“I Hate These Damn Stickers”

My wife reminded me of a funny story this afternoon before work.

A few days ago, she told me that she ordered a playhouse toy for Ella. As she gets older, she is getting bored with just chewing on the toys she has. So we decided to get her something that might keep her a bit more busy.

The above playhouse, can be put together in a square, like pictured above, or spread out. Anyway, it arrived today. When I woke up, the box was in the hallway, and I knew I wanted to put it together before she got home from Nana’s house. So I immediately went to work on it.

The thing that gets me about these toys is the gazillion steps it takes to put it together! There is always that 300 page instruction booklet with the bad pictures that are supposed to help you piece this thing together. Maybe it is just me, but I always find it extremely difficult to figure out which way a piece is supposed to face when I look at these pictures!

At any rate, I was practically done with it when Ella came home with Sam (who got her haircut today and looks as beautiful as ever). It was nice to actually be able to see her explore her playhouse before I left for work.

The one thing I didn’t do, was put the various stickers on it. Sam said that she would do it later tonight. When I talked with her after she got the baby down for bedtime, she said her OCD kicked in and it took her longer than she thought to put the stickers on. Hell, I’m glad she did it, because I literally have no patience for that!!

That is exactly what reminded me of a Christmas from my childhood. I think I was 10 or 11 and I had asked for the Millennium Falcon from the Star Wars movies. I remember seeing the commercials for it and it was my “big” Christmas gift item. It was at the top of my list and mom and dad didn’t disappoint.

I remember being so impatient as I watched my dad put this huge thing together. By the time he had gotten it all together, he pulled out this big sheet of stickers (there may have even been more than one sheet). There were little stickers that went practically everywhere on the inside and outside of the ship.

Some of these stickers were so small and went into places that my dad’s hands barely fit! The combination of him struggling to get the stickers on right and me asking him “is it done, yet?” was probably enough to drive him crazy. At one point I just remember him yelling out, “I hate these damn stickers! You’d think for the money you pay for something like this, they’d find some idiot to put them on for you!”

THANKS to my brother, Christopher, for sending me this picture of dad putting it together!

Dad all duded up to assemble Christmas presents!

He was so frustrated, and there were plenty of stickers that were a little crooked. I knew better than to say anything to him, though! I learned to appreciate his patience when I had to start putting stickers on Lego sets for my sons when they were growing up!

I have a feeling that I will be building plenty of toys in the years ahead, and yes, struggling to get tiny stickers into small places. I will love every minute of it, though, because the look of joy on your child’s face when they see the finished product is one of the best things a dad can ever experience.

Fall Photo Shoot 2020

Maybe I need to add this shirt to my wardrobe …

Child’s Play

I follow a lot of nostalgia pages on Facebook.  On one of the “Kids of the 1970’s” pages, they posted a picture of a toy that took me back to when I was 6!  I can still remember the Christmas morning I received it.  “Santa” had taken it out of the box and it was there on the floor in front of the tree. It was the Fisher Price Adventure People Daredevil Sport Van.  I remember seeing it in the “wish book” and wanting it because it had a guy with a motorcycle.

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I didn’t know that was what it was called, and it was only after searching for it on Google did I find out.  What I found when I searched for it was numerous other Fisher Price Adventure People sets that I had as a kid, as well as many other toys from my childhood I had long forgotten.

The Wish Book

Every year, before Christmas, JC Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward would put out their “Wish Book”.  My brother and I were told that this was “Santa’s catalog” and that he and his elves could get us whatever we saw in the book.  We would take magic markers and circle hundreds of toys that we had hoped to get.  We’d often number them in order of importance so that mom and dad knew which toys were a “top priority” for us! It was an annual tradition for us and I remember my brother and I spending many hours trying to pick out exactly what we wanted.

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Star Wars Figures

In 1977, Star Wars hit theaters and was a HUGE hit.  As kids we had to have every figure!  My grandmother came through for us and made sure we not only had every one, but both my brother and I each had a set! There were SO many great toys to go along with those figures.  My brother had the Death Star Space Station pictured above, while I had the ultimate space ship, the Millennium Falcon!

