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.

37570841244_5a4903f519_b

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.

BOOK

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!

box

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.

jaws-game

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

il_340x270_1796202485_jp19

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.

stretch

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.

knievel 11

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!”

Weebles

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.

il_570xN_1056365662_lw2p

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!

0d5a34bc8d245bbb5176a05bbf2b46cf

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.

je2vehyuqs811

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!

toys326d

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.

ujk4az7u9na11

“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.

bionictransport2

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.

51P22ICpPHL

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.

059KF-1452197285-958-list_items-shrinky_dinks

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.

705950e05772aa9779540acc5d630965

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.

littleprofessor

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.

93096

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!

05b3be4efe1b5be3d59a1a251ad12ae7

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.

f1766ea0163872c269c3956bc8b9564e

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.

hw-6302_grande

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!

gallery-1463082693-atari-2600-1970s-toys

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!

 

 

 

To: S. Claus. North Pole.

Dear-Santa-1024x702

December 19, 2018

Dear Santa,

I know it has been some time since I have written a letter to you, and I bet you are wondering why I have chosen to do so after all these years. Well, to be honest, there have been a lot of changes in my life over the past few years. I am seeing life with different eyes, and it is wonderful! I have made a decision to weed out negativity and to stay positive. There is too much judgment, hate, and sadness in the world and I have done what I can to steer clear of that. By doing so, I have found great happiness. So, why am I writing to you, you ask?

The answer is that I am not sure. It may be the combination of a couple of things. First, I have played the song Grown Up Christmas List a few times at the radio station, and this year the words hit me a bit harder than in previous years. Second, I’ve watched a few movies where the lack of Christmas Spirit has played a big role in the plot, and I fear my Christmas Spirit may be lacking. Third, I am newly married to a beautiful woman who has changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to explain. She has brought about a happiness that has been absent from my life for way too long. Finally, after my annual reading of A Christmas Carol, I have pondered some things about the future, while thinking about the present and the past.

The Christmas season has always brought me great joy. As a little boy, rushing out to see what you had left under the tree, I remember being overcome with happiness! I recall the many notes that you left for my brother and I each Christmas morning. I recall the notes that you left for my sons years later. (We often wondered (and I still do) how you could eat so many cookies and never gain weight!) What an amazing job you have! To quote Stan Freberg in his record Christmas Dragnet, you’re the only guy who “can make everybody happy in one night.”

With the passing of many years, I now sit here to write you this letter. I want to say first of all, thank you for the many gifts that you have brought over the years. While I was never too keen on the socks and underwear, as an adult I do realize that they were something I needed. Thank you for the Millennium Falcon, the numerous Star Wars figures, the countless books and movies, as well as the straight mute for my trumpet. Thank you for the various games, Hot Wheels cars, my bike with the cool handlebars, and the Sound Gizmo! Thank you for the many Lego sets, the Wii, and the toys you brought for my sons! Before I give you my list of requests, I wanted to be sure that you are aware of just how grateful I am for the many gifts of Christmas Past.

I do realize that you get many requests, and this is probably your busiest time of year, but I hope it is not too late you ask you for a few things. This list is kind of a tall order. Take all the time you need on them, I will understand.

For Kids

I have noticed that children seem to be growing up faster than they should. It is almost as though their innocence is taken from them sooner than it should be. My first wish is that they be allowed to be kids and do kid things for longer periods of time. Allow them to play and imagine! Allow them to experience the happiness and freedom of not being an adult. Shield them from the miseries, tragedies, and unpleasant things of the modern world. Allow them to share more smiles and less tears. Fill their lives with laughter and people who care. Protect them from harm and needless worry. Allow them to experience the magic of childhood, free from cruelty and bullying. Children are our future and we need them!

