The Retro Machine (Vol. 10)
We celebrate Volume 10 with the 100th item plus 18 more!
December 12th, 1986. I'm 8 years old here, spilling my guts to the big guy about what I want for Christmas. You may have been doing the same thing that day. This picture is just a snapshot really, a millisecond frozen in time, but I wonder what you guys and girls were doing in that very same fraction of a second? It was a Friday afternoon, maybe you were playing with G.I. Joes or My Little Pony? Or reading a book with your parents? Maybe watching your favorite afternoon TV show? Some of you may not have even been born yet!
It's these fractions of a second that, without a picture to capture the moment, are forever lost in time. But the beautiful thing is that within our own minds lie the pictures of a billion moments, some available to us at our beckoning, but others are long buried by the business of life and time. And if any one of the next 19 items (or the previous 91) awakens a moment in your mind once thought lost, then you get that fraction of a second back and my job here is done.
And with that....
For Volume 10, I'm doing things a little differently. First of all, you'll notice it's at least twice the normal size. Secondly, I've put a few "Ghosts of Christmas Past" in there. These will basically be personal photos related to me receiving some of the items you'll see here along with extra comments. I'll shut up now, let's get on with it.
Wacky Wall Walkers
Perhaps the greatest cereal premium of my childhood was the Wacky Wall Walker. They made several different appearances at the bottom of all our cereal boxes. They were these rubberish octopus things that when thrown at the wall would stick to it as gravity pulled them towards the earth. This gave the impression that they were in fact crawling down the wall. As we all know though, the life of a Wacky Wall Walker was fairly short. It didn't take too many trips down the wall (and subsequently into the carpet) before your Wacky Wall Walker was more like a Hairy Wall Walker. The gradual fuzz that built up over time diminished its adhesive ability until you just found yourself throwing a piece of rubber against the wall and watching it bounce off and hit the floor. No matter, another one was just another box of Pops away.
This little game came out around the time of the popular "Little Shop of Horrors" remake. The game featured an "Audrey II" plant that would have its mouth open when the game was being played. The game featured black balls and orange balls about the size of marbles. One color was lighter and one color was heavier. When it was your turn, you'd roll the dice and whatever color popped up is what you'd have to put on Audrey II's tongue. Be careful though! As the marbles add weight onto Audrey's tongue her mouth may just clamp down on the next player to stick their hand in! It was a fun, albeit short, distraction. Most times your heart would jump a little when Audrey decided to snap down on your fingers. We had fun just sticking our hands in and pressing down on the tongue and making it bite us.
Home Gumball Machines
I remember the sense of power and prestige I had the first time I had a working gumball machine of my very own in my room. The one in the picture is the same model that I had! I'd fill it to the brim with gumballs, close the nut at the top, and whenever I got the hankering for a wad of gum I'd just put a coin in the slot and get a gumball. The joke was on the machine though because I could easily open it back up and get that coin. Eventually we all learned "the trick" though, didn't we? You know, the one where if you turned the crank juuuuuust right you could get a gumball without having to use any coins at all. That's what you'd break out when you wanted to impress your friends. I remember I always loved the white ones, if you could turn the crank and get a white gumball, it was a good day. Then again, we had an unlimited supply of gumballs, when wasn't it a good day?
My gosh, these things were SO popular when they came out. I believe that for a time, this one was the "must have" toy. Pogo Ball was seen as the evolution of the Pogo Stick and it had a nation of kids bouncing around uncontrollably. It looks like they took an inflated ball and situated a plastic board around it for you to stand on. We'd just hop on, clinch that ball between our feet, and get to jumping! There were many kids who could do all sorts of cool tricks with their Pogo Ball, but I on the other hand just bounced up and down on it. As much fun as this was, they weren't the most durable toys we ever owned. The plastic boards were prone to crack and the inflated ball was prone to deflating. It was fun while it lasted though!
Terry Tape Measure
Terry Tape Measure wins the award for "Toy That Is Least Thrilled With Its Purpose". Just look at his eyes, it's like he's saying "I'm a tape measure...WHOOPAHDEEDOO!". If you listen closely, you can almost hear him singing the "Misfit" song. Honestly though, so many of us here may have had our first measuring experiences with Terry, though usually what was most fun about him was winding the measuring tape up and then pulling it back out quickly to see how fast you could get the crank spinning. Poor Terry, what a miserable looking chap.