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I remember it being huge and I used to fly it around in the front yard when we were playing outside.  We spent countless hours playing with those Star Wars toys!!!

Jaws

One toy I found while searching was the Jaws Game.  It came with junk like a wagon wheel, fish bones, a tire, and other stuff that you put in the shark’s mouth, specifically on his lower jaw.  The jaw was connected to a rubber band.  You had to one by one remove a piece of junk without the jaw snapping up on you.

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Rockem Sockem Robots

Another great one from my childhood, this game can still be bought in stores today.  It was one of my favorites growing up.  Why robots?  I don’t really know, other than the fact that when you got the right punch, the loser’s head popped up.  I

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Stretch Armstrong

This was the TOP toy on my list one year.  It was the coolest thing!  Here’s a wrestler that you could bend and stretch like nobody’s business!  He was awesome!  We had a lot of fun with Stretch.  It was a sad day when he sprung a leak.  It was also cool to see what made him stretch.  I don’t remember how it happened, but something must have punctured the skin of poor Stretch.  Inside was this red jelly-like substance.  It almost looked like he was bleeding.  We tried to tape him up, but that was the end of Stretch.

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Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle

When I posted the picture that has wound up being the inspiration for this blog on Facebook, other friends chimed in with their favorite toys.  My friend, Allyson, mentioned The Evil Knievel Stunt Cycle.  Evil was quite the entertainer and was always doing stunts.  This cycle sat on some platform and you cranked this handle and then pushed a button to let the cycle go and do its thing.  Personally, I never really got it to do the spectacular stunts in the TV commercial, but it was still cool.

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Weebles and Little People

Two of the toys I remembered as soon as I saw pictures were the Weebles and Little People.  The Weebles were basically eggs.  They were plastic and had people on them.  They had a commercial that said “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”

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The Little People were/are made by Fisher Price.  When I was a kid, these things were made out of wood.  They had no legs or no arms. There were round figures with no feet or hands.  I think everyone I know had the Little People Farmhouse.  The one figure I remember most is the dog.

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Outside Vehicles

I had one of the coolest bikes.  It had curly handle bars and I had the coolest thing on it.  It was called Rrraw Power.  It was an attachment you put on your bike handlebar grip.  You twisted the handle and it made it sound like a motorcycle! A kid tried to steal my bike once cause he wanted it!

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Before my bike, I had two of the most coveted modes of transportation for kids.  The first one, the Big Wheel.  The name said it all.  It was basically a tricycle, but the front wheel was huge!  It had a cheap hand break that was worthless and if you skidded enough, you would flatten the wheel.

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The Big Wheel was cool, but the Green Machine was cooler! It was really a Big Wheel with the steering done by two handles that controlled the back wheels.  The seat was a bit more comfortable, too.  I loved my Green Machine and loved doing spin outs on it!

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Sit and Spin

This was probably one of the stupidest toys we owned, and probably the reason I still get vertigo on occasion.  The name says it all.  You sit and you spin.  You control how fast or how slow.  It was basically your own personal merry-go-round.  The name actually sounded more like an insult than a toy.

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“We can rebuild him…”

Those words were spoken in the intro to the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man.  He was an astronaut who is injured when his spaceship crashes.  He is then rebuilt with machine parts.  He’s kind of like a cyborg.  He has bionic hearing, sight, and strength.  I had the Six Million Dollar Man Doll.  The coolest thing about him was you could look through the back of his head and “see through his bionic eye”.  This meant looking through a red piece of plastic and seeing things through it.

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Colorforms and Shrinky Dinks

I had TOTALLY forgotten about Colorforms!  I remember having a Batman set, a Scooby Doo set and the Charlie Brown set pictured below.  It came with a background scene and plastic pieces with characters and accessories that you could stick and peel on and off.

