Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Childhood Memories: Duane's Toyland

Duane's Toyland in Albany, NY remains one of the best memories of my youth.  It is a shame it is no longer around.  Shut down in the mid 90's due to competition from Wal Mart it was an early victim of the same cycle that killed off or massively changed other toy-stores such as KB Toys, FAO Schwartz, Child World and others.

I distinctly remember traveling the hour or so over to the store with my father and brother on cold winter weekends and staring up at the aisle after aisle of toys that were stacked to the high ceilings.  While the upstairs of the building were fantastic and held all the GI Joes, Star Wars, He Man, Transformers, plastic guns and other toys (some of which I'm sure were sold no where else locally given the massive size of this toystore) it was the basement of the store where we always went to last and where I was most fixated on visiting--almost a "saving the best for last" plan of attack.

The basement of Duane's Toyland is where the really cool, big boy toys were kept.  Down there is where all the role-playing games (Dungeons and Dragons, etc.) were displayed and they had one of the biggest collections of RPG games anywhere.  Book after book, module after module they had.  Duane's even had some of the more obscure RPG offshoots such as the Conan the Barbarian stand alone RPG that I picked up on one of my visits.

The basement is also where all the models were kept--though these never really interested me as my hands shake too much and my art skills leave a lot to be desired to this day.

Moving from the RPG area to the "computer room" was always our last move.  The computer room was a separate, walled off room that contained all the software and hardware that a young boy could desire.  At this time, our Commodore 64 or Vic 20 even (though I think our visits to Duane's took place mostly when we had the C-64) was a fantastic game machine on which we could run various flight simulators, sports games and RPG computer games that were all sold in nice solid cardboard boxes that you would stack up at home like a collection of records to peruse.

In all my brother, father and I could spend hours in that store and its lighting, atmosphere and design stick with me to this day.  After visiting the store in what was typically the mid to late afternoon we would require some food before heading home on those cold dark New England roads.  For that there was a Subway I believe in the same shopping plaza, to the right of the store if you were facing the outside.  We would walk on down there and grab a meatball sub or the like and try to eat it while looking over our new acquisitions.

I'll remember those trips for my entire life and I'm not sure exactly why...there was nothing overly remarkable about them but in looking back, they sure feel like a wonderful adventure with a happy ending to me.

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