The Retro Machine (Vol. 12)

Spit Balls, Backyard Pools, and More!
May 05, 2008
Hello again everyone! Well it has been awhile and I can only chalk that up to the fact that I've been pretty busy. By "busy", I mean that Super Smash Brothers Brawl and Mario Kart have both come out recently and I've spent a good deal of time with them! Fantastic games! All that to say, most of this article has been written for quite some time now and I'm just now getting around to uploading it. I hope you like it!

And now....

Maybe its the warm air that has been blowing my way lately, but I've been having memories flood back to me of summers past. Those glorious mornings when the sun shined bright through our curtains as if it too was celebrating the fact that we did not have to go back to school for, like, months.

Our days were painted with pool parties, water fights, videogame marathons, and when we had run ourselves ragged, it was straight to the freezer for some "freezy pops". Our nights were a wild tapestry of pizza parties, sleepovers, scary movies, and yes, more videogame marathons that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. And after a few hours of sleep, we'd wake up and do it all over again.

So as you read this, just know that these items are linked to some of my own personal summer time memories.

Hulk Hogan Talking Alarm Clock

If you ever wondered what it might be like to have Hulk Hogan wake you up by screaming at you every morning, you need only to experience the Hulk Hogan Talking Alarm Clock. You may be surprised, however, to find that this is less like Hulk Hogan himself waking you up and more like some demon's voice projecting itself from the bowels of hell. When this alarm kicked on in the morning, there was no doubt that you would be awakened. You would hear the garbled, electronic sound of Satan doing his best Hulk Hogan impression and urging you to make sure you "train, say your prayers, and eat your vitamins" today. This absolute mess of an alarm clock was proof that Hulk Hogan had sold his soul to merchandising in a way that would even make Krusty the Clown blush.

Fisher Price Phone Friends

Fisher Price Phone Friends were cool because what kid didn't enjoy using communication toys? These walkie talkies slightly resembled the phones you might have had in your house. They were a lot of fun to use within your home and had little mounts on the back so you could put them up in your room. Buttons on the side of the handset made using the phone easy, you just press the button to talk and let go to listen like any other walkie. My friends and I used these on the rare occasion that they were in my basement and I was in my room. For many kids born in the 70's and 80's, these toy walkies were the first experience we had with electronic communication that mom and dad didn't have to monitor, so we accepted the flaws that existed such as poor long range reception.


Back in the 70's and 80's, Playmobil was some expensive stuff. They were so darn attractive though, any store you went into with those blue and white boxes lining the wall made you want to collect them all. Every box had a different adventure waiting for you, be it Indians (my set, as seen above), a Pit Crew, Astronauts, Medieval Knights, or what have you. The sets were notable for their level of detail, including very small parts like a pot of gold with individual coins inside or the little oilcans that came with the Race Car. As I said though, these sets were sold at a premium and you were likely to get more bang from your buck by sticking with the normal toys and playsets.

Spit Balls

Spit Balls are wonderful little rubber balls that you fill up with water and then squeeze to squirt them at people. They employed "collect'em all" style marketing to sell these things and boy did it ever work. I had a ziplock baggie in my house full of every one of the Spit Balls (and a few duplicates) and when summer rolled around they would always be opened up and sent into battle. The above picture features "Slider" and "Squirt".

Here we see Entertech has gone and divided Spit Balls up into the three common groups of people: Beasts, Jocks, and Wackos. It also includes instructions on how to use these things, for those of us who were "a little bit slow".

"Spitz Skull" and "Shades", an obvious combination

"Spit-It" and "Fumbler"

Frankenstein and Dracula, obviously

"Frank N Spitz" and "Kicker"

A special Ghostbusters themed set

"Jack O. Spitz" and "Lock Jaw"

"Sgt. Spitz" and "Hoghead"

Entertech Water Guns

Take a look at these little beauties. Nowadays, a kid carrying one of these guns in your neighborhood on a hot summer day would instantly have a hood thrown over their head and be sent to Guantanamo. Regardless, this gun was bad-ass, battery-operated bliss, coming complete with a detachable clip that held your water. It's bite was not as potent as its bark though, the stream of water it shot out was pretty thin. It was however a staggered stream and that made it feel like you were shooting "water bullets" in a way.

Larami Super Soakers

The Entertech line of water guns was great for your backyard battlefield, that is, until Super Soakers showed up. The thin stream from the Entertech guns was soon replaced with the Super Soaker stream, which almost seemed like a high-powered garden hose in comparison.

Super Soakers were the water gun to have, you simply didn't stand a chance to compete with the neighborhood kids if they all had Super Soakers and you were still brandishing the squirt gun you picked up at the dollar store. By the early 90's, summer in America's neighborhoods was colored by the yellow and green of the Super Soaker 50, the blue and yellow of the Super Soaker 100, and the red and green look of the mammoth Super Soaker 200.

The smaller, rare Super Soaker 30 pistol.

The Super Soaker 50 was the journeyman's gun. It was smaller and lighter, giving you much more of a speed advantage over your competitors, but its smaller capacity had you refilling more often.

