How I Spent My Childhood #2..........Random Toys
Once again, I've stopped by to talk about the many things that made my childhood so enjoyable and memorable. I had originally planned to talk about G.I. Joe in this issue, but I want to take a little more time with it, and produce an article worthy of the awesomeness that G.I. Joe was.
So with this issue, I've decided to just ramble on about some random toys from my childhood. These are toys that I had and enjoyed, but never really played with on a daily basis like G.I. Joe or Masters of the Universe. I made a whole list of this kind of toy to go over, then decided to break that list up to give myself some quick and easy articles from time to time. So today, here are the first five. Enjoy this little trip down memory lane!Construx
Next to Lego, this is the greatest building toy that I ever laid hands on, and in some ways, it surpassed Lego. The size of the pieces and the way they were designed allowed for larger projects than Lego could handle, which allowed for such projects as bridges, buildings, and any other thing you could dream up. These were awesome if you had a fertile imagination. My brother and I used to build goose neck trailers for our Tonka trucks to pull along.
The fist set that I had was the bridge set. I remember it not being exactly easy to follow the directions and complete the build, but not so hard that I had to have help either. I just had to take a little longer than my older brother did to complete it. But when it was done, oh my was it ever a fun thing to play with. He and I ended up using those bridges to enhance the fun in our G.I. Joe adventures. As a matter of fact, just about everything we built with the Construx were to play with some other toy line we had. Rarely did we build anything just for the sake of playing with the Construx. I would put together swords and ninja stars when I would watch a martial arts movie and then let my imagination run wild. I would use them to construct obstacle courses and run my G.I. Joe men through their paces trying to re-enact the latest episode of American Gladiators. We used them to build tunnels and other things to go along with our Hotwheels fun.
But my fondest memory of them would be the time I used them to build a scaffold. It was 1986, and The Road Warriors and The Midnight Express had just wrestled in a scaffold match at Starrcade 86, and I just had to re-create that. Years earlier, my father made me a wrestling ring, and I spent hours pitting my G.I. Joe men against one another in combat, pro wrestling style. I even gave them cool wrestling names and all. So I used the Construx to build a scaffold over my toy ring and used it from then on to settle the most intense feuds to ever take place in my room.
In later years, the line produced some "Space" sets with glow in the dark pieces. We had those as well, but mainly used them for what they were intended in the Space theme. But it was cool to take some of the glow in the dark pieces and use them to make "flash lights" to use on sleep overs. Construx were so versatile a toy, I think they could hit the market today and be a hit all over again. I think they were fairly popular in their own right during their original run, but Lego had the market cornered, and Construx just didn't make it. Sad. It was one fine construction based toy line, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to enjoy it. It was a role player. A solid backup. It enhanced the play of so many other toys in my collection, I would put it in the Hall of Fame just for that. Fun Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.Magic Kits / Magic Toys
Growing up, I like a good magic show just as much as the next kid. I would watch in wonder and amazement as the magician would wave his wand and make the impossible seem possible, but more impressive was the reaction he would get. I don't think Superman could be as popular as a good magician in the eyes of a kid. But what was I to do? Sure I would like to learn to do some magic, but you had to have a magician teach you right? Thats what I though at least. Then one day at school, during a show and tell, or some other event of the sort, a friend of mine named Lance put on a magic show! Holy crap, when did Lance study with a magician?!? After the little show, we were back in the classroom and he was showing off his "magic kit". He explained to my bewildered eyes that his parents had bought him this magic kit full of all these impossible tricks. And I could even get one too. All I had to do was go to K Mart and get one. I couldn't believe it. Was it really as simple as that? Could I really be doing magic after a short trip to K Mart? As it turned out, YES!!!! I had to save my allowance for a couple of weeks, but the day finally came and I had my very own magic kit. I diligently went through the process of learning all the tricks, and would then do magic shows for my family. Unfortunately, the bloom came off that rose quickly. I still dabbled with it from time to time, but it never really captured my imagination as much as it did when I thought magic was something out of my reach. Fun Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.WWF Thumb Wrestlers
In the mid 80's, Vince McMahon was putting his wrestler's likenesses on anything and everything he could. From can coolies to t-shirts to teddy bears to cookies and ice cream bars, the WWF wrestlers were everywhere. They even had their own cartoon for crying out loud. But of course, the merchandise was best when it still centered around the core business...wrestling. There were a lot of different types of wrestling figures available, but the Thumb Wrestlers were it for me. My friends and I engaged in very competitive thumb wrestling events every morning before school, and we were all big pro wrestling fans, so the thumb wrestlers were popular among us. That is until we tried to actually thumb wrestle with them. There was really no way to make that happen and score a pin on anyone. It was more just the fact that our thumbs now looked like the wrestlers we watched on tv. It was a gimmick that took me and my friends by storm for a few weeks before the craze passed us over. Although, as a positive, the likenesses were very well done on them.
