If you don’t live on the East Coast, there is a good chance that you’ve never been to, and probably have never even heard of Hess Express stores. While I’ve never actually been to one (we live near Chicago), I’m familiar with them… since I like toys. You see, Hess has an annual tradition each holiday season (which I’ve written about in the past) in which they release what has become known as “The Hess Toy Truck,” and they’ve been doing it for fifty years – a tradition introduced by Leon Hess in 1964 as “a fun, high quality and affordable toy for families during the holiday season.” This year, there will be a Hess Toy Truck unveiled for the holiday season, but it’s also sort of the end of an era, as Hess announced this past week that they’re selling their retail stores to Marathon/Speedway, and will becoming a purely-production company.
The history and legacy of The Hess Toy Truck is so important to families on the East Coast, that a supplemental announcement was issued after the sale notice, to assure fans that the Hess Toy Truck tradition will continue after 2014, but through their website.
So what about the National Toy Hall of Fame?
The Hess Toy Truck has such an interesting history and legacy that I’m joining others in nominating it for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame. To-date, only 53 toy lines have made the cut (the Toy Hall of Fame inducts a ridiculously-small amount of toys), but with The Hess Toy Truck celebrating 50 years, and doing so in the very year in which it’s parent company has been sold, it feels right that this line gets some recognition.
Here’s just some of what The Hess Toy Truck has been through in the last half-century…
- 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Hess Toy Truck, an annual holiday tradition. The Hess Toy Truck was introduced by company founder Leon Hess in the early 1960s as a way to thank loyal customers. His vision was to provide a fun, high-quality and affordable toy for families during the holiday season. The 1964 original Hess Toy Truck was a Tanker Truck that could be filled with water and emptied through its delivery hose.
- This year, the Toy Truck joins a rare field of toys that have hit the major milestone of 50.
- Release of each year’s model toy is a highly anticipated event among consumers.
- The Hess Toy Truck has garnered legions of loyal fans of all ages and each model is a highly valued item in Toy collectable circles.
- Hess Toy Trucks are showcased as the centerpiece of the “Hess Bridge to the Future” float in the nationally broadcast Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since 2000.
- Macy’s included the Hess Float as an iconic part of the parade in its 85th Anniversary Commemorative snow globe.
- The Hess Toy Truck has symbolized the holiday season and family fun for 50 years. Hearing and seeing the distinctive holiday TV commercials every year with the lyrics, “The Hess Truck’s back and it’s better than ever…” is a sure sign that the holiday season has begun.
- Everyone has a story. Many are steeped in nostalgia and many span multiple generations. Whether someone has received a Toy Truck every year of their life, or they get together with a group of friends and try to build a life-sized Hess Toy Truck, just about every fan has a personal story about what the truck means to them and how long the tradition has been in their family. Social media is full of fans with photos, videos and stories about their Hess Toy Truck experience.
- Some fire companies have transformed fire engines into life-sized toy trucks to bring Santa to communities in their annual “Santa Patrols.”
- The Hess Toy Truck has appeared in crossword puzzles in nationally syndicated newspapers.
- Since its creation, the Hess Toy Truck has grabbed and held the attention of kids, adults and collectors alike.
- The quality, workmanship and durability of each model of the Hess Toy Truck ensure that it will outlast most other toys.
- Popularity of Hess gas stations exploded around Thanksgiving during the first few years of the Hess Toy Truck as customers rushed to their local stations to be among the first to buy that year’s truck.
- Times have changed, but the legions of fans have not. Generations of families have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the Toy Truck, now pre-ordering the truck online nationally, playing a Facebook game to help reveal the year’s new design, and shopping at Hess gas stations and retail stores within the first few weeks of the truck being on sale. Every year for the past 50 years, the truck has sold out well in advance of Christmas.
- With its 50th anniversary, the truck joins a very elite group of toys that have garnered the attention and affection of so many generations for five decades.
- The Toy Truck has been a phenomenon on the East Coast, but its reputation continues to extend nationwide as generations grow and relocate outside the company’s East Coast marketing area and still want their annual Hess Toy Truck. The company responded to customer demand and introduced the toy to national audiences by offering toys online as well as developing a related mobile game application.
- The non-restrictive nature of the Hess Toy Truck fosters free, imaginative play, allowing children to discover areas of interest on their own.
- With trucks, planes, boats and spaceships all part of the Hess Toy Truck model, a child’s pretend opportunities are endless!
- The unique designs and high quality workmanship of each model toy exposes children to innovative thinking, fostering the child’s creativity.
- Multiple vehicle models expand playability and creative possibility, and allow children to discover how items work together.
- Through the years, Hess has made history creating one of the first toy trucks with lights and sound, and the first to come complete with batteries.
- In the past 50 years, there have been more than 40 different designs of the Toy Truck.
- Each toy truck features innovative design aspects, including buttons, compartments, lifts, releases, light switches and sound activations, are all innovative design aspects
- In 2013, Hess connected toy physical play with mobile game play by incorporating technological elements into the toy’s sound features that activated features in the mobile game.
Curious to learn more, or take a look at 50 years of trucks (and other vehicles) that Hess has produced (including their new, Spring 2014 “mini”)? Check out http://hesstoytruck.com/