The Retro Machine (Vol. 22)

Spinjas, Swiss Miss, and More!
January 20, 2012
The Retro Machine (Vol. 22)

Hello once again folks! It has been awhile...over a year! If you no longer remember me, hopefully you can look below and find a few things that you thought had been lost forever to the passing of time. I always get a kick out of showing something to people that they once valued so much, but had forgotten. If you're new to The Retro Machine, I'd highly encourage you to read the previous 21 articles in this series and then come on over to the Facebook fan page at It's a good place to interact, a good place to browse lots of cool retro pictures (and extra content), and I hope to see you there. For now, please enjoy this eclectic collection of stuff that I've gathered!

Illustrated Wildlife Treasury

The Illustrated Wildlife Treasury commercial seemed to be played during just about every commercial break of the 1980's and early 90's. I remember it being on throughout the day and it was usually on after school as well. To the best of my knowledge, it was a club you could join and when you joined it you would periodically receive sets of cards that had animals on them. The card would have a picture of the animal and all sorts of information about the animal. The most memorable line from the commercial was "it's a duck-billed platypus!" To this day, whenever I hear about a duck-billed platypus (which is often), I think of the Illustrated Wildlife Treasury.

Ordering the cards also got you this sweet green box to keep them in. I didn't much care about animal cards, but there was something about having a box with collectible animal cards that made it more appealing. I never actually had any of these things, but they are quite memorable. Did any of you have these? Do you still have them today?

Sprinkle Spangles

Sprinkle Spangles was basically a cereal with sprinkles! They really did not last long at all and I remember them being around sometime in the early 90's, though I could be mistaken. The stuff was actually pretty good, I tried it once. I didn't make a habit of eating it though, since eating sprinkles at breakfast is not a great way to start the day off. The genie on the box, voiced by Dom Deluise, would appear in commercials where children wished their breakfasts could somehow involve sprinkles. He'd say "you wish it, I dish it" and just like that it was done.

Can you imagine the outrage over such a commercial being shown on TV in this day and age?

Sit N' Drive

I had one of these when I was a little tot. Finally, we could drive just like mom and dad! You get your own steering wheel, your own horn to beep, and coolest of all, you get the ability to shift into different gears. I spent a great amount of time playing with this toy in particular, just pretending to drive to places, always moving that stick on the right up and down like I was doing something important. I love the little storage compartment on the left, that was a great place to put tiny toys.


Wow, here's one that I thought would be lost to the ages! I had for some time been trying to recall what these little things from the late 80's were. I have vague memories of playing with some kind of battling tops in a nearly pocket-sized arena, but could never think of what they were called. One day, it just hit me, so here it is...Spinjas! Each set came with two launchers and two Spinjas, both of which fit so nicely into the arena. The arena and its contents were so easy to just throw into a backpack on your way to a sleepover or something. The Spinjas themselves had character, they weren't just plain old tops of course. Think M.U.S.C.L.E. in battling top form.

Spinja matches didn't last long. Each player would launch their spiraling Spinja out into the arena and they'd doe-see-doe around each other until they collided. Last Spinja spinning was the winner!

Pudding in a Can

There was something about chocolate pudding in a can that was just so...right. These days, all I ever see are the Jell-o Chocolate Puddings that are in plastic cups. That's pudding for wusses! When it's in a can where you have to pop the lid the way you pop the lid on a soda can, it's manly! You'd hear that metal-on-metal sound as the lid came off, and then you'd delight in licking the excess pudding off the bottom of the lid. Whether it was a summer day or lunch time at school, it seemed any time was right for one of these. I was never a fan of the vanilla flavor (or vanilla pudding in general).

Baby Skates

Hey, it's a rollerskating baby doll! My sister owned this toy and it really worked. Baby Skates would rock back and forth and alternate her legs so that she could skate on any hard floor. She didn't really do well on any other terrain though. Baby Skates was very one dimensional, so her appeal was short-lived. What wasn't short-lived though were her knee pads, which I used as WWF Tag Team Champion belts before I got the "official" ones. Besides, what's a baby doll with roller skates need knee pads for? To tell you the truth, the whole deal with a rollerskating baby came off as a little creepy to me. If you see something like that, you run!

