Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Ten Favorite Childhood Christmas Gifts

I had planned on just posting a couple of old photos I found in my parent's photo albums and saying something like "hey, check out all the cool old toys", but then I was tagged by Brian at Yesterville Toy Room and now have a much longer and hopefully better post.

A quick disclaimer, I may not have every date correct and I shamelessly took some photos from some auctions, so Santa if you are reading this, I did it for the greater good. Also I did have some help and permission to use photos from another blogger, Brian of Plaid Stallions. Go to this site and be amazed at the 70's toy catalogs he has archived. Its like when you were a kid and would flip through the Sears Wishbook and drool over all the great photos of toys and swag you wanted for Christmas. Thanks again Brian.

On to the list! Now these are going to be in order of which they were pretty much received, I have a hard time picking the best of anything, so I cannot in all good conscious say one toy is better than the other, they all have great memories attached to them. I will end my countdown with the one I still have in the collection, so that is something.

Number 10 - Tonka

Let me start with this Photo, man do I look happy. Behind me is quit the line up of Tonka and I believe maybe some Tootsie Toys. While not a Christmas memory, Tonka was a staple. Every kid on the block had an assortment of Tonka in the garage. They were pretty much used for everything. Dump trucks could pull duty as a GI Joe troop carrier, Fire Trucks, no matter the scale, could be called upon for any sort of emergency that our little minds could dream up. So this is my earliest collection of rough and ready Tonka Trucks. I remember the Firetruck surviving several years of tough play in particular.

A little note about this picture, in the foreground is my Winnie the Pooh, yes I had stuffed toys as a kid, I think the Frog may have been my sister's and I ended up with it, that's another story. Pooh here was hand made by my Mother and while not a Christmas gift, he was always welcome to join in the fun of testing out the toys.

Number 9 - Lego

This picture is going to be used for several toys on this list. It was taken at my Grandparents house, we had traveled there to celebrate the holiday. I vaguely remember being concerned that Santa would no be able to find me and it was also the trip that my Grandfather's German Shepherd bit me.

There were a few Christmases that I received Lego, the biggest was when Lego was launched here, at least introduced to me, and my mother and father purchased a huge box of Lego parts, my mother even sewed a drawstring bag so I could store them in. That is not this Christmas though. This Christmas was the year I was introduced to Lego theme sets. The Lego Set 565 Moon Landing. It was also the first time I had ever seen Lego People.

I think of this set every time I pick up a new one and see the mini figs of today. I remember building this set Christmas night right before dinner and then playing with it up until bed time. I was fascinated with anything Space or Flying as a kid. Nice transition into the next on the list.

Number 8 - Flying Aces

Same photo, and it's the large Aircraft Carrier in the foreground. Sorry I do not have a better photo, but believe me this toy by Mattel was freaking great. It was a huge, for a kid, plastic aircraft carrier that came with two foam F4U Corsairs, think Ba Ba Black Sheep. One of many of my favorite airplanes from the World War II era. The cool thing was that these bad boys really flew!

The aircraft carrier used rubber bands to create the launching system and with the flip of a lever your staged Corsair would fling from the deck and into the air. From what I remember these bad boys could fly far too. This was one of two aircraft carriers I owned as a kid, the second was one my dad had made, about the same size so I could place my airplane models on. This was a few years later of course.

Number 7 - Space 1999 Eagle

This could easily be my number one if I was ranking these that way, but I wanted to keep it with this group. Again from the Christmas at the Grandparents. I loved this toy, didn't fully understand the show, but the toy was AWESOME! I remember when we finally made it back home after Christmas, taking this bad boy out to the front yard, where all my buddies were so we could all compare presents and it being the most awesome toy of the block.

This thing had it all, figures, weapons, a working winch. Doors and hatches. Plus the front pilot section and the engine section could separate from the large ship and for a smaller ship, so you had a base and a smaller space ship.

This toy is one I wish I had or could find complete to this day. That is how awesome it was. This is one with the help of Brian of Plaid Stallions I can bring you some sweet catalog photos. One thing to note is the figures they picture in the catalog are way more cooler looking than what came with the ship. It came with three, al in orange space suites, no painted details, plus the only female had a recycled male body. I think this really ruined any hope of actress Barbara Bain making it to the back of the door where I kept my Farrah Faucet poster, along with the other angels.

