The Retro Machine (Vol. 19)
S'mores Crunch, Chuck E. Cheese, and More!
Hello again, and welcome to this, the 19th installment manufactured, packed up, and shipped out by the little Retro Machine!
Anyway, if you haven't already, become a fan of The Retro Machine on Facebook at www.facebook.com/theretromachine. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the article!
A Light In The Attic
No book from my childhood approached the point of ubiquity quite like Shel Silverstein's "A Light in the Attic". Every kid in school either had it or they wanted it. At our school, the craziness began when a teacher read us the poem "Crowded Tub" which was about a tub so full that someone "washed a behind that I'm sure wasn't mine". This made us all laugh of course, as did anything that referenced butts when we were in elementary school.
Yeah, it was kid's poetry, but it was cool kid's poetry. It wasn't patronizing us. Heck, these poems were about things like a girl who literally dies of a broken heart because her parents didn't get her a pony she wanted! In "Ladies First" a little snotty girl needs to be first at everything, even when it means unwittingly volunteering to be devoured by a cannibal! But there were touching ones too, like "Little Boy and the Old Man" and "Picture Puzzle Piece".
This was one of my favorites, it was about Mrs. McTwitter the baby sitter who took her job very literally. I'd highly recommend fans of the book to download the audiobook version that features Shel Silverstein reading many of the best poems from the book in what can only be described as a....unique...voice.
I have very hazy memories of a Christmas night in the early 80's. I remember being in my room and having the new loot from Christmas sitting in a pile on my floor. One of the items that I had not yet torn the shrink wrap off of was something called "Candy Land". Now, I didn't know what it was, but as near as I could tell it was some sort of candy-making factory. I flipped out! It's a...candy...MAKING....FACTORY??? Visions of making my own candy danced through my head. But it was such a thin box, how could such a thin box have a candy factory in it?
Of course, my parents told me it was a board game after I got all excited about this candy factory. That made it kind of a letdown, but I had no idea that Candy Land would become one of the most beloved games of my childhood. The version you see pictured was the one that I had. The art on the board really brought the world to life, I felt like I was walking through the Gum Drop Forrest or past the Peanut Brittle House.
The most magical cards you could get were the cards that had pictures of candy on them. Depending on what card you pulled, you could be thrust all the way towards the end of the board or brought all the way back towards the beginning. The ice cream sandwich was the most coveted card one could get, it catapulted you nearly to the end of the game! It was the gingerbread card that was magical for me though. Something about that card was just captivating. Maybe it's because gingerbread men cookies were strangely captivating to me. It's this exotic cookie with all these candy dressings and it was something we didn't make often back then. What a great board game.
Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders was another magical board game to me. There was something about the anticipation of landing on one of those ladders combined with the fear of landing on a "chute" (or "slides" as I called them). Of course, the chutes and ladders are associated with various moral situations in life.
For example, as you see on the board in space 64, some kid is riding his bike without holding onto the handlebars. He ends up falling off and hurting himself, sliding back 4 spaces in the process. The biggest jump you can get on the board is when you help a cat out of a tree in space 28 and it sends you all the way up to 84 where it shows you loving the cat. Space 80 is the magic space though, because if you land on it, it's an instant ladder to the winning space.
Here are what the pieces looked like in the version I remember as a kid. I think there should be a version of Chutes and Ladders for adults. You know, you could have a space showing some guy playing World of Warcraft for several days straight and then the chute would slide down to a space showing him dying of starvation. Nonetheless, I have great memories of playing this game
Remember lawn darts? You'd put a rather large circle on the ground and then you'd throw the darts up in the air and hope they'd land in the circle. You only need to take one look at these to realize they were made in a much different time in our nation's history. You know, a time when people didn't think twice about kids throwing sharp spears around in the back yard for sport.
As is usually the case, a number of people had to impale themselves until eventually other people decided that these were no longer such a safe thing to have. It turns out that when a kid is screaming and crying in the emergency room with your product jutting out from his ribs, it's really bad for business. Good luck finding lawn darts these days, they have been banned for sale in the US and Canada since the late 80's!
Pizzarias Pizza Chips
Some people like potato chips. Some people like pizza. But most people like both chips and pizza. Thus, Pizzarias Pizza Chips were born! On one hand, you look at these and all you see is this Dorito wannabe. But then you taste it. That's when you realize that it DOES taste like pizza! And before you know it, you're a bleary-eyed sloth hunched over your NES Advantage controller, a pathetic mess with an over-filled stomach. It's the kind of pathetic where you have pizza chip fuzz on your fingers and you just don't bother to get up and clean your hands. That pizza chip fuzz is dangerous stuff too, your hands won't smell right for days. It's darn near rock bottom, and before too long it destroyed so many people that Pizzarias Pizza Chips were taken off the market.
Okay, maybe that's not why. I don't know why these tasty little chips went away. All I knew as a kid was that it was great to have these pizza chips in my lunch. Today, if you wish to taste something like this, I hear that there are some very comparable options out there.
The truth is, I never actually played Perfection. The game itself didn't interest me at all. But that's not to say that I didn't put the game of Perfection to good use on multiple occasions. You see, I liked to play pretend often that I was an action hero of sorts. And what would any action hero be without some sort of bomb to diffuse? Nah, forget about a little bomb, what's any action hero without having to diffuse a nuclear missile!?
What was great about Perfection was that it had a timer. I'd load all the little pieces into their slots, then I'd set the timer. That timer would tick away loudly and dramatically. It provided the perfect sense of urgency that I, the action hero, needed. Sometimes I diffused the bomb.
Sometimes it would go off (because sometimes diving into cushions to escape an explosion is really cool). When it went off, all the pieces would come flying out the top. It caused a wonderful little mock scene of destruction. You might say it was....perfect....moohahahahaha.
