Friday, January 06, 2006

Toy nostalgia

Copied from my LJ-10/21-05
Toy nostalgia is a beautiful thing, as the good folks at eBay are happy to remind you. Today this UK survey of favorite toys took me right back. For me it's not the products I still remember the commercial jingles for, it's the lesser-known but no less delightful. Sure, I loved Stretch Armstrong and Stretch Monster (silly and homoerotic!) and my Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, but who didn't have one of those? Where is the love for my "Hal Needham, Stuntman" action figure?

Seeing TOMY pocket games on the list gave me an involuntary gasp of joy. While these were some of my favorite toys, I never saw them on TV or even in the Sears and Penney's Christmas catalogs whose toy sections we memorized every fall. In fact I only ever saw them in one place: the late, lamented King's. King's was the last of the old school multistory department stores to die out when the mall supplanted downtown as the preferred shopping locale, and it was like losing an old friend. They had nattily dressed salespeople, a bargain basement, and a mezzanine beauty salon- by appointment only. Best of all, while the mall toy stores skewed towards all things noisy, battery-operated and forgettable, King's had a magical toy department with stuff you never saw anywhere else. It was here we got the pocket games, and boy did they pack a lot of merriment into a palm-sized plastic box. We had the Pocket Raceway, Gone Fishin', Secret Passage and a few others, but it was my all-time favorite, the Obstacle Course, that gave me and my family many, many of hours of fun.

Apparently British toymakers hated children. I had the Quicksilver Maze too (scroll down to #95), but mine most certainly did not contain mercury. There was a tiny hole where you put in drops of water, which the special coating inside made to look and act like quicksilver.

Finally, I was thrilled to see another old favorite, Screwball Scramble (also by TOMY), on the list.

Not only don't I remember any ads for this toy, I didn't even know that's what it was called. I just remember playing it until my fingers were sore and I could work the puzzle with my eyes closed. I'm happy to report that it's still available, and pretty cheaply at that. Sadly, I don't even see my pocket Obstacle Course on eBay.

Music: Gretchen Wilson-All Jacked Up
Mood: Amused