Maggie and Minnie Magnet
I think if most of us think back hard enough, we can remember what it was like to be fascinated with magnets. I know I spent a fair amount of time entertained by moving things on top of tables with a well placed magnet underneath. And so Fisher Price added "Maggie and Minnie Magnet" to the Curious Critters line. Now I know why Terry Tape Measure looks so sad, he's probably envious of the chemistry that Maggie and Minnie have. There sure was alot less fun to be had with Maggie and Minnie though. I remember they were often seperate from each other in my toy box, rarely ever coming together. Kind of a "blah" toy but I recognized it the second I saw it!
The Real Ghostbusters Happy Meal
One of the most memorable Happy Meals for me was this Real Ghostbusters collection distributed in 1987. It had a Marshmellow Man Pencil Sharpener, a Marshmellow Man Notepad, a Slimer Pencil Topper, an eraser, a ruler, and a Pencil Case. The pencil case was the one that I used the most, it was my main pencil case at school for some time and at home for years and years. It had "containment chamber" written on it which was a reference to the device the Ghostbusters kept their ghosts in. One of my friends owned the Slimer pencil topper and the little quirk about that was that Slimer kind of rotated around the top of your pencil.
Tupperware For Kids
As a kid, every once in a while you'd go over to some other kids house to play and you'd find this stuff. Tupperware for kids! It was interesting to me personally because it looked like actual Tupperware that your parents might have had except it was a miniature version. Today these designs are horribly dated but back in the 80's these styles of cups and containers were pretty much standard issue in every American household. It brought an extra sense of realism to anyone who was "playing house", that's for sure.
When I think about gaming in the 90's, one console stands alone and that is the Super Nintendo. Now, let me explain to you where I was as a gamer at that point in my life. I owned both a Sega Master System and a Nintendo Entertainment System. I knew that the "next gen" was coming but you have to remember that back then we could only get gaming news from gaming magazines so information was spotty at best for me. All I did know though was that this so-called "Super Nintendo" would be very expensive and most likely I wouldn't have a shot in hell at getting one.
At the time, my dad was contracted by Nintendo as a licensed "Nintendo Repair Man/Cleaner". People would send him their dirty or broken NES units and he would fix or clean them. There were many perks to having a father that cleaned NES units. One of them was that I got to "test" the newly repaired NES units to "make sure they worked" before he'd send them back.
One day my dad asked, "Is Nintendo coming out with a new game system?". I said that they were and he asked me if I wanted one for free. Uh, SAY WHAT? He said that Nintendo had sent him an offer to "try out the Super Nintendo" and that we could keep it if we wanted. Now, my dad has always been a joker, so I figured he was playing one on me. To be safe, I said "yeah, tell them to send you one" and so he did.
Days and weeks would pass. Dad kept saying they were going to be mailing it soon. I hoped this was true. Then one day he confirmed they had mailed it! A part of me still didn't believe him because like I said, he likes to pull your leg. But did my jaw ever drop one day when my dad walked through the front door with a brand new Super Nintendo retail box packaged with Super Mario World!
This was actually a few weeks before the Super Nintendo was released to the public so I can at least count myself as one of the first American kids to play Super Mario World (which, as we all know, went on to become a classic). I think I remember saying "we doooo get to keep this, right?". I couldn't believe this was happening to me! I've kept it to this day. Time has discolored the plastic but it remains a jewel to gamers who remember it. The Super Nintendo would go on to spawn a legacy of classic videogames that gamers today are still fawning over. And me, was I lucky or what?
Ghost of Christmas Past: 1991
Christmas 1991 was the year of Super Nintendo games. It was the predominate theme.
Here I am getting the spectacular game Sim City. In addition to Sim City, that Christmas I also received:
A pretty good haul, no? Looking back, the Super Nintendo sure did have a good set of launch titles.
And now, brace yourselves folks. It's been a long time in the making, here it is, Item Number 100...
Item number 100 had to be something that was a major retro icon of my childhood. The obvious choice was Castle Grayskull from the Masters of the Universe series. Grayskull was home to "The Sorceress", was home base for He-man and friends, and also kept "millions of secrets" that evil foes like Skeletor were always after. The front facade was an imposing image of a skull with the lower jaw used as the main draw bridge. The jaw also had a lock on it, which was a nice touch.
