Let’s Talk with Lois Winston

LEGO: A Family Tradition
By Lois Winston

One day in 1979 my next-door neighbor Charlie asked if I’d like some LEGO for my sons. He was downsizing into an apartment in the city now that his kids were grown. Tiny plastic bricks weren’t exactly suitable for a toddler and preschooler, but I figured I could store them until the boys were older. A few minutes later Charlie returned with a 2-foot square industrial carton marked LEGO/SAMSONITE. Most people are probably unaware that LEGO had entered into an agreement with Samsonite in the early 1960s to market LEGO in the United States. (Check out this commercial from 1967: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krF2Xy5iuq4 ) When I opened the carton, I discovered several thousand classic red, white, blue, and yellow LEGO bricks.

LEGO has been part of my family every since. Not long after that day, we introduced the bricks to the boys and with supervision to prevent choking hazards, allowed them to unleash their creativity. I was amazed at how rapidly their small motor skills grew—as did our collection of LEGO because, as it turns out, you can never have enough LEGO.

A few years later LEGO launched a tour of some of their creations, and we took our sons to John Wanamaker in Philadelphia to see huge models of everything from various national monuments to an astronaut that stood about eight feet tall.

In 1991, I was designing for a company that specialized in marketing needlework kits of national historic sites. The owner’s husband worked for the educational division of LEGO. My husband and I were invited on a private tour of their headquarters and factory in Connecticut. A giant replica of the U.S. Capitol stands at the entrance. The end tables and coffee table in the reception area were made entirely of LEGO, as were the name placards at the entrance of each office. The daycare center was built to resemble giant LEGO bricks. The factory was so immaculate that you could eat off the floor!

Then in 1999 LEGO secured a license from George Lucas to produce LEGO Star Wars kits, and LEGO sales skyrocketed. A few years later we welcomed our first grandchild into the world, and of course, eventually introduced him to LEGO. We now have five grandchildren, ranging in age from sixteen down to three. We took the three oldest to Orlando a few years ago, and along with spending time at Disneyworld, we had to go to LEGOland.

All five grandchildren are LEGO fanatics. You wouldn’t believe the amount of LEGO the Winston clan has amassed over the years. And of course, having recently dealt with several months of stay-at-home orders while watching our two youngest grandchildren in Nashville, we spent many hours with those iconic bricks.

Families pass down all kinds of traditions from generation to generation. LEGO has become one of ours. Does your family have a similar tradition? Post a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of any one of my books.

Comments

  1. Love this. My husband was a Legos (and Garfield) fan. Then my kids were. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve taken the Dustbuster to the Star Wars Lego Death Star!

  2. I used to love LEGOs. It wasn’t really a tradition for us though, just something to play with. I don’t think we had any of the fancy sets (they may not have made them back then). How cool that your old neighbor passed on his collection to you.

    • I know, Maria. I am forever grateful to that neighbor. If he only knew how his generous gift would turn into a multi-generational tradition…

  3. maggietoussaint says

    We had a grocery sack full of those Duplo blocks. The kids and I played with those things for hours. Okay, so maybe I played with them as much as the kids, but they were fun and I didn’t have to worry about accidentally knocking something over. After the kids transitioned to other toys and activities, I pulled the bag out of storage and loaned it to a friend who had two boys. Never saw those again, but I bought a yard-sale bag from a neighbor here in Georgia who was downsizing her son’s outgrown toys and my grandkids still play with them. Actually last time I didn’t even pull them out because I thought for sure they’d outgrown the set, but they said no, that was part of visiting us that they looked forward to. So we got the toys out and went at it! Never too old for Legos.

  4. Kathleen Kaska says

    Enjoy the Lego history. My nephew became an engineer because of Legos. He still uses them.

    • Kathleen, I think my oldest grandson is on his way to becoming an engineer. If so, he’ll be a fifth generation engineer, another family tradition for us.

  5. We never got into Legos and they’re expensive today. Our daughter liked Barbie and baby dolls. I still have all of them hoping she’ll have a girl next. Our son never seemed that interested in Legos or other building toys.

    • Nancy, every child is different. My granddaughter would rather build with LEGO than play with dolls. As for the expense, yes, they are very expensive, but we’ve used LEGO as a way to teach our kids (and now our grandkids) fiscal responsibility. Whenever they want one of the really expensive sets, they have to save up for half the cost.

  6. Kathleen Kalb says

    I love this! My son has been building with LEGOs since he was old enough to wrap his fingers around a DUPLO. And a very good friend of mine who is about fifteen years ahead in the parenting department has put HER son’s collection in boxes for the grandkids. Wonderful!

    • Kathleen, I foresee heirs fighting over LEGO in the future if the deceased family member didn’t include them in the will. Hmm…come to think of it, that might make an interesting mystery plot. 😉

  7. Back in the Stone Age when I was a kid, we were more into Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys than Legos, which at the time were pretty much just a bunch of bricks. The only thing our family regularly plays together these days is Scrabble (and now, Words With Friends).

    • Diane, we had Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys for our boys, too, but once Charlie brought over that box of LEGO, they were never touched again. They made amazing things with those original bricks back before there were any of the specialty pieces available. The Garfield in the photo is one such example. I think my younger son was about six or seven years old when he built that.

  8. cherylhollon says

    LEGO bricks have been a big hit with my grandchildren as well. Especially the large Star Wars kits. There were a Christmas tradition for a long time. I’m thinking that they might be a good activity for my husband during this pandemic staycation.

    • LOL, Cheryl! We used to have a huge plastic tub of LEGO here but gave them to the younger grandkids when they moved to Nashville. Now I’m thinking maybe that was a mistake. It would keep my husband occupied and not pestering me when I’m writing.

  9. My kids were raised on Lego, starting with Duplo. After we’d build the kits, the blocks would go into a copy paper carton for future creativity. Their favorite pastime was building cars and crashing them into each other to see who built the strongest. My son’s got a 12 year-old son now, and they build the complex Star Wars kits that take days to finish.

    • Terry, the Star Wars kits have become standard birthday and Christmas gifts for our older grandsons. The two younger ones have a way to go for those yet. They’re still too young even to watch the movies, let alone make such complex models.

  10. I’ve given all my grandchildren the Picasso magnetic block sets that you can build things out of. Going to have to go back to traditional legos.

    • Debra, my grandkids have Magna Tiles, which are similar to Picasso, but nothing beats LEGO. There’s so much more you can do with them creatively.