Kentucky Man Shares the Wild, Crazy and Fun History of Cap Guns
On my radio show last week, my cohost and I asked our listeners if they, as adults, still own any of the toys they had has kids. As you can imagine, many people do. One answer in particular caught my attention because it reminded me of one of my favorite childhood toys that I had completely forgotten about.
Dwight Rideout Jr. answered, "I still have my cap gun. My mom had it but gave it back to me a few years ago."
Ah, yes! I used to LOVE my cap gun. You remember those, right? They were toy guns that had 'bullets' that would make noise and smoke when they were fired. Here are a few fun facts about their history.
Toy guns became popular in the United States immediately following the Civil War. However, cap guns became a national sensation following World War II.
Television shows and movies that depicted the gun-slinging Wild West captivated audiences and kids were growing up idolizing folks like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger. So, kids got toy guns and acted out what they were seeing on the screen.
The popularity of the cap gun carried over into the 70s too. That's when I was growing up. As a kid, I didn't have much interest in the Wild West, but I was obsessed with TV cop shows like C.H.I.P.S, Hawaii Five-O, Starsky and Hutch, and Charlie's Angels.
It was the combination of those shows (and that ridiculously catchy Charlie's Angels theme song that I used to hum constantly) that inspired me to open a private detective agency in my playhouse. Yes! I had a huge playhouse that my parents built for us. It was like a giant tree house, only it wasn't in a tree. It was built on stilts and we had a giant staircase that led up to it. That's where my sisters played school and where I operated by private detective agency.
I remember one of the 'cases' I worked/invented. My friend Brad and I were riding bikes one day near the intersection of Roy Clark Road and Hwy 1389. There was a ditch on the left side of that intersection and it was covered in really tall weeds. I remember noticing that there was a noticeable indentation in the weeds that could only have been made by a human. But, why was someone in those weeds? What were they doing?
Brad and I rode our bikes back to the playhouse, grabbed our cap guns and rode back to the scene of the 'crime.'
I remember that we found what we considered a piece of evidence. It seemed to be a piece of mail, but the address portion was mysteriously missing. We were convinced we were onto something, we just didn't know what it was. So, with our cap guns holstered into the back of our shorts, we rode our bikes around the neighborhood and combed the area for additional clues. And guess what? We didn't find any.
Over the next year or so, we investigated a few other 'mysteries'- like we were the kids in the movie Stand By Me- but I don't think we ever cracked a single case we invented in our minds. But we had a heckuva fun time trying.
All we needed was a little imagination, a couple of bikes and some cap guns. We were armed, ready and not even remotely dangerous.
SEE: 30 Toys That Defined the '70s
KEEP READING: Check out these totally awesome '80s toys
Gallery Credit: Angela Underwood