The Retro Machine (Vol. 5)

My Pet Monster, Flintstone Car Vitamin, Jell-0 Pudding Pops, and more!
July 27, 2007

Can You Say.....T-H-E R-E-T-R-O M-A-C-H-I-N-E?

My Pet Monster

My Pet Monster was a big stuffed animal that made it cool for boys to have stuffed animals. Sure, he was mostly soft and cuddly, but his big fangs were made of hard plastic and his hands were cuffed together to keep him from attacking. His Saturday morning cartoon portrayed him as docile though, which kind of put a damper on the idea that he posed any kind of danger to anyone. I remember just loving those handcuffs though because the chain was made with a crack in the middle so that you could pretend to break the chain apart with his mighty strength!

WWF Wrestlemania Challenge Handheld

In the days before we had Gameboys, it was those miniature electronic handhelds that helped us meet our need for portable electronic gadgetry. One of my absolute favorites was the WWF Wrestlemania Challenge Handheld by Acclaim. Your job? Dodge the projectiles and wrestlers coming at you on each level to reach the top and save Miss Elizabeth, who is chained to the floor! I remember sneaking this into church as a kid and playing it in the pew until my mom or dad would catch me.

Don't Wake The Dragon!

This was such a fun little game. The outer circle of the board was made up of icebergs. In the middle was a sleeping dragon. Each player chose a different colored penguin with a top hat. The goal was to pick up the blue-colored dragon eggs, place them in your penguins hat, and make your way around the board to your home base.

Sound easy? Well if your penguin landed on a dragon space (which were littered around the board), you had to press a button that would wake the dragon up, causing the entire playing board to violently vibrate! If you or your egg fell off, you had to start over. This whole game mechanic made playing "Don't Wake The Dragon" a slightly tense and anxious experience. It also made it very memorable.

Flintstones Vitamins (Car Shape)

Waking up in the morning to a Flintstones vitamin was one of those cherished daily routines that often accompanied childhood. Mom or Dad would unscrew the cap (or you would), you'd pull out the little cotton piece, and a heaping pile of colorful, tasty nutrition would be staring back at you. "Which shape will I have today?" was really the most important choice you'd have to make.

If there was one shape that my sister and I would fight over, it was the Flintstone Car shape. Don't ask me why, but it was always the most coveted. There were less of them in each bottle of vitamins, making it all the more precious. Of course, you couldn't just eat the car right away. I'd take it for a spin around the countertop before downing it.

Like all perilous dreams of childhood, I always secretly wanted to have more than one Flintstone Vitamin each day. So one day, I got that chance. My mother's back was turned and I downed about 5 or 6 of them. She of course flipped out and before long I expected my life to be cut short, death by Flintstone overdose. Of course, I didn't die. Poison Control let us know all would be well.


Any trip to my grandparents house would at some point include an opportunity for me to delve into my mother's old game collection. One of the games we played often there was Tip-It. The little guy would balance on his nose at the end of the pole. You and other players would take turns adding weights to each side of the pole. Whoever added the weight that tipped the little guy and made him fall off was the loser! It was always a fun game, but between this one, Bash, and Operation, it seems this bygone era of games had quite a sadistic tone to them!

Masters of the Universe Lunchbox

No matter how old I get, there is a certain wave of dread that still briefly grabs me whenever we approach the end of summer and "back to school" stuff sneaks into local stores. Remember that feeling? It was the feeling that your days of endless freedom, swimming parties, and late nights would soon be replaced with homework, book covers (heaven forbid if you didn't cover your textbook in school!), and tests.
But there was a certain kind of excitement about it to, right? Getting a new bookbag, a freshly sharpened box of pencils, and a shiny new pair of shoes felt kind of good in a strange sort of way. However, above all, there was one crucial purchase that required deep thought and careful planning. It was a purchase that could make or break your entire school year. It was...the lunchbox.

Now, bookbags were plenty important too, but the lunchbox was in a way more fashionable. I owned the exact one you see above because He-man buttered my bread back then. I was a He-man maniac, a He-man freak. So rightfully so, I needed to wear my He-man pride on my lunchbox. How about that thermos, is that great or what? There was nothing better than Campbell's soup in your thermos during a crisp fall day at school. But it was stuff like having He-man with you at school that made the transition from summer to fall an easier one.