As for the inside of the castle, by tilting the thrown, it would release a trap door down to the dungeon. The other side of the interior featured an elevator. The castle also came with a ladder, a rack of various weapons, and two big guns looking over the top. As a huge Masters of the Universe fan, I had many play sessions with this castle.
Just look at this amazing box art. I'm sure you don't see this kind of art anymore on retail toy boxes. It's like the art itself is just saying "what's inside this box is going to be AWESOME!".
In July of 1984, my very creative Grandmother made me a Castle Grayskull cake for my 6th birthday. This was of course at the height of my zest for the series.
Here's another angle on the cake including my sister and I.
I loved these little cars because they were cheap, portable, and capable of doing awesome tricks. Each one had a little slot on the back fender where you could slip a penny into it. After pulling the car back and letting it go, that little bugger would take off, popping wheelies and sometimes even spinning in circles while popping wheelies! We had lots of fun getting them to jump off of ramps or do whatever kinds of tricks we could come up with. Their small size meant that your textbook could double as a great ramp. I had a bunch of these little gems.
Hot Wheels USA
Hot Wheels USA was a town-like environment that came apart in pieces that you could arrange in whatever way you wanted. It was meant to be a town for your Hot Wheels cars obviously. There were alot of cool quirks about this playset, such as the traffic lights that changed color with the touch of a slider and the realistic looking highway signs. I remember there were also tiny plastic "people" figures that you could station throughout the town.
Tiny storefronts lined the streets as well. One had an orange button you could push and if your car was sitting by it at the time it would be thrust forward by pressing that button. My favorite little building was the "showroom". It was a building your car could go into and it would actually sit on display through the store windows as if it were for sale. For as cool as this looked, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot you could do with it in the long run. I played with it on occasion during my "Matchbox/Hotwheels" days.
What long distance car trip or lazy day afternoon was complete without a Magic Slate? The idea was pretty simple, it came with it's own little plastic pen and you'd write on the gray area. Whenever you wanted to get rid of what you'd drawn you'd simply lift the gray sheet up and everything disappeared. Every major brand of cartoon or childrens toy had to have a Magic Slate that you could buy at the grocery store. Let's face it, the initial thing that attracted us to these was whatever brand appeared on it. Whatever the brand, they all worked the same. They all aged the same as well, the longer you used it the more often you'd find your drawings magically vanishing before your eyes while you were in the process of drawing them. But that was okay, these suckers were cheap and parents loved them because they kept us busy.
I remember being told that "holograms are the wave of the future". As it turned out, the future for the holographic craze was short-lived, but while it lasted we all needed to have holograms on EVERYTHING, didn't we? Lazer Blazer stickers were a part of this fad. I can remember looking at them and thinking "wooooow...this is so cool...and I don't know why". Other than just looking cool, their purpose was lost on me. But hey, as long as my favorite cartoon characters were on them, I was good to go!
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Game
Back in '77, Cadaco released this Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer game. This is one of those items that I had no memory of but I suddenly began having flashbulb memories of it when I was remembering other things. Strange how that happens! At any rate, the game was very simplistic and definitely meant for children. The board itself was decorated with classical images of Santa and Rudolph. You basically spin and advance your piece and whoever gets to the end first wins! This version is of course over-shadowed by the more popular versions that are based on the television classic. Though I don't remember playing it much, I appreciate the memory and so I thought I'd pass it along to anyone else who may go "hey, I remember that!".
All my life I've held a fascination for the universe. I've always thought so many people just don't take enough time to stop what they are doing and look up at the incredible view that is above them. It's amazing that our tiny planet is a speck in our solar system, that our solar system is a speck of light on ONE band of the Milky Way Galaxy, that the Milky Way Galaxy is an even smaller speck in an ocean of other galaxies that are a smaller speck in comparison to the size of the universe!
I owned the planetarium pictured above and spent many nights in my room with the lights off and door closed, just staring up at the stars projected on my ceiling. It came with an audio tape narrated by this guy with a deep, compelling voice who told us about the stars and planets. I must have played that tape to death and I think I still even have it somewhere. At any rate, there is a certain kind of magic that can only come with the aide of a toy that, with a little bit of imagination, turns your bedroom into a window unto the universe.
