great fun to play.

Emily: Was that action figures or?

Bal: Little action figures yeah, in the 80s. The Millennium Falcon was like this big. It was huge. And it was … You can’t really play with a toy that big and like run around the room so much. But you can park it, and all the men get in and out.

Emily: Can you describe it? Is it plastic?

Bal: It was plastic, yeah. And you had like a part on the round part which lifts off and then comes back on. I’ve seen them today in the shops and they’re really expensive. There’s like Lego versions for eighty pounds. So yeah, we couldn’t afford that. I don’t know how they do it these days you know. So many toys.

17.31 – Emily: Did you remember any toys that you weren’t allowed, or they were too expensive?

Bal: I do now. Another one was Transformers. And there was the main big guy, Optimus Prime, who everyone had. But the main bad guy was Megatron and they didn’t sell him. He was like £80 I think at the time but all you see was a picture of him in the Argos. And no one had him. None of my friends, you know. I think it was so he was going to be the rare one. And now he must be worth hundreds of pounds.

18.10 – Emily: You mention the Argos catalogue. Do you remember flicking though that as a boy?

Bal: I do, yes. All the time. To see what I couldn’t afford but I could always dream of.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember – ‘cos I know there was, I used to open the Argos catalogue maybe in the boy part and think ‘Ugh, not interested’ and then do you remember, ‘cos there’s kind of sections isn’t there?

Bal: That’s right

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Yeah, I remember looking at the girls’ stuff and thinking no, it’s just Barbie and stuff. I found her smile a bit annoying. And her great big long neck. The more I looked at it, the more I thought ‘she’s a strange chick’. And she doesn’t bend as much as Action Man. And she only bends slightly, was it the arms or the legs where she … You know, she’s very robotic.

19.00 – Emily: You mentioned Star Wars toys. Did you see the films or?

Bal: I did, yeah. I saw the films. I loved them. Yeah it was brilliant, good fun. And I liked the new ones as well, even though the old ones I feel better because I had the toys for them. Yeah, I’ve always loved Star Wars.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember that being a kind of craze with your friends as well?

Bal: At the time I was quite young too so it was mainly me playing, and then when my brother got older we played together but you know, that wasn’t for too long. And then I was out of the toys, yeah.

Emily: Yeah. Do you remember any particular crazes of toys that maybe everyone had to have and everyone had at school and you all really wanted?

Bal: I know marbles was very big to me. ‘Cos we used to play that in the playground. And once one person starts bringing in their marbles we got a little bag and we could all go in and see how many we could win for the day. It was special, it was good.

Emily: And did you play that at home as well? Did you make . . .

Bal: I did, yeah. I taught my little brother. Yeah, it was brilliant.

Emily: Did you construct any of the flumes they might go down or was it just kind of the game?

Bal: It was the game of marbles, yeah.

Emily: Can you describe that?

Bal: Well, we could either play it as one against one, and you would kind of move to the side and you’d try to hit the other one. If you hit it you win it. Or the other one we played was like bowls, where you’d roll one down towards the wall and then try to get our balls as close to it. So we’d have about five bowls and we’d try to see who’s closest. That was good fun too.

Emily: Did you play it on the playground?

Bal: We did, yeah. And there were like two different styles. You had that one where you flick it and then we had this other one that was French or something. You’d pick the marble up and put your thumb down and then you’d pull back and you’d flick it. So this one was much better. It was, once we got into it. It was great to aim like that and then have it hit. It was amazing.

Emily: I’ve never heard of that game. Were you allowed to do these kinds of things at school?

Bal: We were.

Emily: I know maybe schools and children these days are a bit more again

Bal: Yeah. It was in primary school so that was about nine or ten, so I think that was a good age for marbles.

Emily: And is there anything else you can, any other toys you can remember? Any that you want to talk about?

Bal: I think they’re my main ones. They’re my favourites.

Emily: Do you think that you have a good – you seem to have a really amazing memory of your toys. Is that because they meant a lot to you? An important part of your childhood?

Bal: They did, yeah. That was the most important part yeah. That was the most important part yeah. I think probably more important than family at times. Was having my toys, because they meant the world to me.

Emily: Yeah

Bal: Yeah. Blue Ted was my, almost like my partner. Like a wife or a husband or something you know. The two of us, yeah. Giving them up was really difficult. And that’s why, if I could find them now I’d buy them, just to put them at the side, to feel them again.

Emily: It’s a real memory I guess as well, if you

Bal: It is

Emily: have that trigger, of you remembering those things.

Bal: Yeah. They were very good.

Emily: Thank you very much.

Bal: Okay. Thank you.

INTERVIEW ENDS 22.37

Bal

Bal was born in Croydon in 1974, but moved to South London at the age of seven or eight. In the short version (4m 32s) of his interview he discusses his Action Man (who was made to marry his sister’s Barbie) and his Hulk toy. In the full version (22m 31s) he also talks about his teddy bear, Lego, marbles, Star Wars figures and M.A.S.K. He also reflects on the difference between girls’ and boys’ toys and how gender affects play.