I had Hulk Hogan, Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, and Junkyard Dog, and the faces were nicely done on these. Fun Rating: 2.0 out of 5 stars.M.U.S.C.L.E. Men
From one wrestling toy to another. M.U.S.C.L.E. stood for "Millions of Unusual Small Creatures lurking Everywhere". These little pink warriors were not pose able in anyway, and were so small that you couldn't really do much with them. But the fact that they came in multi-packs, and that they were marketed as "wrestlers" was enough to hook me initially. It was intriguing to see who would win in a fight between someone with a motorcycle for a boy or a human with a ripped body and the head of a wild bore. Of course, who won that battle was up to the kid in control of the action.
That is, until the ring came on the market. It was a small yellowish-orange contraption with glorified rubber bands for ring ropes, and a plastic arm that held the two combatants. You and a friend would do battle by moving your wrestler side to side in an attempt to knock your opponent off if his plastic control arm. If you did, you were the winner. The key was to find one whose body was slightly too big to fit in the controller, and then force him into it anyway. He would then be almost impossible to beat. My best friend and I would play this for a while, and each match, we would select a combatant. The winner would win the losing figure from it's owner. Both his and my collection of these increased and decreased, depending on who had the better day of competition. Fun Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.Micro Machines
Hotwheels, only smaller. That's not exactly true, but it's what I though when I first saw them. A friend of mine brought some to school, and I thought they were so cool, if for nothing else, that they were a lot easier to smuggle out of the house than actual Hotwheels. But what I found when I got my first "collection" was that these were fine toys in just about any application. What I like best about them, was that in the early years, you would get five vehicles per package. Instead of having to settle for one fire truck, you got five. Or maybe you got a fire truck plus other emergency vehicles to go along with it. You didn't have to decide whether to get a bulldozer or a front end loader, but instead you got them both plus a dump truck, a concrete truck, and an excavator. It was a whole construction set in one package. Why settle for one fast corvette when you could get five from varying years. And while the cars may have been small, their play was as big as anything else on the market. They held up just as well as Hotweels did under my play conditions.
The play sets that went along with them were well designed too. They would transform from play sets to normal looking things like a can of car wax, or some other similar product. There were so many sets to choose from too. You had planes, ships, construction equipment, fast cars, service vehicles, army mobiles, and many others. I got older and lost interest in them just before they picked up the Star Wars license, but three lines they had that I favored over all the others. The Tractor & Trailers they had were awesome. They came out a few years into the line and were a great addition, as you could round out your "city" with these.
Another was the addition of Micro Machine train sets. They were in scale with the rest of the line, and even came with their own tracks.
And last but not least were the monster trucks. All the popular ones of the day were available in either two or three packs, I can't remember which, but I had a ton of them. Grave Digger, Carolina Crusher, Equalizer, Mad Dog, and many others were available for your car crushing needs. And again, these were in scale with the rest of the line, so you could line your cars up and run over them with the monster trucks. It was an awesome toy line, and a fun part of my childhood. Fun Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Well, that wraps up another edition of How I Spent My Childhood. I want to thank all of you who read the first article, and a special thanks to everyone who rated it and commented on it. I hope you all enjoy this one as well, and I'll see you next time with the G.I. Joe edition.