The Retro Machine (Vol. 4)

Shrieks and Creaks, Construx, TGIF, and more!
July 12, 2007

My old and wise friend above has calculated that it is time for another installment of The Retro Machine. Hope you enjoy!

Shrieks and Creaks

This is one of the coolest board games I have ever owned. Just the box art alone made me want it, but the game itself was truly a memorable experience. You raced through the various rooms of the haunted house to be the first to reach the attic.

Each room was filled with great art, but the best part was whenever you'd land on those black cat spaces. That is when you'd take two of the "keys" and insert them into the "talking tombstone" which would be attached to a tape recorder. You would either hear "dead silence" which meant you could continue on through the house, or you would hear the vampire who owned the house speak to you. He'd usually say something like "You've been decapitated. Pick up your head and go back to start". The vampire had such a great personality and the game had an unforgettable atmosphere. This was the game to play when you were out in a tent at night in your backyard with your friends. A classic!

Ronald McDonald Doll

If I ever wondered why I had problems with sleeping at night, perhaps I should just look to my past. After all, wouldn't you have had problems sleeping if this doll was next to you in bed every night? Sure, during the day he's all burgers and fries, but when the lights go out you can expect those shoe laces to slowly wrap themselves around your neck.

Ronalds plushy body was offset by his very hard hands and shoes. I believe I learned how to tie shoes using this very doll actually. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all? It's hard not to miss the blatant McDonalds plug on his jacket pockets. I miss the days when Ronald was often joined by his other wacky friends, like Grimace and Hamburglar.

Doctor Drill'n Fill

There are many rites of passage in childhood, such as first steps, first words, and first haircut. Play-doh fits somewhere in there I think. The smell is so alluring that it often leads to kids daring to take a taste of it. That may be the "first" time you realize that your sense of taste can bitterly betray your sense of smell. The stuff was horribly salty!

And so it's slightly ironic that, while we were picking Play-doh out of our teeth as kids, we had the opportunity to actually make teeth out of Play-doh! Doctor Drill'n Fill was one of my favorite Play-doh sets. It was great to make tons of Play-doh teeth using the tooth molds, set them carefully into his mouth, and then use our pliers, drills, and other devices of dentistry torture to "extract" them.

Robo Force

Robots and the 80's go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Mork and Mindy, or Mario and Luigi. One of the less celebrated toy lines of the 80's was Robo Force. This was basically another "good robots vs. bad robots" kind of deal and I was never really a big fan of Robo Force. Come to think of it, I was never a big fan of robots in general. Back then though, they were practically issued to you in the mail if you were a boy. So I had this guy from the Robo Force line, named "Hun-Dred". Best thing about Hun-dred was his suction cup base that allowed me to stick him in many wacky places around the house.

Of course, maybe the best thing about Hun-dred was that he was the only toy from that line that I received. And that's the story of one toy robot, lost in the sea of bigger and better brands that mingled within the confines of my toy box.

Masters of the Universe Weapons Sets

This is the kind of thing you would wear that would instantly transport you to Eternia. The shields and the swords meant instant swordplay with your friends.
When not in use, the sword always slid nicely down the back of your shirt and its tip would rest firmly between your butt and the elastic of your underoo's of course. Afterall, that's as close as we were gonna get to looking like He-man without actually having a sheath for the sword.

I'm almost certain I had those swords taken away from me on more than one occasion. What can I tell ya, sometimes my imagination got the best of me. My mind would turn my sister into Trapjaw (whack!), the lamp would be Skeletor (crash!), the coffee table would be Beast Man (Thup!), the....

Topps Statue of Liberty Candy

Around about 1986, you could find these Statue of Liberty candy containers. This was back during the heyday of Topps, when they made really good tasting candy and put it in some sort of shaped plastic container. Note the classic Topps "candy" sticker that always held the container together to prevent the candy from falling out. Yes, these were great little candy statues that I kept a fair supply of.


Remember when it was Friday night and the mood was right? Now, I do realize that TGIF continued until pretty recently, but let's face it, we never had more fun or were shown how it was done like the TGIF of the late 80's to mid 90's. Family Matters, Full House, Step by Step, and Perfect Strangers were always your best reasons for tuning in from 8 to 10pm, but round about 1996, Family Matters was all that was left that was worth watching (Ok...Boy Meets World wasn't all that bad, but it paled in comparison to the glory days).

As it entered 2000, TGIF became more of a dumping ground for crap sitcoms than a primetime megablock of quality television. But at least we have our memories of a once great empire. I remember back in the day when it was fall season, TGIF would do a "Saturday Morning Preview" of new cartoons that would air the next morning. It was a huge event to be able to see the brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon on a Friday night.

I miss my old familiar friends waiting just around the bend and wonder whatever happened to predictability. But luckily these days, on occasion, we might catch an old episode of Full House on ABC Family.

Little Professor Calculator

The Little Professor calculator was my very first calculator and I'm sure a number of you can claim that also. You were given a series of math problems that you could earn points off of for entering the correct answer. I owned this back in the early 80's, so it was neat to be able to carry around a handheld electronic device and take it in the car with me. We didn't have too much else back then that we could do that with, electronically speaking. I spent countless hours punching numbers into the Little Professor.


Like I said before, I never really had Legos. One of the various other lines of building toys that came my way several times was Construx. Remember the commercials? It sounded like 100 big tough guys yelling "Construx!" really loud. Where Legos were more conducive to creating a larger variety of things, the sometimes awkward shapes of the Contrux pieces pretty much meant that you could either build the set like it was intended to be or you could build some freakish thing that would most certainly be less impressive.

I was pretty hardcore into Construx though, the blue "nut" pieces and little space guy from the picture above are fondly remembered. I even had a few heavy duty plastic cases with "Construx" written on the side so I could transport them place to place.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sewer Playset

Who among us didn't want the sewers in which the ninja turtles dwelled? We often had fun using this, especially if you had the Technodrome to go along with it.

But there was another use for this that we had even more fun doing. We invented a turn-based battle game, sort of like Battleship, in which the Sewer Playset was always one sides "home base" and the other side would use a collection of whatever else. We'd then position ourselves about 10 feet apart from each other, take time to secretly place our figures in sections of the playset, and then gather together the tons of fake bombs, missles, and other explosives. We'd then take turn lobbing our bombs towards the others side. If the bomb hit the character or hit a structure that landed on a character, that character was considered "dead". You keep volleying until one side loses all their characters. We did this quite often and the Sewer Playset was perfect for it. We were always left with a carnage of "dead" figures and plastic things everywhere.
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