As a kid who loved Christmas, I always wanted to go to Howard Griffin Land O Toys in Monroe, Louisiana.
In the 60's and 70's there was a chain of discount stores, like the original, non-grocery Wal-Marts, called Howard Brother's. The Howard of Howard Griffin was an owner of Howard Brother's. This chain had stores in Northeast Louisiana, and I'm not sure where else.
Now Howard Griffin was a boat dealership, and they had their main showroom for said boats on South Grand in Monroe.
Sometime each fall, they would clear the boats out of the main showroom building and fill it wall to wall with toys. So Howard Griffin Land O Toys was a seasonal toy store in Monroe every year, roughly from the end of October or first of November through the end of December.
This was years before we had ever even heard of Toys-R-Us. And as a kid in Vidalia, a two-hour car ride away from Monroe, Howard Griffin Land O Toys might as well have been on the moon.
The frazzlin' TV station we were able to receive from Monroe, KNOE showed tantalizing glimpses of Howard Griffing Land O Toys on commercials. It looked glorious, even on our black and white TV. (I have a vivid imagination, and could add color in my head.)
Just like most people can remember the words and the jingle tune for Oscar Mayer bologna, I can remember the tune and words to the Howard Griffin Land O Toys commercials.
Howard Griffin Land O Toys
Loads of fun for girls and boys
Bring the kids and look around
The biggest toy deal in the town.
At least, that's the words I remember. I've never seen them written, so there might be a little mistake or two in there. I was never sure if it was "biggest toy deal in the town," or "biggest toy dealER in the town." Dealer makes more sense, but I never could hear the singers saying the -er part, so I'm still not so sure which is correct.
In 1975 however, we moved to Monroe, Louisiana, and almost every year until they stopped having Howard Griffin Land O Toys, we would go.
You have to understand, that this was a humongus deal to me as a kid. Even if my first trip there found me too old (13) for most of the toys they stocked, I couldn't get enough. My parents hated taking us down there because parking was a nightmare. It was normally a sedate boat showroom and their parking places were adequate for that, but every Christmas season it was chaos when the place was transformed into a toy store. The parking immediately became woefully inadequate.
But hey, I was a kid who couldn't drive yet, so what did I care about parking? Nada.
Even after I was older and driving, I would take Younger Brother, who is seven years younger than me, down there for "him" to look at stuff. Yeah. Right. Him. In truth, he was my excuse to go there myself.
Starting on the day after Christmas, everything in Howard Griffin Land O Toys was half off. Half Off!! We would go down there and brave the crowd, looking for the diamonds among the dregs that were left.
I usually bought new H-O scale electric race cars and things like that, and I remember Younger Brother getting a Star Wars Jawa Sandcrawler in 1978 or so.
These days, we've lived many places with Toys-R-Us, and there's a well stocked Wal-Mart on almost every corner, so we've become jaded.
It's an easy thing to find even old, hard to find toys on ebay, if you have the money.
I have to say though, that back when a toy store was a rare and awesome thing to visit, the memories of them have become mystical and way overblown.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
Christmas might seem crass and commercial compared to back then, but I still miss the wonder of the rare toy store sighting and/or visit.
It's nothing for many of today's stores to have toys you can see up close and even put your hands on, but back then? Nuh uh.
Kids today don't know how good they have it, but then again, they are totally robbed of the kind of anticipation we had back in the olden days. (My olden days being the 60's and 70's)
I'd love to get into the Way Back Machine and go visit Howard Griffin Land O Toys, circa 1975. I would take Younger Brother along, and hey, since we're back in time, we could stop and pick up Big Brother and head on down to South Grand Street and check out the toys.
If anyone from Monroe happens to read this, and knows more about Howard Griffin, please leave a comment.
I remember Jack Howard was a Mayor of Monroe, and also a business owner. But that's about the extent of my memory on that.
Sunday, March 28, 2011
Sad Update: The News Star paper's web site reports at 10:34pm central time, that the old Howard Griffin building is on fire.
Zack Southwell reports: Black and gray smoke continue to billow out of the Howard Griffin building in the 700 Block of South Grand Street in Monroe.Hat tip to commenter Melinda.
The entire structure seems to be in flames ... gradually it’s falling to pieces. The windows and walls are golden in flames and as Monroe firefighters battled to bring it under control.
The fire was reported about 9:48 p.m. Sunday.
A reporter at the scene described the fire as “raging. “It’s fierce .... the heat.”