Tonight, when I got home after all the evening’s ballet and piano lessons were over, I was plugging in my laptop at my desk and knocked down a little framed picture — it’s a photo my wife took of me on our first date. (On that same occasion, I also took a picture of her, and it’s framed on the other side of my desk.) I had completely forgotten that behind the picture of me, I had tucked in a family snapshot of me, on my fourth birthday, with one of my favorite toys.
It not only went vroom, it carried letters that you could use to spell VROOM.
It was my big yellow Alpha Truck.
I distinctly remember the chunky feel of the plastic letters, and the way the Q, the O, the C and the G had the same general shape, but with slight variations.
And something about the shape of the letter S bothered me — the top and bottom were flat, like the bottom of the number 2 and the top of the number 5, but I felt like the S would look better if it were more rounded, like the number 8.
Once the dog ran off with one of the letters and chewed it up. Maybe the C? I remember crying, but later I remember thinking of that letter as a special shape.
I believe the set of letters came with an extra set of vowels, but I wanted to spell more words — I seem to remember at one point getting a separate pack of expansion letters, and I remember being slightly upset, or at least very affected, by the fact that the new set of letters came in different colors.
I remember stuffing my stuffed animals in the front, where they could survey the scenery as I pulled the truck around the house. And my Star Trek figures used it as a Shuttlecraft. And I used it myself as a skateboard. That was one tough toy.
I think I probably donated it to my church nursery, along with a lot of other toys I had outgrown.
Every so often I have gone online, looking for details about this toy.
Tonight, I struck gold.
A Pinterest user named Jeremy Kinman posted a picture of the Alpha Truck, including the package, from which I could see that the maker was not Tonka (as I had falsely remembered) but Mattel. That new name easily led me to a newspaper clipping from Nov 1972 (it cost $7.99) and several eBay listings for Mattel Tuff Stuff letters (and numbers).