Dukes of Hazzard TV Tray
And the award for "Most Cleavage Featured On A TV Tray" goes to Daisy Duke! Of course, it wasn't something I was going to notice back when I was a tot eating my snacks off of this very tray. There was a certain magic about being able to open the metal legs and sit this thing on your lap while watching your favorite TV show. It better be a good channel though, back then we didn't have remote controls, we had to actually get up and walk to the TV if we wanted to physically change the channel! But anyway, I think most of us here probably remember the simple joy that these lap trays brought.
Dukes of Hazzard Trash Can
While I'm talking about Dukes of Hazzard household items, I'd be remiss not to mention this Dukes of Hazzard Trash Can that used to sit in my room! I know it may not seem like a big deal, but getting old enough to have your very own trash can in your very own room was a milestone of sorts. It felt pretty cool to be able to throw things away without having to go into the kitchen. And of course, it couldn't just be any trash can, it had to be something that reflected something you liked. It's just like Underoos, having some cartoon or picture on your underwear makes underwear cool. Through the years, I would go on to have a variety of trash cans, including a Notre Dame can and a WWF can. These all ended up either being rusted out or stepped on during wild romping play sessions.
S'mores Crunch Cereal
If you thought Ice Cream Cone Cereal and it's little sugar cone pieces were bad, you ain't seen nothin' yet. S'mores Crunch Cereal was a rare treat that I enjoyed back in the day. The cereal itself was of course a mix of a graham cracker and chocolate-tasting base (think chocolate Golden Grahams kinda) and marshmallows. It did taste like s'mores, the cereal version of s'mores at least. What an amazing cereal! I mean, they aren't even trying to mask it as anything vaguely nutritious, it's just freakin' marshmallows and chocolate in a cereal bowl! Here ya go kids, eat this and have a grrrreat day at school!
No, this was a cereal best enjoyed on a sunny Saturday morning in front of the TV with the Smurfs or Snorks or something. It was the kid equivalent of that very nice wine your parents saved for special occasions. Man, even the box looks good enough to eat.
Chuck E. Cheese
I really weep for those of you who are too young to remember a time when Chuck E. Cheese was a good place to take your family. A place where you could play a multitude of arcade games, ride the kiddie rides, play Skee-Ball, and most of the machines even worked! Imagine that! Somewhere along the way, it all went wrong for the big gray mouse.
Do you remember Pizza Time Theater? You used to be able to go into a Chuck E. Cheese and you'd eat in a fairly darkened room that somewhat resembled a dinner theater. While in there, you'd be treated to an animatronic music show with a nice cast of characters from the Chuck E. Cheese universe. The whole thing was rather on par with Disney's Country Bear Jamboree. And best yet, it was magic. It was like you had entered this magic world. The dark room, eating the pizza, watching the show, it was all so immersive. That's mostly all gone now. The Chuck E. Cheese restaurants I've taken my daughter too now only feature Chuckie singing. No more dark magical rooms with fairly elaborate shows. No more ensemble casts of animatronic robots. I guess the maintenance was costly or something.
The games used to be better too though. Yeah, they still have Skee-Ball, but let's face it...the arcade games just aren't the same. It isn't like in the 80's when the arcades were booming and there was a huge market for creating great arcade games. Nowadays, everything is gimmick heavy and gameplay is largely forgotten (not to mention it's friggin' expensive to play these newer arcade games). And yes, I know I'm bordering on the "when I was a kid" thing, but I think it's justified in this case.
What is going on with the Chuck E. Cheese character anyway? In the 80's, he kind of resembled an old-time carnival barker. But that was okay then, we liked it and knew no different. The Chuck E. Cheese character of today though is branded in such a strange fashion. He's wearing this get-up that suggests he's an "extreme skateboarder" or something. That's so 15-20 years ago guys! The newer Chuck E. Cheese restaurants I've gone to are just downtrodden. They sort of remind me of a shady 7-Eleven with lots of rides, half of which don't even work right and the other half have kids blatantly cheating to get tickets as the manager turns the other cheek. This is the Chuck E. Cheese of today, a watered-down version of a once heralded brand where the ticket munching machines are out of order and nobody seems to care to get it fixed. It's like a zombie, the body is moving, but there is no soul left.
But through it all, there is something cool. My daughter likes it. Because she knows no different. She works through 15 dollars worth of tokens to get enough tickets so she can have a packet of 4 Sweet Tarts and a pencil topper, and she's happy as a clam. She eats her pizza and gets a big smile on her face watching the Chuck E. Cheese robot sing his songs (and seriously, we were the only ones watching the show). I guess it isn't all bad. But if only she coulda seen it then...
Well, that's all for now. If you have read every Retro Machine article up to now, then you have journeyed with me through 199 toys, foods, TV shows, and other things we fondly remember. Thanks for coming along for the ride! There's still more to come though. In Volume 20, we will blast through the 200 mark. What will our 200th thing be????
Until then, take care! And don't forget to catch me on Video Masters TV almost every month too at www.videomasterstv.com. Thanks!
Miss one of The Retro Machine articles? See the links below.
Volume 1 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1814/
Volume 2 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1845/
Volume 3 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1890/
Volume 4 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles /1929/
Volume 5 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1978/
Volume 6 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2067/
Volume 7 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2127/
Volume 8 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2196/
Volume 9 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2261/
Volume 10 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2419/
Volume 11 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2916/
Volume 12 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/3170/
Volume 13 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/3986/
Volume 14 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/4127/
Volume 15 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/4328/
Volume 16 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/5291/
Volume 17 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/5573/
Volume 18 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/5574/