I started writing this post for my own blog and as the list was compiled, and the plan was set, I realized there is a much better home for such a post. Rob @ My Side of the Laundry Room has a way of taking me back to the days of my youth. His struggle of holding on to the geek culture that molded us, whilst dealing with adulting and family life is all too familiar. And he constantly finds something long forgotten through decades of toys that brings it all back. That is exactly the theme of this post. The mass marketed toys that defined growing up in the 80’s, the elusive toys that got circled for Christmas lists but Santa found a way to ignore. Recently I got in a conversation about “the one that got away” (number one on this list) and had to delve deeper into that cavern of nostalgia. Here they are, the ten toys that would have made childhood just a little more awesome-
10. Big Trak
The Big Trak was some sort of electronic futuristic armored vehicle. It looks strange. Released in 1979, this was the first programmable toy. Now they make toys to teach babies how to code, but back then this was top of the line, future technology. You would punch in some codes and off the truck would go, and then turn left, to turn back right, and in a major turn of events, light up! Okay, it doesn’t sound so cool now, but back then this was the holy grail.
O, Mouse Trap. The board game that every child wanted, but given the chance to play would realize how boring it actually is. The commercials had a way of making this look like the greatest, most exciting game of all time. But, as soon as you had to do all of the set up the fun suddenly vanished. Still, as a child I never earned the chance to learn that lesson on my own, so I was certain that I was missing out on some elusive master-entertainment.
8. Lego Sets
Of course I had Lego, my parents didn’t hate me. But, it was a big bin of random pieces passed down to me through my brothers. A castle piece here, an orange space piece there, and not one instruction booklet in sight. I would hang out at friends houses where there shelves were lined up with pirate ships, space ships and castles, and come home to build a Franken-house with 12 different colors and a few pieces that I wasn’t 100% sure were actually Lego. All I wanted was the greatest castle Lego set ever made, that would cost my parents a couple hundred dollars. No big deal.
7. Battle Beasts
The half animal, half robot 2” figures were my elder brothers favorite toys. And they looked so cool! My brothers had an impressive collection that I would longingly stare at, never allowed to touch. The only ones I ever had were the hand downs with the arms broken off. I may have been too young to be included, and by the time I was old enough my eldest brother had probably traded the collection for the next big thing he was into. Out of all the toys on this list, I would still probably buy Battle Beasts today. Mostly because of the residual anger I hold for my brothers never included me in these epic toys.
6. Ghostbusters Proton Pack
The Ghostbusters were a major part of defining my childhood, from the fantastic films to the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. Slimer was the best friend that every boy wanted and the New York Firehouse was the quintessential clubhouse. All I wanted was a Proton Pack of my own to vanquish any neighborhood ghosts so I could prove to them that I was worthy of membership. I specifically remember being angry-jealous of the kid with the stupid bowl-cut on the box cover, for being the one shooting ghosts with Peter and Egon.
5. Power Wheels
Okay, who didn’t want a Power Wheel? If I had the aforementioned Proton Pack and a Power Wheel Jeep, there would have been no reason to come home anymore, I would have been a man at 5 years-old. Hitting the road, picking up jobs as a ghost hunter, my entire life would have been set. Although, I have heard that any Power Wheel pre-1992 was recalled, apparently the gas petal would melt to the floor. So, I guess my parents saved my life on that one… but I would have been the coolest kid on the block until, you know, my Power Wheel drove me off into the sunset, or into traffic, or something.
4. Walkie Talkies
I know what you are thinking, who didn’t have Walkie Talkies? Me, that’s who! And I needed them, badly. My best friend lived a block away, and all we wanted was to have late night radio chats from the comfort of our own bedrooms. She and I put it on every birthday and Christmas wish list for years, to no avail. Sure, I get that the cheap toys wouldn’t have been able to reach even a couple houses down. But again, that is a lesson I could have learned without the long term resentment.
I was the youngest of three brothers. Whatever I thought was cool was heavily influenced by my elder siblings, like Battle Beasts. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon came out, it was mine! It was the first mainstream cartoon that I knew more about than my brothers and it made them that much more special. All I wanted was TMNT everything! Unfortunately, I was still hunted with hand-me-downs and rarely received new toys of my own. Of all the amazing toys from the Turtle line I had one action figure, undercover Donatello… Not even a regular Donatello toy, but the one in the trench coat, where you could barely see his face. If I had opened a Technodrome on Christmas morning, I may have been the youngest person ever to have a stroke.
2. Power Glove
Remember the 1989 movie, The Wizard? Because I sure do! 3 young kids travel cross country to California, so little Jimmy can compete in Video Armageddon! Along the way they meet Lucas, who challenges Jimmy to a game of Rad Racer. At which point Lucas pulls out… the Power Glove! That moment has stuck with me as one of the 80’s most ‘radical’ moments. The idea of having a Power Glove of my own to defeat punk kids was irresistible. I hear the controller is not all it was cracked up to be. Still to this day I have not seen the rare toy with my own eyes.
As a sprout I would get all of my random figures together, divide them in two teams, and put them to battle. The groups would be a mismatched eclectic group including the likes of Spider-Man, Bumblebee, Gobo Fraggle, Donald Duck, and… undercover Donatello. Then I would build them bases, one out of boxes and piled books, the other a makeshift mountain fort of blankets and pillows. All I ever wanted was a legitimate base to have my epic bedroom battles. The ultimate base that would also transform into a giant robot! Was that so much to ask? The first time I saw Autobot City in the ’86 animated Transformers movie (a film I watched hundreds of times) it was all I dreamed of to complete my favorite “go play in your room” game. Could you imagine the Technodrome versus Metroplex?
Thanks toy-geeks, for the walk down memory and bringing up forgotten resentment.
[Rob’s Note: I’m truly grateful that the Green Onion wrote such an awesome post, and I’m even more grateful that he decided to share it with My Side of the Laundry Room. I’m very honored. It’s also comforting to know that other people out there feel a tad bit of resentment over not getting some of the awesome trinkets from our pasts like I do. So far it seems like I’m in good company. If you haven’t yet, please check out the very popular and profound site, The Green Onion Blog for your daily pulse of comic book reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Children’s book reviews, and his awesome Top Ten Lists (like the one you just read). Thanks again Green Onion, I now have my daily dose of nostalgic bitterness to get me through the day.]