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Shrinky Dinks were something we had, but I don’t ever recall them working right.  You had this hard plastic things that you colored with a marker or something and then you put them in an oven.  The idea was that they shrunk into a harder plastic that you could use for a key ring or something.  I never really liked them….but I am sure we had them.

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Doctor Doctor

One of my favorite games growing up was Doctor Doctor.  It was kind of like Clue in that you had to, through process of elimination, figure out a problem.  In this case, find the diagnosis for what was wrong with the patient.

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Electronics from my youth

Before X-Boxes, Nintendo Switches, and even Gameboys, we had some primitive hand-held gadgets and games.  It was so fun to see some of these things as they came up in searches for toys of the 70’s.

The Little Professor

Not a game.  Not even a gadget.  It was a calculator!  I guess the school of thought was “if we made a calculator that looked like a character, kids will dig math.” For what it is worth, I think it let you play math games on it, too.

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Speak & Spell

I can still hear its “hello” in the computer voice that greet you when you powered it up.  Today we have “Spell Check” on every computer and word processing program, but believe it or not, back in the day, you had to know how to spell.  This little gadget helped you to do just that.  It would say the word you needed to spell and then you had to spell it.  One downfall was the computer voice.  Sometimes you couldn’t understand what word it was asking you to spell.

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The Sound Gizmo

This was a MUST have for me as a kid.  It was one of my favorite toys!  The cool think about this toy was it made noises.  With the push of a button, you could have made a gunshot, an explosion, a helicopter, a train, a phaser, a siren, a motor, and more!  You could have the sound be constant, looped, or have it fade out.  There was a way to pitch the sound up and down, or control the speed of the sound.  As a kid who played outside and had a wild imagination, this toy was the best!  If we were pretending to crack open a safe with dynamite – we had an explosion.  If we were playing cops and robbers – we had a gunshot and sirens.  If we were in a spaceship, there were numerous sounds we could make!  It took our imaginations to a new level!  I remember my old boss at Honey Radio, Richard D, used this on the air often for sounds, too!

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Quiz Wiz

Trivia has always been a love of mine.  I am full of useless facts.  I love shows like Jeopardy or shows that are trivia based.  Trivial Pursuit was a very popular game in our house.  Trivia was also something that I used on a daily basis for contesting when I worked on the radio.  My love of trivia may have stemmed from the Quiz Wiz Game.  It had cartridges with questions.  I spent many hours learning trivia tidbits from this game.

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Electronic Sports Games

Again, before the fancy graphics of Madden Football, we had hand-held games.  They were primitive with red dots representing base runners, quarterbacks, and hockey pucks, but we loved them.  Coleco was the company that put out most of these games.  They were very popular!  A few years ago, I couldn’t believe it when I went to Walmart and saw that they had re-released the Coleco Football game.  I know there was also a hockey, basketball, and baseball game.  Most of these were one player games.  I had them all.  The one I loved the most was Head to Head Baseball which allowed two players to play.  One could pitch and one could hit.  I remember it because it was shaped very much like a baseball stadium.

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It was one of my favorite games until ……

Atari 2600

This was the game changer!  Yeah, we had Pong.  This could do SO much more.  You could play Pac-Man on it (it was a very crappy version)!  It was a big year for my brother and I when this arrived.  We loved Maze Craze, Pitfall, Megamania, Kaboom, River Raid,  Sea Hunt, and so many other games.  The original games still remain popular today and can be found on systems that are now preloaded with many of the ones from the past.  You don’t even need the game cartridge today!

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Oh, the many hours of fun I had growing up.

Final Thoughts

Kids today look at the toys from the past and laugh.  Many of them will never know what it means to go out and “write your own adventure.”  They will never conjure up an amazing scenario by simply using their imagination.  That is sad.  The memories that were brought about by seeing all of these toys during a simple Google search have made me smile so much that my jaw hurts.

Relive a bit of your childhood with me.  Share your favorite toy from when you were a kid!  I’d love to hear about it!