Number 6 - GI Joe Sea Wolf

I wish I had a picture of me playing with this sub. I can tell you I remember wanting to go swimming Christmas morning and it was an extremely long wait till it was warm enough for me to get this bad boy into a pool. See, the tub was just not going to do, this thing could submerge and resurface, with a 12" GI Joe at the controls! That same Christmas, my buddy who lived directly behind our house received the GI Joe Helicopter. We were set we had them by air and sea, plus we each had jeeps, so land was covered as well.

When it did warm up, the first thing I did was take this sub into the pool and hunt me down some treasure and a squid. The squid came with the set. The only place the sub ever went was in the pool, too many parts for the lake or ocean. The squid was another story.

The squid that came with this set still haunts me to this very day. I can tell you what lake, what beach at that lake, and about how far I was in the water when I lost him. Every time... every freaking time I go near that lake or someone mentions its name I think of this squid and how I just let him slip through my fingers. I stayed and searched for him as long as my parents would let me, but no success. I would swear to you that the last glimpse I had, was him swimming away, like a real squid. Which, I had never seen a real squid swim at that time.

Number 5 - Evel Knievel Scramble Van

I think every boy growing up in the Seventies had some sort of Evel Knievel toy. That man was simply amazing, he would continue to break his bones and then get right back up and try again. The Scramble Van was like his mobile head quarters. The thing I remember most was all the tools. It seemed like he had an endless supply of tools and whatnot to fix his bike or rocket bike.

The other thing I remember is that you could make a ramp with a piece that slide off the back and send Evel into the sky. This would be another toy I wouldn't mind tracking down someday. At least one of the re-releases of the bike and figure set.

This was probably the start of my fascination with seeing how high I could jump my dirt bikes later on. I never had a Scramble Van for my motorcycles, but that didn't stop me from trying to break some bones. I am proud to say that with all my motorcycles I haven't broke one bone. Oh, I jumped them off cliffs and have been ran over in a race by several other riders, but no broken bones... knock on wood.

Number 4 - Star Team

If you have read my blog before, you know of my love for the Star Wars Early Bird kit. To sum it up, I didn't get an early bird kit, Kenner didn't have Star Wars toys ready for Christmas 1977, but Ideal did. The Ideal Star Team was made up of the heroic ZEM 21 and ZEROID and their Star Hawk and the Evil KNIGHT OF DARKNESS. I received all of the characters in one shot. That is a lot of knock offs to get for one Christmas.

Now this is where I get some more help from Brian of Plaid Stallions, because he has some of the best photos of this line, but for the life of me I do not remember my Star Hawk being packed with a red version of the ZEROID. I only had the Blue ZEROID.

I will admit, when I opened the first one the first thing that shot through my young mind was "What the hell are my parent's trying to pass off on me here... this isn't a Star Wars guy" But as I opened them all up and actually started playing with them, they were really a load of fun. Plus, they were close enough to Star Wars guys. I have to say that along with the Space 1999 Eagle, this is one set I wish I still had, and every once in a while I still try to track a nice, complete set of the three characters down online. No luck yet and yes I am aware of the irony that the prices for these knock offs are higher than some of the official Star Wars toys.

Still the memories of these three guys are great, and I want to make sure my parents know I wasn't that disappointed in not getting any "real" Star Wars guys that year, besides they made up for it since then.

Number 3 - Micronauts

I had me someMicronauts, it seemed like for two or three years Micronauts made it under the tree or attended Birthdays and even were just purchased as a fun thing on a summer day. Surprisingly I do not have any of my original Micronauts left. I do remember the Christmas that a few came my way that I will never forget.

The Battle Cruiser, holy cow this thing had so many parts that it could be intimidating for a lesser child, but not the case for me. This thing could be assembled in it standard configuration or broken apart into numerous other vehicles.

Then there was this guy. Biotron...

You could put a regular Micronaut in his chest, he could form a tank, plus he was a big freaking robot! I also remember getting one of the small Die Cast Orbiters that year, I want to say this is about 1978 or 1979. The Orbiter was a Christmas Eve gift, we have a tradition that the children in our family get to open one small gift on Christmas Eve, if they are good. I think my parents came up with this tradition so we would stop trying to sneak peeks at the presents or bugging them to open the presents. We were supposed to have our pick of one present, but they usually steered us towards a smaller one. A tradition that I carried on with my son.

