Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Man and His Toys

A few years ago, I embarked on a quest to recover a part of my childhood. I wanted a toy that I bought with my own money. I put this toy on lay-away for what seemed like six months at Mack’s (a defunct department store in Taylorsville). I’m not sure how much it cost but it was worth it – I eventually had a Mego Batmobile. I already had the Batman and Robin (both with the “oven mitt” gloves). I finally got the Batmobile out and it quickly became my favorite toy of all time.

I’m not exactly sure what happened to it but it disappeared as I grew older. As I said, I went on Ebay a while back and saw they were going for well over one hundred dollars. I wasn’t about to spend that much but one day I found one in good shape for about half that and snapped it up. Nostalgia knows no logic! It sits proudly on my shelf.

That got me thinking of other toys from my childhood. See if any of these were in your toybox. If not, post your favorites below.

I never got into G.I. Joe that much but all my friends did so I didn’t miss out on much. But I did have Steve Austin – the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Yep, the one with the hole in the back of his head that you could look through and see things that looked exactly the same as looking with your own eyes. You could roll back the skin on his arm to see his bionic circuitry. Sadly, he didn’t make that cool “nah-nah-nah-nah” sound when he moved but I had it down pretty good. He came with an engine block that he could easily hoist to shoulder-level in case you ever needed an engine block hoisted to shoulder level. I suppose that when Oscar Goldman ran out of missions, Steve went to work at Pep Boys.

Remember when the world used to come to a complete stop whenever Evel Knievel was on TV? Could that happen today? I remember sitting mesmerized watching him jump a couple buses or the fountains in Las Vegas and then totally blowing it in the attempt to jump Snake River (IN PRIME TIME!). But he had a cool toy – the Scramble Van. Just look at it! All those barely discernible plastic parts. The trailer to haul the motorcycle I already had. The ramp to jump his own van. It didn’t get much cooler than Evel thirty years ago.

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t have a lot of GI Joe toys but I did have his AT Helicopter. I got it from my grandparents one Christmas and I can still remember blocking out all human contact for the rest of that day as I assembled that bad boy – snapping the plastic parts together and applying with precision the few stickers. It had a button right behind the cockpit that would make the blades rotate until your thumb fell off. It had a rope (string) that you could lower to rescue Joe (or Steve Austin) from peril. All in all – a great, great toy.

I also remember Santa Claus bringing a Stretch Armstrong one year. I think I asked for it but if I didn’t, my parents were gift-giving geniuses. This guy was phenomenal. You could stretch him, pull him, tie him in knots and do all sorts of things. As an adult, you could have fun with this guy for seconds. As a child, hours. I guess I outgrew him early because I remember putting him in the freezer until he was a solid block of . . . something. I had to find out what was inside so I took him into the back yard and got my dad’s ax and then cut off both legs in one fell swoop. No bones – just pink goo. Dad wasn’t upset that I did that but he was upset that I put the still-frozen Armstong on his lawn mower, which quickly thawed out all over the seat. Now that was a mess.

Sometime after getting Armstrong, I got his archnemesis – Stretch Monster. As the instructions said, he’s a docile creature but you don’t want to get him mad. And when he sees Stretch Armstrong, he gets very mad. I’m not sure what happened to this guy but I’m pretty sure he escaped death by dismemberment. But the way, these things wouldn’t last long anyway. The skin would dry out and crack or the goo would lose its gooiness. There aren’t a lot of them around anymore but you can still find some of the originals on EBAY and pay nearly $1000 for them. Nostalgia has no logic but it does have its spending limits.

The ultimate toy of boys growing up in the 70s – THE BIG WHEEL. I remember pedaling so fast my ankles almost broke. We had great “Ben Hur” type races, spinning out and spraying gravel all over the place. We lived on a hill which offered nearly impossible to resist temptation to attempt.

Then a friend of mine got a Green Machine and it was all over. I didn’t have a chance. It was like I was driving a GMC Pacer and he was driving a Corvette. He soon became the Alpha Male of the neighborhood.

By the way, you can now get these things in ADULT SIZES. That’s right – for a few hundred dollars, you can have your own Big Wheel or Green Machine! Imagine the fun of tearing around your neighborhood on these bad boys with adult leg power.

Once I reached middle school, electronic games made the scene. I spent mucho dinero at Galaxy 2000 – playing Donkey Kong (third elevator) and Galaga and Pole Position. In those days before PSPs and Nintendo DS games, we had single game players with little LED blips to resemble players. I could absolutely DOMINATE on the Mattel Basketball. The trick was to try to shoot from the left or right of the free throw line. Believe it or not, I found this toy in my old bedroom last year and put some new batteries in it and it still works like new. I’m sad to say my reflexes are not as new. A lot of my friends had the football version of this game but I never could get the handle on it.


Jim Pemberton said...

The new "Stretch Armstrong" is Mr. Fantastic. My oldest boy got one for Christmas. He and I have stretched that thing every which way we can. It's not dismembered yet, but I figure one lazy day this summer I'll go home from work to find pieces of it out by the shed.

Chuck said...

Let me see if I have this clear.

You didn't play with GI Joes, but you did play with really limber stretchable men wearing bikini bottoms?

Bruce Roberts said...

You mean you didn't have all the Star Wars toys? Man, I sure did. I remember saving my allowance for weeks and then getting some cash for my birthday and making my Grandmother take me to Roses (that store is still open in my hometown of Forest City and it's not far from a Wal-Mart) to buy the Millenium Falcon. It was about $35.00 but I had to have it. When I was a little older I had a friend that had every Star Wars toy and he had painted them (very talented young man) to look more realistic. His room was like one of the sets of the movies. I also remember when Return of the Jedi came out, you could only get the Emperor action figure with proofs of purchase from other toys so I had to buy up some other toys to get that one. Good times those were!