The Super Soaker 100 was bigger and heavier but had a greater capacity. This was my gun of choice.

And then there was always that kid in the neighborhood, that rich kid, and he always had the Super Soaker 200. The Super Soaker 200 touted 2 large tanks and felt like a cross between a flamethrower and a missile launcher. This beast was friggin' heavy, you weren't going to be the most mobile person on the battlefield but you sure would give your pals a days worth of a drenching if he or she crossed your path.

Masters of the Universe Sleeping Bag

This was my Masters of the Universe sleeping bag and it was the sleeping bag of choice whenever I went to a sleepover. A kid's sleeping bag was a statement; it was an expression of who you are and what you liked. Though it wasn't a cardinal sin to show up to a sleepover with a regular sleeping bag, it sure was boring. Something about them has never entirely sat right with me though. Maybe it is because I'm sleeping in something sac-like, as if I were a caterpillar. To this day, if I'm in one of these I'll have more sudden awakenings than normal. I'll be startled awake by some thought that a snake or scorpion might be down at the bottom near my feet, trapped, with nowhere to go but all the way up my body.

Backyard Pools

If you were lucky, you or your friends would have an in-ground pool that you could go to swim at. Heck, even the less desirable above ground pool would suffice. But for those of us who didn't have such a luxury, every summer began with a trip to the store to buy your "pool-in-a-box".

The scent of rubber liner filled the air as mom or dad turned the water hose on and laid it in the center of the newly laid out pool. That ice-cold water would take what seemed like hours to fill the thing up. When it was done though, you had around 2-3 feet of water to lay around in with your friends. It wasn't long before you all made a concerted effort to get the good old whirlpool going. Once it was spinning really good, everyone went against the current. Sometimes it was fun fighting it and sometimes it was fun just letting it carry you in circles as your back bumped into the bottom of the shallow pool.

That got boring pretty quickly though, so the next step was hijacking your slide from the swing set. With one end of the slide on the grass and the other end in the pool, you and your friends would engage in round after round of slides. Most of the time this would send you slamming into the opposite wall of the pool, meaning little by little there was water spilling out onto the grass. Soon, your pool was sitting in a bit of a swamp. The grass stuck to your feet and ended up in the pool. We'd find a bug in the pool, its legs would be moving about in an effort to stay afloat and survive. Its life was in the balance, we would see it drown or we would scoop it out to safety. In this, we were the gods of summer.

Sega Master System

The first golden age of gaming, as we knew it, had begun the day my friend Jeff got a Sega Master System for his birthday. It was the mid 80's and 8-bit console gaming was at its height. Sega's "little machine that could" had little or no chance to compete in the market against the Nintendo Entertainment System, but we loved it nonetheless. We immediately hooked Jeff's Sega up to the television. It came with a combo cartridge; Astro Warrior and Hang-on were the games. Astro Warrior would stand to become a classic among us, played constantly ad nauseum.

In the beginning, Jeff's dad would play Astro Warrior as well. He was the first one to beat the first boss, otherwise known as "Zanoni". Jeff beat the Zanoni soon afterwards, as did I. I was so excited that I ran home screaming "I beat the Zanoni!" and as I stormed through the door, my mother thought there was something wrong with me. She was actually scared, she had this worried look on her face and scolded me for scaring her half to death! I still have a good laugh about that, but that sense of accomplishment was a feeling I wanted to chase.

As you can imagine, I soon had myself a Sega Master System. Between the three of my friends, we acquired many games, such as Ghostbusters, Chopper, Afterburner, Space Harrier, Action Fighter, Captain Silver, Fantasy Zone: The Maze, Alex Kidd in Miracle World (soon coming to the Virtual Console!), Rescue Mission, and so on and so forth.

This was a great light gun game that used Sega's "Light Phaser". You were presented a top down view of the world and basically soldiers would be carting from point A to point B on a track. Your job was to provide cover for them. So wherever you saw enemies hiding, you needed to shoot them before they could shoot the soldiers. It was great!

Pro Wrestling was your standard generic wrestling game but it was actually pretty good by the standards of those days (Way better than Nintendo's WWF original Wrestlemania game). Oriental Express ftw!

This was a poster that was included with many Sega games we bought. Space Harrier is the main draw here but the back had a great list of other Sega games, complete with short descriptions.

Freezy Pops

We worked up quite a sweat throughout those summer days of our youth. A steady diet of "Freezy Pops" was essential for us. Out of the freezer they would be as hard as a rock. A substantial pair of scissors was needed to cut off the tip. From there, you'd try your best to push the block of flavored ice up from the bottom so that you could access the goodness. If that didn't work, there was always the "bite the plastic" method in an effort to separate a smaller piece for consumption. My personal favorite was just to let it melt as much as possible. That delicious juice would collect at the bottom and soon enough it was bottoms up! It always ended with one last vacuum-quality suction to get every bit of juice left that we could. But who am I kidding? We always went back for another.

Well everyone, that's it for now. By the time you read this, I'll probably be floating around the Atlantic ocean, so if I don't respond to your comments anytime soon, that's why. See ya!
More Articles From Spencer
An unhandled error has occurred. Reload Dismiss