The Farm Chronicles: Matchbox America

I hate to admit it, but my best friend Sonny and I didn’t stop playing with our Matchbox cars until we were about 12 years old. I’m sure many of my classmates who are reading this are saying to themselves, “I knew it,” while also knowing deep down inside there were some things that they held on to way too long as well. Joking aside, those Matchbox cars gave us an outlet in the long winter months of the Ohio snowbelt and allowed us to act out many slices of Americana that gave us assurance of well-being, a sense of adventure, entrepreneurship, and identification with what it meant to be an American. Every economic and civil community was represented in our collection of Matchbox cars.

The Mattel website gives a brief history of Matchbox cars: “In 1952, an English engineer named Jack Odell was faced with a problem when his young daughter told him that kids were only allowed to bring a toy to school if it was small enough to fit inside of a—you guessed it—match box. Tapping into his experience making die-cast car parts (and not wanting to disappoint his daughter), Jack scaled down the realistic details of a life-size steamroller into a toy that fit into the palm of his daughter’s hand—and, of course, a match box. The rest is history. Matchbox soon became one of the most popular die-cast car brands on the planet, and we continue to uphold the highest standards for making realistic vehicles that give kids the freedom to explore the world and discover their independence.”

The Matchbox mission is to “to give kids the freedom to explore the world through play. For nearly 70 years, Matchbox has inspired generations of kids to unleash their imaginations and get behind the wheel of the real-world vehicles they see every day. With a Matchbox in their hand, kids can drive their own adventure.” And that’s what it was for Sonny and me, and even my cousin Steve. We would sit for hours doing construction, rescuing people, putting out fires, working the fields, pretending to be wealthy, and tending to the horses. We didn’t have video games. So we had to entertain ourselves in other ways. Matchbox helped us hone our business skills as we traded cars between us—usually ending up with what we originally had sooner or later. When Hot Wheels came out, we used the plastic track to build roadways and race courses.

Our rooms were transformed into microcosms of America. My 1967 Hot Wheels Custom Camaro was the fastest. It was never beat. While doing some spring cleaning, my wife came across my old Matchbox collection. I just had to get them out and reminisce a bit about a simpler time and all the fun we had. Each car carries with it a certain memory. The last time I played with them, Sonny and I were in his room and he looked at me and said, “Do you want to do this anymore?” I replied, “I think we are getting a little too old for it.” We put them away. 1 Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” Sometimes, we hang on to those things that we did as a child a little longer because they might inform what we become as adults.

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Bill Wilson