The Nations of the World

It seems that every time I hear a news report, there is a story about crimes related to gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation and racism. When will the people in charge realize that the more we are different, the more we are the same?! The words of Maya Angelou ring true here – “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” I hope you can help us with this. We all come from a family. We all have the ability to love. We all have the capability to do good. We all have the ability to problem solve and to find “middle ground”. We all can take advantage of the power of “compromise”. My secnd wish is that you please help people to remember the following powerful quote: “We are all one race – the human race – and we are all members of it.”

Financial Freedom?

This one is a bit of a sore spot. Is it too much to ask that people be allowed to earn a living? I’m not talking about overabundant wealth, because you and I know that sometimes comes with its own set of troubles. My third wish is that people have the ability to go and work at a job and make enough money to live debt free. That they have the ability to live within their means, and enjoy life. Now, I am completely aware that there are many people who suffer because of their own addictions and actions. I am not talking about those people. However, there should be no reason for someone to have to work two and three jobs while their spouse works more than one job and still struggle to make ends meet. I hope you understand, I am not against working! I have a college education (and student loan debt out the ying yang) and I have a good job. Many people are just like me and struggle to keep their heads above water. Perhaps you and the elves can find a way to help out the ‘average Joe’ ? We are worrying too much, working too much, and stressed beyond belief. They say we need to stop and smell the roses, but it seems that life won’t let us slow down enough to do that.

Enough with the Cancer

This one is a bit selfish. This cancer thing has taken some people from me who I loved very much. It’s not just me, though – cancer has taken people from some of my friends, too. Let’s face it, it is out of control! Cancer is a monster that knows no age, I learned that when I visited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Kids should never have to deal with fighting cancer and their parent’s shouldn’t have to be burdened with all that treatment entails! You’ve got connections, right? You have to know people who can finally find a cure for this. Maybe you can even help us figure out what is the cause of cancer and why we see so much of it? The elves can magically whip up any and every toy imaginable – isn’t there something you can do to help us find a cure for cancer? If you can figure this out, maybe we could tackle the other health issues and diseases, too!

For Me, Personally

Before I close, I do have a few personal requests to make. If possible, throughout the year, please help me to be a good husband, a good father, and a good friend. Send along little reminders throughout the year that remind me to be like Scrooge and keep the Christmas Spirit throughout the year. Help me to be a giver of gifts that do not cost anything:

  • The Gift of Listening. Help me to REALLY listen to others! No interrupting. No planning my response. No daydreaming. Just truly listening.
  • The Gift of Affection. Help me to be generous with appropriate hugs, kisses, hand holding and pats on the back. Help me to show my family and friends how much I treasure them.
  • The Gift of Laughter. Help me to spread a smile. Help me to bring joy and help others forget their worries and stresses. Help me to always make people happy!
  • The Gift of Writing. Help me to expand on the writing that I enjoy. Help me to find topics that others find interesting and thought-provoking. Help me to remember that sometimes a handwritten note is sometimes more meaningful than a phone call or meaningless text message.
  • The Gift of a Compliment. Help me to always compliment someone on a job well done. Help me to compliment someone on a simple haircut or new outfit. Help me to never let someone’s work be unnoticed.
  • The Gift of a Favor. Help me to always do something nice for others. Help me to lend a hand. Help me to assist those who need something. Help me always think of ways to lend a hand.
  • The Gift of a Cheerful Disposition. Help me to always wear a smile. Help me to stay positive. Help me find the positives in a negative world. Help me to spread cheer through a smile.
  • The Gift of Solitude. Help me to be conscious of when someone needs a few moments to themselves. Help me to respect when someone does not want to talk or share feelings. Help me to occasionally get this gift for myself, too.

Thanks for taking the time to read my letter. Thanks for spreading Christmas Cheer throughout the entire world. Thank you for the awe and wonder that you bring to little children who look forward to your yearly visit. On behalf of parents everywhere, thank you for helping those little ones steer away from doing wrong and making an extra effort to be on their best behavior.

Merry Christmas, Santa!

Keith