I would have to say you would be pretty hard pressed to come up with a Micronaut toy that I didn't have or had played with at a friends house between 1978 and 1980. To name a few Baron Karza, Space Glider, Time Traveler (several), Acroyears and a mountain of vehicles. The cool thing about Micronauts was they came in so many colors and sizes, that you could have about 10 of the same guy and they would look different.

Number 2 - Big Trak

I have no idea who dreamed this mad machine up, but he or she was a genius. The year that Big Trak came to town I not only received the Big Trak, but the dumping Big Trak wagon accessory as well.

The idea behind this toy was you programed it's movements into its computer, then hit go and watched it carry out your instructions to the letter. Plus, how cool is it that it's a big future tank? I also received a Corvette that had this same programable feature, which confused me. Why two toys that did basically the same thing? It was great fun battling Big Trak and a Corvette though.

I still have the battery cover that goes on top. It had two, one for all the batteries it took to drive the thing on the bottom and the circular one on top for the nine volt that drove the computer. This bad boy could go over just about anything and performed equally well on carpet or the kitchen floor.

I think that they should bring this one back. I think kids today would love this thing.

Number 1 - Star Wars Sand Crawler

Again, not number one because it's my favorite and I did take this one out of order, but I still have most of this one in my collection. It's missing a few parts, like the droid elevator, the ladder and the remote, but still it's a fun piece to have kicking around. Every time I see this figure I think of Christmas Day, my mom is making dinner and Emit Otter's Jug Band Christmas is playing for the up-tenth time on HBO. I have a small band of Jawas (2) hunting down droids on the kitchen floor and this Sand Crawler is doing the all to familiar go forward and then backwards to help it change direction. Sure it's not to scale, but it could really move on its own.

This, to me is what made Star Wars fun. It's all the crazy gimmicks they incorporated into these toys back then, the floating Landspeeder, the exploding wings of a Tie Fighter, the one LED on the end of an X-Wing. These things made them magical and fun.

This Sandcrawler reminds me of all that, I can almost smell the Turkey in the oven and my mom yelling "get that thing out of here, I'm trying to cook!"

Well, that's it for my list, Thanks Brian at Yesterville Toy Room for including me, thanks Brian at Plaid Stallions for letting me use some of your pictures, thanks to all those ebay sellers that still have some of this stuff so I could "borrow" your pictures (hey maybe it will help you make a sell) and thanks mom and dad for all the great stuff over the years.

Merry Christmas to all from Eclectorama!


Brian B said...

Man that brought back some memories.

My brother had Big Trak and I agree it with you that it would sell today.
I remember the commercial with Big Trak delivering milk to a kids Dad.

I had a smaller set with G.I. Joe and a squid too.
Mine are gone too but at least you know yours is free and in the wild.

Toys spark vivid memories with me just as yours did. All the sights and smells come rushing back to mind.
Toys truly are time traveling devices.

Thanks again and Merry Christmas!

Brian Ashmore said...

Thanks for sharing!!!

Great Christmas morning pics and stories.

We had next door neighbors that were "older" folks but their Grand kids came to visit them every once in awhile and ended up playing with us. One of them had the same Space 1999 ship. It was really cool and especially fascinating to me as I hadn't even heard of the show, at that point. I remember the little figures, too.

Sorry about the squid. That hurts. I laughed when you talked about still thinking about it every time someone mentions the lake. I know exactly what you are talking about.

You are also the first person I've met that had all the Star Team toys. I think I knew a kid that had the Vader guy.

Have a very Merry Christmas!!!

saruman said...

super cool!

Brian said...

This brought back the memories. I was definitely a huge Micronauts fan, but to this day I regret that I never got a red Acroyear. I had just about everything else, but he slipped by me.

Like you, I had a Space: 1999 Eagle and hadn't really ever watched the show that much. I just knew that was one cool looking spaceship.

Great post! Merry Christmas!

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

Oh there are some sweet toys. We lived in the golden age for sure.

Dan said...

Great review of shots, makes me want to do the same some time.

LEon said...

I totally feel you in this post as a child. You are blessed to received so many toys on Christmas and get to take photo with them. Thanks for sharing. It's heart warming. :)