The Retro Machine (Vol. 15)

Wishbook Toys!
December 22, 2008

Each November, sometimes even before Santa Claus made his way to Herald Square, I would have some sort of Christmas wishbook and a pen plopped into my lap.
The idea was I would go through the book and circle the things I wanted for Christmas. It was the kid version of a blank check, at least it felt that way.

Only about a third of the wishbook was applicable to me though, most of it was comprised of boring adult things like alarm clocks and driving gloves. But oh, that other part of the book was truly epic. Most of the time, the toy section of the wishbook was easy to find. It was usually right after the yellow ordering pages in the middle of the book. So that is kinda where we're going today with this edition of The Retro Machine...beyond the yellow pages. Everything for this edition was taken out of the wishbooks of the 1980's!

Thanks to wishbooks, my childhood bedroom was this awesome:

The Masters of the Universe simply dominated my bedroom in both toys and decor. In fact, as we review these next 10 items, I want you to imagine that I'm this kid speaking through the Snake Mountain microphone:

And now, let's get on with it.

Rock Tumbler

Every single year that I can remember, the wishbook had this same Rock Tumbler. I remember wondering why tumbling rocks was so great The picture shows us that we can make rocks from our driveway into jewelry that you might be able to sell at the Elvis convention, trailer park, or indian reservation.

One year, my sister actually took the plunge and got this very model. Needless to say, we tumbled a few rocks into smoother versions of rocks and never touched the thing again. Part of the problem was that we never anticipated how long it would take to actually tumble the rocks. It was a "set it and forget it" kind of toy and really seemed to take forever to work its magic. Oh, and the sound of this thing was ridiculous. It was akin to throwing silverware into a trash disposal and then flicking the switch. Regardless, the Rock Tumbler is a wishbook staple.

Woodburning Kit

Another item that seemed to make a yearly appearance was this woodburning kit. It came with a ton of wood and a basic soldering iron. Of course, there was one Christmas where I felt the urge to burn some wood, so this did get circled. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking at the time. Perhaps I just thought it was cool to get a really hot "something" and burn stuff with it.

Like the Rock Tumbler, this Jumbo Woodburning Kit was more a test of patience than it was fun. You'd have to plug in the soldering iron and wait for it to warm up first. Then, you'd have to actually start the woodburning process which actually took alot longer than I thought. It took a considerable amount of time to actually burn the wood. Just spelling my name was a chore, and even when I had finished all I had was a wooden plank with my name on it.

Mickey Mouse Talking Phone

The Mickey Mouse Talking Phone was something I think my cousin had. Using different "phone numbers", you could call up famous Disney characters and they would "talk" to you. We always jockeyed for time with this toy, there was something really cool about using what seemed like a telephone. We were also still young enough to believe that we might actually be interacting with these guys! Here we see it was a whopping $9.99. What a cheap price for a whole lot of magic.

Rocking Toys

Everyone had a variation of these rocking toys. They were usually situated on metal springs and you could do a whole lot of rocking and bouncing on them. I never had anything as cool as that Cringer model though! There was always one very large problem with these toys:

THEY ALWAYS PINCHED THE CRAP OUTTA YOUR LEGS. Not just little pinches either, more like "oh my god, did someone just stick a 1/2" thick needle into my leg?" kinds of pinches. This always happened when you were rocking and the motion would stretch the springs out long enough for you to put your leg near it just in time to be pinched. Even today it sends shivers up my spine to think about this.

Dune Buggy

I had this exact Dune Buggy. I'm not sure that it was a Power Wheels toy or not, but it was one of the coolest toys I owned at the time simply because it made me think I was driving places. And it's true, I was driving places in my backyard. Sure, the battery took like a day to charge and worked for like 20 minutes before dying, but I always savored those 20 minutes.

When I got to drive the Dune Buggy, it was a major event in my day. It was serious business. I never did have another one, they were always too expensive and I always wanted other stuff anyway. But I did envy the kids who had the Bigfoot Power Wheels.

Super Heroes Theater

Viewmaster by itself is a pretty magical experience. Combine Viewmaster with the Super Friends and throw in a projector that projects onto your wall and you have yourself an epic toy. That is what the Super Heroes Theater was. I remember making a little movie theater in my room and setting everything up so I could put on a Viewmaster slide show. It all came in this big metal tub, sort of like what you might expect to hold caramel popcorn. To this day, I'm not sure whatever happened to this toy! It sure was fun while it lasted though.

Little Tikes Railroad

Although I never had this, the Little Tikes Railroad was something I saw every year and thought "I must have this someday!". I mean c'mon, it was a real working train I could ride through my house! Was there anyone who did not want something like this? I remember wondering about all the places I could ride this train. I pictured tracks all through my house. Whenever I wanted a snack or something, I'd just hop on the train and ride there. Of course, the thing looks like it only came with one small oval track, but this is how the imagination of a child works.

Cabbage Patch Kids Hide n' Seek Game

The Cabbage Patch Kids Hide and Seek game is a fairly obscure use of the popular brand. The game board is a cabbage patch and the little Cabbage Patch Kids would stick their heads out for you to get them. If the name on the bottom matched the card you had, you'd keep the Cabbage Patch Kid. The game itself was not nearly as memorable as the pieces.

The little guys resembled M.U.S.C.L.E. figures and we always spent more time playing with them than actually playing the game. The very concept of children growing out of cabbage has always been slightly disturbing to me, like some children of the corn kind of vibe, only the children smelled like cabbage.

Over The Top Toys

If the late 80's taught us anything, it's that any dispute can be settled with a quick arm wrestling match. Over The Top is of course the Stallone arm wrestling movie that has garnered quite the cult following these days. Stallone plays Lincoln Hawk, a trucker who somehow manages to use arm wrestling to win back the heart of his neglected son. And really, with a name like Lincoln Hawk, you're either a trucker, arm wrestling champion, or one of those no-name pro wrestlers that Ravishing Rick Rude would beat up every Saturday.

Some kids (who?) must have jumped at the shot at having their own Over The Top official arm wrestling tournament playset thing so they could challenge the neighborhood kids to a match! Though I'm sure none of us had a name like Lincoln Hawk, with these toys there was at least a chance that we could recreate that scene where the guys bone shoots out of his arm.

Play Tents

One of the coolest, most magical things I can ever remember having in my room were play tents. This Yogi Bear tent was the first one that I owned and I spent many nights in there. Used it as my bed for a while! There's something about play tents, tunnels, and little homemade forts that just makes kids go crazy with joy. There's this added security of being in your own little world. The Yogi Bear tent had a small inflatable bed that you could sleep on in there as well. I also liked peeking out that little window.

The Yogi Bear tent was cool, but check out this Castle Grayskull Playhouse!

You may notice the weapon set in this picture is the same one featured in a previous article. It's probably best I did not have this one because I probably would have gone in there and never come out. The artwork and the awesomeness of Castle Grayskull is just too much!

Take care everyone and have a Merry Christmas. If you missed last years Christmas article, make sure you check out Volume 10. See you sometime in 2009 and remember...what's new today is retro tomorrow.
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