Patti Playpal came into Sheila Love's life one Christmas when Love was 6 or 7 years old. The child-size doll was nearly as tall as little Sheila was at the time, and had brown hair just like the little girl did.
Patti was so realistic that once, when Love and her sister left their dolls sitting on the living-room couch, their mother caught herself talking to them -- mistaking them for her children.
"She looked like me and she was my best friend," Love recalls of her long-gone childhood doll.
That's why Patti Playpal gets this Ogden resident's vote for induction into the Toy Hall of Fame, which every year honors our most iconic, innovative and long-lasting playthings.
After the Rochester, N.Y., museum announced its new picks for 2011 -- Hot Wheels cars, the blanket and the dollhouse -- we asked our readers to tell us what toys they would choose to enshrine in the hall of fame.
And today, on Christmas Day, we're sharing their choices -- which range from classic favorites to toys that are lesser-known, save to those who delightedly played with them.
Patti, a doll manufactured by the Ideal Toy Corporation in the 1960s, was a Christmas present for Sheila Love, of Ogden. Her sister got one, too.
"We wanted them with hair color like ours," Love recalls, adding, "We were just barely taller than they were, but not much."
As much as she loved the doll, Love eventually stopped playing with her and left Patti gathering dust in the closet. Then her parents proposed that Love and her sister give their dolls away -- to share with some poor cousins who didn't have many hopes of a bright holiday.
"At the time I wasn't too keen on the idea, but I did it anyway, because I loved my cousins and wanted them to have a nice Christmas," Love wrote in her nomination letter. "I'm really glad I did that," she continued, "because not too many years later, one of my cousins died. I remember how happy she was to get that doll, and that made me happy, too."
On the school playground, and up and down the neighborhood streets, there was young Betty Barton, skipping rope with her Footsie.
The Clinton resident and her two sisters had the popular jump-rope toy, which featured a yellow plastic ankle ring with a short attached cable and a red plastic bell on the end. The object was to twirl the ankle ring and jump over the cable with the other foot.
"I used to put one on each leg, and I'd run down the middle of the street," says Barton, who was about 12 when she got her Footsie in the 1970s. "You had to be careful it didn't trip you up."
Barton says her own daughter had a similar toy, called the Skip-It, which had a built-in counter to keep track of how many times the cable circled around your ankle. But the original Footsie -- which Barton still possesses and can still demonstrate how to use -- was a classic, she says.
"It's a good toy that lasts, and it was a fun exercise toy," she says.
Antonio Martinez-Hadley, 13, has been playing with the classic Lego building toys since he was 2, inheriting his first pieces from his father's childhood collection, says his mother, Catina Martinez of Ogden.
"He has never become bored with them, and has never even hinted at being ready to pack them away," writes Martinez.
Besides constructing things with his own Legos, Antonio, an eighth-grader at Ogden Preparatory Academy, participates in the Lego Mindstorm program at school, building and programming robots for "battles" against each other in competition. He says his interest in the toys has inspired him to one day study engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The great thing about Legos, which were selected in 1998 as one of the original entries in the Toy Hall of Fame, is that you can build anything you want, Antonio says.
"I don't think Legos are a toy, because anybody of any age can use them and still think they're fun," he says.
Michaeline Wangsgard also nominated Legos because of the countless hours her seven children spent building things with them. Over the years, a bucket of Legos at her Huntsville home has been the first thing some of her 16 grandchildren seek out when they come to visit.
Time spent building with Legos always had a calming effect on her kids, Wangsgard says. "They were very intense in using their minds. Each one was being creative in his own way and would show the other one, 'Look at this.' "
The Vac-U-Form was more than a toy -- it allowed kids to create an end product, says Louie Frucci, who got this item from Santa when he was 12 or 13.
The Vac-U-Form used a metal plate to heat small sheets of plastic; the plastic was then molded into various objects in a vacuum unit.
"It wasn't like any other toys ... Other toys, you played with and you were done. This toy you actually created something," Frucci explains.
The Eden resident says he and his friend had their own "toy company," selling little cars and boats they made with the Vac-U-Form to other neighborhood kids for a nickel or a dime.
At some point, Mattel stopped making the toy because the heating element was deemed "too dangerous," he says.
Frucci says he doesn't know what happened to his Vac-U-Form; it was likely "lost with all the other stuff from childhood."
But he did look the toy up on eBay recently and found a complete set for a bid of $54. That's a much higher price than the $10 or so the toy sold for back in the 1960s, he says -- "but a small price to pay to relive a person's childhood."
As a preschooler, Rosalind Charlesworth remembers begging for some Tootsietoy cars, and someone in her family got her a set of 4 or 5 of the popular die-cast toys.
"That was the most thrilling gift I ever got," she says.
Charlesworth says she used to drive the miniature two-door and four-door cars through the sand and dirt outdoors, or under and around the furniture indoors.
"It was the car and your imagination -- it was, you know, before technology. We were on our own," says the retired child and family studies professor from Weber State University.
Then, when World War II started, the manufacturer quit producing the heavy metal Tootsietoys for a time because all metal was needed for the war effort, she says. Although Charlesworth says she got interested in dolls once she entered elementary school, she kept her Tootsietoys and later added other cars to her collection.
"It was sort of a connection I had with my father actually, because he was a crazy car person," Charlesworth says.
Vintage Tootsietoys may be valuable collectibles, but the South Ogden resident says, "Mine are beat-up because I used them a lot."
Luke Skywalker and his "Star Wars" action-figure pals were also the stars of playtime at the Wangsgard household.
Her five sons started getting the figures when the "Star Wars" films debuted in the 1970s, and they added on spaceships and vehicles, too, Wangsgard says. Sometimes the children would re-create scenes from the popular films; other times, "they would be creating their own story with these action figures," she says.
"I think it's good for kids to role play," this mother and grandmother says.
With the recent creation of new movies in the series, Wangsgard says, "Now I'm watching my grandkids get 'Star Wars' action figures and spaceships from their parents. They've just been like a legacy in our family."
The action figures were among the finalists for the 2011 entries in the Toy Hall of Fame but, like the pogo stick, Rubik's cube and Twister game, were not selected.
Joe Valdez says he grew up in the late 1960s and 1970s when "it didn't take thousands of dollars of electronic games to have fun."
A case in point was the simple marble. Valdez and his friends would draw a circle in the dirt and spend hours playing "ringer," trying to hit their opponents' marbles out of the ring. Or they'd line up little green soldiers and use their marbles as "bullets" to knock the soldiers down.
"You'd beg your dad for 50 cents or a dollar to buy marbles," recalls Valdez, who grew up in Houston, and with that money you'd get 10 to 20 marbles. "That would last you awhile, until you lost your marbles to the older kids."
The marble is among the original inductees in the Toy Hall of Fame. Every kid could afford this toy, says Valdez, of Layton, and as your skills improved, you found things to make the game more challenging, such as expanding the size of the ring.
"Every boy in our neighborhood had a pocket or bag full of marbles and (was) ready to meet the challenge," Valdez writes in his nomination email. He also says, "All the neighborhood kids played outside and we were all skinny. I know ... I know ... that was a different generation."