My childhood lacked many things (e.g. a sense of security) but toys was not one of them. Those who have been with CoG since the beginning, or those who diligently read the archives (which I am sure includes all of you), know the story of my Mego Wonder Woman doll. After her, though, I became a small baron with Kenner Star Wars toys.
Tie Fighter? Oh, yeah. Millennium Falcon? Who didn’t have one? X-Wing? Small potatoes. I had Darth Vadar’s Star Destroyer (with his special meditation chamber), the Imperial Shuttle, and the Hoth Battle Set. Let me tell you, I had some serious toys.
An Easy-Bake Oven, however, didn’t make the list. Actually, I don’t really remember wanting one nor did my sisters have one (or seemingly want one either). Probably my interest in that particular toy never piqued because the friends that I knew who did have one only succeeded in making chocolate flavored rocks.
Being a greedy bitch, I was never satisfied with what I had. So, instead of talking about the many, many, many great toys that I did have, let me mention some of those fabulous seventies/early eighties toys that I never quite got, but always wanted.
- While I had an Etch-A-Sketch, I never had my own Lite-Brite. The cheerful box, lightbulb, and non-toxic colored pegs alluded me. Come to think of it, given how hot the bulb got, I am not sure there was much difference between a Lite-Brite and an Easy-Bake Oven except the lack of a door to put cakes through.
Anyway, my second grade classroom had a Lite-Brite. Which does make me wonder, are these things educational? It seems like the teacher dragged it out whenever she got bored with us. Eh – Probably they develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. At least that seems to be what we say for toys that don’t appear to have any other redeeming educational value. It’s always about the “hand-eye coordination” and “fine motor skills.”
Sharing a Lite-Brite with my fellow students, however, just wasn’t satisfying. First off, all of the templates had been used so many times that you couldn’t tell what picture you were trying to make. Plus, the students who had not yet developed their fine motor skills simply shoved pegs wherever they wanted. They didn’t even pay attention to which color they were using. Animals. They didn’t please my budding aesthetic eye.
Barbie’s Bubbling Spa Set
- Now, let me say up-front that I have no trouble telling you that I played with dolls (and liked it!) as a little boy. Once again, I point to Mego Wonder Woman (I think I am going to be buried with that doll). Moreover, I often would sneak into my sisters’ room and play with their Charlie’s Angels dolls. We also haven't even gotten into my Sea Wee.
So you will know that I am being fairly honest when I say that Barbie-brand dolls never quite captured my imagination. Barbie was just a lot of blonde coming at me. For whatever reason, I had an early preference for people with dark hair. Come to think of it, I am not sure that I even knew any blonde people as a child.
Yet, Saturday morning television presented the ultimate Barbie accessory that just felt so right to my young mind: The Barbie Bubbling Spa.
It was a SPA for a doll! Genius! My sister’s Charlie’s Angels dolls, for instance, could be deployed to reenact the episode where Kris got naked to question that suspect in the hot-tub. In retrospect, why were my parents letting me watch that show?
Anyway, the Barbie Spa came with a little airpump that made the water “bubble.” Probably this broke instantly, but I didn’t care. It was a SPA for a DOLL!
I imagined many, many hours of fun with the Barbie Bubbling Spa. If I only I had this toy as child, maybe bathhouses wouldn’t seem so interesting to me today.
- Okay, so this wasn’t technically a toy. Still, Jiffy-Pop felt like a hell-of-a-lot more fun than my parents’ method of making popcorn. They dragged out a heavy cast-iron pan, which weighed more than I did, sloshed in some corn oil, and waited until the corn stopped popping. That wasn’t fun – That was cooking.
Later they got one of those air-poppers that was as quiet as 757 in a wind-tunnel. Since it eliminated the oil, the popcorn had no fat – and no flavor.
Jiffy-Pop looked more like a science experiment than a means to obtain a snack. The expanding cone of tinfoil promised unknown surprises.
Given that I don’t have a microwave (it’s a long story (short version: Liar Ex (Who Told Many Lies) is a greedy, self-centered asshole)), I now buy the jiffy-pop as an adult. You know what? It’s still just cooking.
Mego Star Trek Bridge Gift Set
- Mego really produced the best seventies toys. Why did that company go bankrupt? Not only did they make Wonder Woman, but I had many of their other Superhero dolls as well: Captain America, Spiderman, Batman, Evel Knievel. Actually, that last one wasn’t really a superhero. Come to think of it, that doll might have been made by Ideal, not Mego. Anyway, you get my point.
I was just a few years too young, though, to feel the full affects of Mego's Star Trek blitz. By the time I got interested in Star Trek, I only obtained a Captain Kirk Mego doll. Legends abounded, though, that just a few years earlier there had been a whole model of the entire Enterprise bridge, which came with the entire crew!
It turns out, the Mego Bridge set was really just a plastic doll case with a couple of bar stools and some cardboard cutouts. Mego did try to make a “transporter,” but it was only a cone with a spinning geometric pattern. Huh – No wonder that company went bankrupt.
Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber Shop
- If only my parents had indulged me maybe I could have been a hair-stylist to the stars. Or maybe that’s why they resisted the idea. Whatever the case, I never got the Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber shop. Instead, I got the Play-Doh Fast-Food Restaurant. Hmmm – Maybe my parents just had low expectations of me.
If you don’t remember the Play-Doh Fuzzy-Pumper Barber Shop toy, basically it involved a "chair" that
Big Jim and the Big Jim Camper
- The seventies were a time of war and war protest. Conscientious parents decided that they didn’t want to raise a generation of children geared toward violence. As a result, G.I. Joe fell out of favor.
As an alternative, Mattell launched the Big Jim line. Jim, you see, didn’t carry guns or fight in unwinnable wars in former French colonies. No, no. Jim spent his days working his muscles at, I can only assume, the Y.M.C.A. and trying on different colors of short-shorts.
Every Jim figure had a button on his back that, when pressed, allowed him to flex his arm and show off his bulging muscles to his friends, like Big Josh.
The most coveted item in the Big-Jim line was the Big-Jim Adventure Camper. Yes, with the Camper, Big Jim and Big Josh could get out in the wild together – just the two of them.
While in the woods, where they went together – alone, they could do all sorts of manly activities. Big Jim could go fishing, for instance. After he brought a couple of trout back to camp, Big Josh could cook a nice meal for the two of them. They could talk about nature while they ate, without their shirts on.
Afterwards, they could go swimming together. Heck – Given that there weren’t any girls around (actually, there weren't any women in the entire Big Jim universe), Big Jim and Big Josh wouldn’t need to wear swimming trunks. It was just a couple of guys – you know, doing guy things together – alone – in the woods – and naked.
Well, you get the general idea why I wanted the Big Jim Camper. Sigh – So young, yet so pervvy.