Baby Skates: Looking rough in later years

Swiss Miss Pudding Bars

Back in the day, these were the yin to the Jell-O Pudding Pop's yang. They were SO chocolatey. I'd look at the box and imagine Swiss Miss (that's what I called her) and it made me feel like I was enjoying a frozen treat from some far away land prepared with love at a charming cottage in the middle of a meadow. In reality, they were probably prepared by a down-on-his-luck factory worker operating a machine in New Jersey, but let's ignore that less than charming picture and bask in the ignorance that targeted marketing allows. These were sinfully rich bars and I'm sure that there is nothing today quite this rich on the market. You could almost feel the grain of the sugar passing over your lips as you munched it down.

Leon Neon

Leon Neon was basically a line of neon tubes that you could bend and make into fashion accessories. You could have neon necklaces, bracelets, glasses, and other accessories that would look cool on you while you attended a Friday night party in the 1980s. I can just see these things glowing in the dark at a party while Oingo Boingo plays "Dead Man's Party" in the background (pop quiz, what's the reference there?).

I think the idea here was to just keep buying as many neon tubes as possible to completely deck yourself out. Oddly enough, I think we've come full circle on these things, I think you could wear them today and it would be "in" again.

The Real Ghostbusters Board Game

Perhaps one of the coolest board games I ever owned was The Real Ghostbusters Game. Released in the mid-80s, this game actually featured a 3D set that you'd build prior to playing the actual game. It was a little like Mousetrap in that sense. I remember it being quite fussy to build (keep in mind, I was like 7 or 8) and there was a particular mechanism involving a ghost trap and a skull that didn't always work quite well. Still though, it was so cool! I'd actually spend more time just playing with the playset and telling my own story with the characters, rather than actually playing the game. That tiny skull was always one of my favorite pieces.

There were various "traps" set up around the board. One was an axe held by a knight that could fall on your Ghostbuster. Another was a springboard that would upend your Ghostbuster if the tiny skull came crashing down. Another trap involved the skull spiraling down the steps to knock out your guy. The game itself was mediocre, but it just didn't matter...the set was great! I just enjoyed setting the traps off! I actually ended up taking the pieces from that and inventing my very own Ghostbusters game on a square piece of cardboard. It ended up being a go-to game for me and my friends for many years, until a basement flood destroyed it.

The Junk Drawer: Rack Toy Extravaganza!

Our junk drawers collect all sorts of oddball items as time goes on. I'm willing to bet that many of your junk drawers were filled with various pieces of cheap plastic rack toys. When I think back to my youth, the grocery store was always full of rack toys. Due to the obscure nature of some of them, they can be incredibly hard to track down, but it makes it all the more rewarding!

Who could forget that good old "paddle ball"? It's literally what it says it is....a paddle and a ball. This was one of those "back in my day" kind of toys that was considered to be retro "back in my day". A rubber line stapled to cheap wood was what connected the ball to the paddle. This could be fun in short bursts, but could also end in the ball missing the paddle and smacking you in the face. Good times.

These guns were always a ton of fun. That classic rubber dart with the suction cup end, man, whoever patented that must be living the high life right now. It was like the de-facto dart for rack toy guns. We were always bad news walking around with these things. They would typically come with little targets you could set up and shoot down, but let's be honest...the real target was stuff (and people) around the house.

For pretending to bake!

Always a classic, these little guys were a blast to shoot from a slingshot and watch them sail gently down to the ground. Unfortunately, due to the very thin and cheap string used, they didn't last long. These guys quickly became hopelessly tangled in their own string in what were always the worst knots ever.

These plastic handcuffs (a fun toy we covered in a previous article) feature the Batman character. It was always good that it came with two keys, that way you could give one to your parents and they'd save you from being cuffed for eternity once you lost your key.

Signal your presence to the commish!

A Ninja Turtle knockoff...but with a gun

Assorted zoo animals were something that I think came standard in any junk drawer. Everyone had to have gobs of cheap miniature animals at some point.

The "cheaper" variety of "cheap" dinosaur toys

More goofy baking fun

It's charming that this is just called "Medical Kit". I believe i actually had this one! At least they did a good job of mimicking certain brands of the time!

For the Hordak fan, these little "party blowouts" were the perfect compliment to any He-Man birthday party.

Not to be outdone by the rubber dart gun, the classic "ball gun" held its own pretty nicely! You'd typically force feed the balls into an opening at the top or through the nozzle and then these suckers would just pop on out towards your target.

I had this very same Popeye Barber Set!

Well that wraps up this edition. I've got more exciting stuff lined up for next time!
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