Memories of Childhood’s Toys and the Changing Times

Before I go into sharing my memories, I must put things into perspective. And that’s because I grew up in the 1990’s in Tunisia which can be extremely different if, let’s say, 1990’s in the US.

In the 1990’s, Computers were rare in Tunisia. Internet obviously hasn’t graced us yet (only in the late 1990’s). You can only almost see computers in municipalities, post offices and government buildings. On top of that, I live in a small town with little to no access to technologies. So the point is even if I belong to the generation that witnessed the analog-digital transition period as known to the developed countries, I in fact experienced an almost 100% digital-free period.   

While kids in the US playing video games on Play Station (1995), we were playing with wooden spin tops (‘Zarboot’ زربوط as we call them in Tunisian Arabic). There are all kinds of spin tops, ones with really long nails which are hard to spin so the kids who can are considered really good. then there’s the manner in which you make them spin. the ‘manly’ way is to throw  them from above your head like you’re swatting a fly but really hard! The less experienced and more amateurish way is to throw them horizentally from knee-level.


Small glass balls were popular at the time too. In Tunisian Arabic we call them “بيس” Bees. The one who hits the opponents’ glass balls with their own takes all. What makes it interesting is that there are rare glass balls like having a rare color or rare design.

The left one in the middle can be considered a rare piece. The single color ones are the most common.

In my town, all the streets are our playground. We don’t have parks and such. We play soccer in the biggest field in the neighborhood. We draw the goal bars with chalk on the walls then it starts. Many neighbors weren’t happy with the noise and the flying balls that break windows but that didn’t stop us. (not very proud of that now)

I remember we organized our neighborhood’s Olympics in one spring holiday which lasts for two weeks! soccer, volleyball and basketball tournaments, 100m dash and bicycle races. those are the only sports I remember now. Aside from the fake medals, the prizes comprise of snacks!

When we’re not outside (and not doing homework), we’re watching arabic-dubbed cartoon and anime (of course, we didn’t know the difference back then). We go to carpenters and ask for leftover wood to make our own Voltron toy! We watched Captain Tsubasa (Captain Majed), 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (Marco), Nobody’s Boy (Reemy), Detective Conan, The Mysterious Cities of Gold one of my all-time favorites, and many more.


Aside from watching, the closest thing we have to video games are the made-in-china fake Atari with NES games like Super Mario and Contra. I still have an Atari cartridge of Captain Tsubasa: Super Striker II in arabic. Unfortunately I couldn’t find it for this post. It was one of two copies in town, the other one belongs to my cousin. I used to rent it for money or trade it for a Donald Duck game (which is also rare) for a day or two. In the latter half of the 90’s, Super Nintendo and Sega appeared in the homes of those whose parents work overseas.

I still remember the feeling of rejoice when there’s a blackout in town. We loved night blackouts! (Nowadays, we hate them since all entertainment is electricity-based!) We go out and play hide-and-seek in the darkness because it’s more fun that way.

I could go on forever telling stories of stuff we do some of which the new generation of my town will never know or do.

I have many nephews always playing with smartphones and tablets. And that’s almost the extent of their free time’s activities.

Back then, every little thing we did left a happy satisfying taste in us. I am not really sure how to explain it but I think the simplest way to describe it is Life used to be warm. Not that it isn’t now in the digital age but still it feels different.

I see the incredible traffic in social networks and the new generation of my town holding smartphones and tablets every where I go. When they actually go out to have some good-old fun, they are motivated by the number of likes, comments and followers they’re going to get once they have posted their selfies and chronicled their fun time. Connection and happiness are not their primary drive. They’re not honest with themselves. Knowing that, I personally cannot think that they can truly connect with other people.

I might sound judgmental. I’m not one to talk to be honest but that is what I see. Wellbeing and happiness levels being measured by numbers on a screen. And children probably never knew the true meaning of human connection. It’s all relative and based on personal perspective so this is probably just my own.

I am very interested in what the new generation thinks of this. What do they do in their free time and what truly drives them? I’d be very interested in hearing that from them.


I do not own the pictures. I got them from Google images.

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