29 August 2017

My Childhood Toys

When I was a child in the 1960s, I had some really cool toys: things that would later be the objects of desire of collectors young and old. I would usually get them at xmas (that was our big gift-receiving time each year; birthdays being low key). Playing with the new toys would be the most exciting thing -- fantasizing about army soldiers, undersea creatures, race cars. Over time, the appeal of these toys would fade and new toys would come along to take their place. I never thought about it at the time, but the old toys would disappear and I would never see them again.

As I got older, I began to miss some of those toys. I did what I imagine others do: began hunting in vintage stores and online looking to replace the toys I once enjoyed so much. Over the years, I managed to find samples of most of the toys I remember as being important to me.

Last week, I was visiting a friend’s house. He proudly showed me a display case of toys from his childhood. He surprised me by pointing out that these were the exact toys he played with as a child. “Your mother saved your toys?” I asked, surprised. I didn’t know that was possible. My mother saved none of my toys -- not one. I don’t know this for a fact, but I think she took them (when she sensed I was bored with them) and gave them to our relatives or to thrift stores. (I certainly hope she didn’t just throw them away!) I couldn’t believe a mother would have been considerate enough to save them until much later.

I decided to look back at the toys I spent years finding, to replace (as much as possible) the toys I played with fifty years ago. Looking for them was fun, but now I’m sad that my mother didn’t think to keep them. 

[Click image to make it larger.]

Nabisco Rice Honeys Sea Creatures Started out as a sea creature in each box of cereal, circa 1968. They then had an offer where you could get the entire set of 12 sea creatures AND a deep sea boat for only $1. I wrote about this in more detail in a 2008 blog post. These came out at a time when I was very seriously considering being an oceanographer. I love sea animals (all animals, actually) so this really piqued my interest.

Hot Wheels I was not into cars when I was a teenager, but I was when I was in grade school. Can’t explain why these fascinated me. They just did.







Hasbro’s GI Joe Honestly, I think I was in love with my Joe and that’s why I wanted one. The Joe pictured is not like the one I had as a kid; mine had the plastic hair; but they’re much too expensive now so I settled for one of these later ones. I distinctly remember having the Deep Sea Diver outfit probably because of my love of the ocean.

ARCO Ark and Toy Animals My love of animals continued with these free premiums available at ARCO stations when you purchased a certain amount of gas. I never got the ark; I was just interested in the animals.

Miscellany: Thing Maker and Chemtoy Film Strip Viewer Again, unable to explain my interest in the Thing Maker; I just remember hours spent on the patio making all kinds of weird bugs, animals and skeletons. I enjoyed this for a long time; I think my parents bought me several of the different add-ons over time. The Film Strip Viewer I remember only vaguely. I can’t even remember what film strips I had. They were like Viewmasters (which I also had) but you could see a whole story, not just individual pictures.

Books
On the plus side, one thing my mother did keep were the comic paperback books I used to buy with my allowance (rather than actual comic books).

I can’t tell you why I favored these paperbacks -- except for Peanuts because I loved Snoopy; but I would always get the new volumes when they came out each month.

13 August 2017

How Much is that Ring in the Window?

I was a wee lad when the scary television series “Dark Shadows” made its debut 51 years ago. I loved the creaky, creepy quality of the show and the cheesy acting.

In 1967, the character of Barnabas Collins was introduced. He wore a really cool ring. I was so fascinated by the ring that I got something similar for my mother (see photograph) for xmas that year at a local five and dime. As you can see, it doesn’t look anything like the proper ring, but I gave it to her and told her it was like the TV ring. Sadly, she never wore it. My mother never even pretended to like the presents I gave her, but she did keep it and now (fifty years later) I have it back.

08 August 2017

My (Short) Life in Retail

In the mid-1970s, I got my first job out of high school. I was working at The Broadway department store on the east side of Chris-Town Mall, Phoenix. (The Broadway occupied the space originally built for the Korricks department store.) I loved working retail and I loved Chris-Town Mall so it was a short trip to loving my new job.

I was a floating clerk. Each shift, I would work in a different department depending on where staff was needed to fill in for illnesses, vacations, whatever. That was really fun. I worked in Men’s Clothing, Linens for a couple weeks (vacation, I think) and ended up in Stationery.

Stationery was a fun department. It was me and a very old (and very nice) woman named Dorothy who was smitten with the young Patrick Duffy on the new television program “Dallas.” Seriously, that’s all she talked about: J.R. and Sue Ellen, Bobby and Pam, Miss Ellie and Southfork. It grew annoying after a short while, but I eventually began watching it and became hooked just as she had.

One day, some workmen came out and set up a bizarre display for a bizarre new gadget called “Pong.” It was a small television in a box and a control console on a little shelf. I was trained on how to play so I could demonstrate it to customers. It was fairly popular with the crowds, but not more than any other gadget of the time.

My favorite memory was selling a man a card for his wife on xmas eve. That’s not so unusual, but his next comment to me was: I have to buy a present for my wife. Do you have any suggestions? I felt pity for the poor woman who married an idiot, a man who could not even think ahead far enough to buy his wife a gift on one of the other 363 shopping days. I suggested he might find a nice pair of earrings at the Jewelry Department next store.

[I stayed with The Broadway about a year, then went to work at Valley National Bank (another enterprise that no longer exists) before moving to San Francisco. Chris-Town began to lose its luster in the mid-1980s but has been experiencing something of a comeback lately. The space once occupied by the fashionable Korricks and The Broadway is now yet another tacky Walmart.]

29 June 2017

Food, Glorious Food

My spouse, Matt, got a little irritated at me the other day because, as he says, I obsess about food -- not in a general sense; rather, what I’m going to have for my next lunch or dinner.

I don’t think I’m obsessive, but perhaps I am. When I was a child, I had a lot of food allergies, so I always had to be aware of what I was eating (a lot of my food at the school cafeteria went to waste because of allergies). I lost most of those food allergies thanks to puberty, so I was able to eat hale and hearty like sailor.

Fast forward a few decades and I had to start paying attention to food again because of low blood sugar issues, and then enduring five years of that “whatever it was” causing trouble after I ate that turned out to be my heart defect. Heart surgery and the required heart medications (for the rest of my life, thank you) necessitate concern over not eating certain foods that conflict.

Of course, a hop, skip and jump later I find out I have cancer -- which necessitates (as you would imagine) even more concerns about foods that conflict with medicines, sodium that will damage my kidneys -- and, the worse one of all: foods that no longer taste good to me because of my chemo. Sigh. 

Rather than lamenting foods I can’t eat like I used to (I miss pizza and all-you-can-eat fish fries most of all) I've placed on a golden pedestal those foods I love and can eat (in moderation, of course) including chicken, fish, beef, potatoes, rice, salads, ice cream, beans, nuts and fruit. I throw in the occasional treat of chips, cookies, cheese or chocolate. (Before you ask, I’ve never been a huge fan of vegetables, and a lot them are forbidden to me now anyway because of medicinal conflicts.)

Maybe I'm obsessive. I’m just grateful that there are a lot of tasty foods I can still eat and enjoy.