Ghost of Christmas Past: 1991
Here I am getting the Planetarium on Christmas Eve 1991. I remember that night well because we were eager to try the thing out. We shut off all the lights in that basement and turned the planetarium on. The little ones with us didn't like that so much because it was pitch black down there and none of us could see well enough to turn the lights back on. It was about a minute before we ended up stumbling upon the light switch, but not before the kids were terrorized!
Snoopy Wind-Up Toy
Toys that were of the "Wind-Up" persuasion were fun to tinker around with when you were killing time on a lazy Saturday. One that I had vague memories about until seeing its picture recently was this Snoopy Wind-Up. Before I found the picture, I had always remembered this as a mechanical bank where Snoopy (or maybe Woodstock) would flip a penny. Turns out he was flipping flapjacks! This toy had a neat winding mechanism where the key was actually removeable. We used to try to get it to flip all kinds of things which is maybe where my flashbulb memory of the penny comes from. Seeing it again though brought back memories I hadn't thought about in a while, things such as simple as his chef's hat or the sound of plastic pinging together as Snoopy flipped the food.
LJN Hulk Hogan Figure
For me, the Series One Hulk Hogan figure by LJN (above, right) was the Holy Grail of wrestling figures. By the late 80's, finding one at retail was nearly impossible. I know because I went on several hunts for him that were unsuccessful! I ended up finding one at a garage sale eventually and my collection could then be considered "complete" by my standards. First of all, his "pose" was perfect for punching, grappling, and performing his signature "leg drop" move. Second of all, he came with the WWF Championship Belt! Nuff said!
The Hulk figure on the left is the rare Series 6 "Superstars 89" release. Although he didn't have as good a pose as the original, the new Hulk had some flashy clothing on, enhanced 24" pythons, and he also came with the WWF Championship Belt. Hulk was always the star of the show in those days, the big cheese, and it was no different in my own collection whenever I'd hold a mock "pay-per-view". I even had the "Real American" theme song on stand-by to go out in style!
Ghost of Christmas Past: 1989
If 1991 was the year of the Super Nes games, 1989 was the year of LJN's WWF Wrestling Superstars.
Here I am getting our favorite sheriff from Cobb County, the late great Big Boss Man.
And here I am getting the wicked tag team of Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik (with the Tag Team Belts!) Note my Slimer pajamas too.
In addition to those, I also picked up:
(Left to Right: Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Mr. Fuji, Haku, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Jimmy Hart, Ted Dibiase, Warlord, and Warrior)
LJN Sling'em-Fling'em Wrestling Ring
This was the ring you used to have matches with your LJN figures and it was pretty good quality! I remember many times just throwing my wrestlers into that ring, picking it up and walking to a friends house to have wrestling matches. The ropes were very stretchy and you could catapult your figures from them. The turnbuckles were great for bashing rubber heads into them (but George "The Animal" Steele couldn't eat them). A quality ring with many a classic match!
Finding it new at the time was very hard though! Why were they hard to find you ask? For the answer to that, let's take a page out of a book from the US Consumer Product Safety Division Website. They write "The Commission indicates that there were four very serious injuries which resulted when children, ranging in age from six to 10 years, fell onto one of these toys. In each case, one of the four rigid plastic corner posts penetrated the child's body cavity causing severe internal injury".
That's right...kids were impaling themselves on these things.
Ghost of Christmas Past: 1990
Christmas 1990 was the year I finally got the official LJN Sling'em-Fling'em Wrestling Ring. It was from a yard sale but I didn't care, I was just happy to finally get it! And as if getting the ring was enough of a surprise, guess what was also in the box....
THE STEEL CAGE! Now, I had only seen the cage in pictures and you could never find the thing in stores. I always thought it was made of actual steel, so you can imagine my slight dismay when I realized it was fairly flimsy plastic. Regardless, I had many hours of plastic wrestlers slamming one and other into "steel" ahead of me, so it was all good. Where is the ring and steel cage today? Still in my basement! It is collecting dust and just itching to impale me.
Well folks, that's gonna wrap things up. I hope you all enjoyed it! Merry Christmas, and....
Miss one of the previous Retro Machine editions? Get them here!
Volume 1 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1814/
Volume 2 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1845/
Volume 3 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1890/
Volume 4 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1929/
Volume 5 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/1978/
Volume 6 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2067/
Volume 7 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2127/
Volume 8 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2196/
Volume 9 http://www.retrojunk.com/details_articles/2261/