Paint With Water Books

As a kid, people knew that buying me a Paint With Water book was a cheap and easy way to find something for me to do. All you needed was a Dixie Cup filled with water and a paintbrush and you were all set to paint. Parents loved these books because the water activated dye in the page that made it appear that you were painting with colors, so there was no threat of paint-related mess. The worst you could do was spill your Dixie Cup, which would quickly go from clear water to a murky, messy combination of paint. And when you were done "painting" your page, it was almost always drenched with water. That didn't stop me from finishing all my Paint With Water books though.

JELL-O Pudding Pops

Many have come before it, many have come after it, but nothing else has been quite as tasty a frozen treat as the hallowed Jell-o Pudding Pop. They always had a certain icy coating when they came fresh out of the freezer. It was as if they were saying "I don't want you to discover the silky, chocolatey goodness that lies within"! But soon enough, you'd break through that icy layer and you'd discover that beneath the frigid exterior was the finest tasting frozen confection in the world.

Spokesperson Bill Cosby might describe it as "jell-o pudding mixed up with the milk and put into the thing that spins around and popped into the frigadeedig and out comes the woo woo woo" but all we knew was that it was frozen pudding on a stick and it tasted great. I know they came back a few years ago with very little fanfare, but that was because they weren't the same! I mean really, WHO resurrects Jell-o Pudding Pops and CHANGES them!?

At any rate, it still astounds me to this day that we live in a world void of these things. They were just soooo good. Jell-o Pudding Pops...we hardly knew ya!

My First Toys

Since my birthday is this weekend, I think now is the appropriate time to show you a little montage of my first toys. These were sort of "baby toys" if you will that I have quite vivid memories of using. The activity center you see above was strapped to the bars of my crib. I have flashbulb memories of feeling the different components of it and I can remember thoughts I had when using it. It's funny to look back on it now and see it for what it is, just a simple activity center for babies. But I recall thinking of it as pretty complicated which means those must be VERY old memories. Oh, and I can tell you those yellow straps would not pass child safety standards of today. I'm lucky I didn't strangle myself!

The See n' Say, who didn't have one of those? I had that exact one there, the "Old MacDonald" one. They were cool when you used them the way you were supposed to, but they were even cooler when you'd prevent the string from moving as fast as it needed to. This caused them to talk all slow and like some scary monster.

Then you have your standard "Poppin' Pals", this one is a Disney one of course. And finally, a drill. Before a few years ago, that was probably the last drill I touched.

Voice Changers

Voice Changers were usually good for one main thing: Finding out what a robot, ghost, or alien would sound like if they said the word "poop". It was a passing novelty that most of the year would just take up space in the toybox. But it came through great whenever we wanted to play around with the sound of our voices and pretend we were something scary.

And now.....I present to you....the 50th item to appear on The Retro Machine:

HBO In Space

Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest station identification moments in the history of television. It went like this: You see a normal family, the father turns on his television as the camera slowly floats out the window. You briefly watch them through the window, but before you know it, it is as if you are flying down the street. "Ping" goes the keys on the piano and the orchestra slowly begins swelling with an epic pulse reminiscent of Jaws, yet not as scary a tone.

You begin flying higher, now you are soaring over rooftops. The piano tickles you with occasional notes and the music seems to echo shadows of other popular adventure films of the time. Your speed of flight quickens, the piano becomes more frequent, the cymbals are building up to something, your view is to the night sky. Suddenly, a light appears. Is that the Christmas star Clark? Before you can answer, that little light explodes the HBO logo into life, essentially melting your face off as the orchestra turns the instrumental tension into a glorious and heroic theme fit for a king! The HBO logo slowly makes its way towards you like some probing UFO and before you know it, the "O" absorbs you as many colors of streaking light reveal that you are about to witness an "HBO Feature Presentation".

Holy mother. Will somebody get me a cigarette? They don't do it like that anymore. You wanna see what I mean? Follow this link:
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