In these waning days of Toys R Us, I, like many ‘a grown up Toys R Us kid, needed to make a final pilgrimage to “The House That Geoffrey Built” to say goodbye and see if there was anything worth throwing one last wad of cash at for old times sake….
I have to admit when news first broke of Toys R Us’ plans to close their doors for good, I was not quite as bummed as many of my friends simply because I had already lamented the loss of my childhood T.R.U. location almost a decade earlier.
“My” Toys R Us was located right behind the Target my mom frequented when I was a kid. In those days if I was seeing the inside of Toys R Us, it was probably after enduring a tiresome hunt for various household items (or worse, clothes) in the big red building across the street from where I really wanted to be. Sure, Target had a toy section but it was merely an appetizer compared to the feast Toys R Us had to offer.
Between the two buildings stood a shuttered bank branch that had been built to look identical to the Alamo; it's location made it a signpost that said "the magical world of toys was just up ahead". As a result those three structures will always make up an odd trinity in my head.
All three buildings are still standing; both the former Toys R Us and the wanna-be Alamo are now part of a Volvo dealership. Target is remodeled and still going strong thanks to new generations of moms buying toilet paper and back to school clothes for their bored kids.
I’ll always remember that Toys R Us- "MY" Toys R Us! I can take a nearly complete google maps style tour of it in my head; of the many memories I have inside that building here are my three favorites.
1) Saving up “Geoffrey Dollars" gifted at Christmas and my January birthday until summertime to get a choice Super Soaker watergun.
First, let’s take a moment to give Little Matt some credit for the self-control to wait 6 months with red-hot toy cash burning a hole in his pocket- that’s no easy feat at the age of ten! As you might imagine, a kid that could wait that long was also not going to then throw it all away by choosing hastily. I painstakingly compared every water gun in my price range- moreso than some adults would when buying a new car. My dream was the double-barrel Super Soaker 200 but it was still out of my price range, and not even I could bare to save up two whole years to make that happen.
I finally opted for the off-brand double barrel model but ended up having to come back and exchange it for a Super Soaker150 after the generic let me down on the field of battle. In any case, it’s funny how I remember the 'being in Toys R Us part' more vividly than I do actually super-soaking my friends.
2) Spending Adult Money On My Childhood Passion.
When the 2003 Ninja Turtles show was announced, the planets seemed to have aligned for me to make good on the promise I’d made myself as kid- “If I ever have the money I’m going to collect ALL the Turtles figures some day!” I’d fallen back in love with Ninja Turtles a few years prior thanks to the awesomely dark TMNT comics and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to start collecting the action figures of this new show from the very beginning.
My brother and one of our mutually best friends were both into it almost as much as I was and we had a lot of fun driving around tracking down the figures as they came out. Toys R Us was the official "Turtle Headquarters" which included first debuting the look of the series via a sourcebook of the show and a pack of other freebie items to let us know we were in the right place for TMNT obsession. It also meant they carried some exclusive and/or more oddball TMNT related items (see below), but most of all it meant a whole giant beautiful wall of Turtles action figures and all of the above made our stopping there a regular occurrence.
At a time in life when we still lived at home but had the independence of a car and not much else to do, hunting down those action figures was both an excuse to get out of the house and a common thread to bond over. I’ll always associate that specific TRU location with those guys, and both the show and accompanying action figure line that are among my all-time favorites.
3) Okay, I lied- this list would’ve been more accurately described as 2.5 specific memories because this one is awfully foggy. When I was a kid my brother and I were gifted a couple of small battery-operated, automated toys that I became fascinated with. They were 1 player games of a sort, easy to win at, but still endlessly entertaining because of their robotic nature. One involved a Mad Scientist, the other one a flock of Penguins. (Think "Gone Fishin’" but more compact)
Both were from the same series of toys and came in identically size boxes of shared design, though the theme of the games weren’t related at all. Where Toys R Us comes into play is that the next time I got to go T.R.U. after receiving ours, I remember seeing the ones we owned on the shelf alongside all the others in the collection and being equally enamored with the whole collection. I needed to own them all, though those two were the only ones we ever did. I even remember their exact location in the store, -right alongside the traditional board games, right before the hall with the restroom and employee breakroom. My brother remembers their existence too but in even less detail than I do, so as you’d imagine, with only scarce details that sound more like riddles, an internet search has only bore repeatedly incorrect fruit.
I can only assume they were put out by some little-known toy company or were Toys R Us exclusive items too insignificant to show up on the collector’s radar 25 years later. If my description seems weak, I can’t disagree, but as hard as I've tried I can’t muster any more helpful info. It's seems simply to be an “I’d know it if I saw it” situation and likely always will be. If you are reading this and have any ideas as what those toys I loved may be, please drop us a line.
As far as fun Toys R Us memories go, I was able to add one more to the list recently when I made my final visit to one of the few stores still open...
4.) The time I bought my Nephew a Farting Beast Boy (of Teen Titans Go!) for his 4th birthday.
He loved it.
I'm sad to say 'Peace out, Toys R Us'. Thanks for the memories, new and old.