Friday, October 28, 2005

Favorite Things

A comment by Joe on my previous post got me to thinking about my favorite toys as a child. One of the very best had to be the Thingmaker, for making Creepy Crawlers. This very dangerous toy made you feel like some sort of mad scientist. It allowed you to cook up delightfully frightening creatures to leave around the house in unexpected places for mom to find. Unfortunately, they were literally cooked, in an open "oven." I remember the cord extending from the kitchen table as I baked the little plastic critters. The potential for disaster was great, but it was never fulfilled (by sheer good luck, errrr, because I was a responsible and careful child, that's right). Same with the home chemistry set I had.

A few games come to mind as favorites, including the inevitable CandyLand, Uncle Wiggly, Operation, Masterpiece, Password and Concentration. My ultimate favorite was a game called Voice of the Mummy. I loved that game, and I wish I had kept it. The game board was terraced, allowing you to make your way up the levels to the mummy. You collected pretty scarabs along the way. The coolest part of the game was getting to activate the miniature built-in record player that provided the mummy's voice (yes folks, this was before microchips). Our parents must have chuckled secretly over Feeley Meeley as a name for a kid's game. Hours were spent playing Booby Trap (more laughs, I'm sure), always waiting for the spring to snap that bar and send the game pieces flying.

I had Liddle Kiddles, a Crissy Doll in a bright orange lace go-go dress, Dancerina, and Baby Go Bye-Bye (complete with a pink battery-powered buggy with flower-power decals. I loved my Herman Munster talking handpuppet. When you pulled the string he said wonderfully comforting things like, "Cheer up, it's bound to get worse." Here are the priceless things he said (taken from the ebay listing in the link above):

He says:
"I'm Herman Munster, How do you do."
"My father was such a friendly monster."
"When I was a kid I was homely."
"Cheer up it's bound to get worse."
"Those late late woobies scare me." (Think this should say movies instead of woobies.)
"I eat spinach for my complexion."
"I'm just a green blooded american boy."
"Let's have a picnic in the graveyard."
"Oh you look nice, just like me."
"Hi there I'm your new babysitter."

I'm surprised that I wasn't scarred for life by playing with this toy in my formative years. Seriously, I'd love to have Herman back, too! He was strangely comforting, perhaps because the TV character was so harmless and loveable.

I had a talking parrot named Crackers who delivered the truly original line (via pull string) of, "Awp, Polly want a cracker?" It was hard to get this thing, with it's hard rubber molded feet, to stay on its unbalanced stand. Speaking of which, I had a Dawn Doll with a fashion model stage. The stage actually moved so that Dawn could model her outfits. But Dawn mostly took nose-dives from said stage. Very frustrating for the budding designer, and probably the reason that I'm fashion-challenged as an adult.

Pull strings were big in my day. I had (and still have, though not in great shape) a Charmin' Chatty with records that could be changed, allowing her to be well-versed on a number of topics. I think there was a Barbie with a pull-string, too. And I had a Francie with a flip hairdo and bendable legs. Of course, one leg promptly broke!

I wasn't allowed to have some of my favorite toys because I was a girl, and they were exclusively for little boys. These included Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and matchbox cars. Somehow I managed to score an Air Blaster Gun, and I had great fun shooting down all of the neighborhood boys.

I can't forget my Hostess Buffet; it had doors that opened to store play dishes, cups, etc. It stood about 2 feet tall or so, and made for some great tea parties, along with my working toy oven (still have it) but it wasn't an Easy Bake Oven. I still have my little sewing machine, too. It actually worked (sort of). Probably still would. All of the domestic things they gave little girls then to mold us virtuously into the little women we were supposed to become. Oddly enough, I don't sew, I rarely bake, and I prefer to throw the kind of parties that call for paper goods rather than the fine china! Guess the social engineering of those toys failed miserably.

I keep remembering more and more things as I Google vintage toys.


My childhood is vintage now.

Heck, let's face it, I'm vintage now!

What were your favorite things as a child?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Dock Somewhere

Just had a sudden flash of memory, something I hadn't thought about in a very long time.

When I was much younger, I spent several summers working at a camp in Maryland. Staff members had one day off per week. Those of us who did not escape the grounds on a given day off would sometimes tote sleeping bags and flashlights down the steep path to the waterfront so that we could sleep on the dock. Some brave souls actually slept on the little floating dock. The occasional wake from a passing ship (the dock was on a large, well-traveled river) made sleeping on the floating dock a little too daring for me. I can swim well enough, but I did not relish the thought of waking up in that dark, cold water, trapped in a soggy sleeping bag.

The top half of each cabin was screened-in, with tarps to pull down in bad weather, there was no electricity or running water, and it was often hot and humid (remember, this was Maryland in the summer). Sleeping in the cabin on your day off would be a little bit like going to the office on your own time and sitting at your desk; your campers would invariably forget that you were off and you'd usually end up working. Also, it was impossible to avoid the normal wake-up time in the cabin area because of the hustle and bustle of the daily cabin clean-up period scheduled each morning.

But on the dock, there was almost always a cool breeze. It was possible to sleep in the open there because the breeze kept the mosquitoes away. The dock extended well into the river, keeping away the creepy crawlies that would have been encountered on shore. At the waterfront, you could sleep later because activity didn't start down there until after breakfast.

I was young enough to sleep well in spite of the hard wood planks beneath my ancient sleeping bag. In fact, some of the most restful sleep I've ever had was on that dock. The waves lapping gently at the pilings, coupled with the cool, steady breeze, were an anesthetic that made staying awake nearly impossible for a weary camp counselor. The occasional sounding of a mournful foghorn only served to speed the sedation.

I don't even own a sleeping bag now, but I'm sure I could come up with something to put on top of the air mattress that would be de rigueur at this stage in my life. I'd like to find myself a nice dock to escape to now and then, A Dock Somewhere...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

First PC

My first PC was a used Tandy 1000, purchased from my brother in 1985 or 86 (or thereabouts). I spent many hours playing Sierra games, including the King's Quest series, The Black Cauldron and Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards.

I used the Tandy for simple word processing as recently as the late 90's, after several years of disuse. I had quite a time remembering all of the commands, since it operated in DOS! I don't think it even had a mouse, just a cheap joystick for gaming. It used 5.25" floppies. Alas, it is no more; finally disposed of it last year. The Tandy was a workhorse, and it would not die!

My only experience with computers prior to the Tandy was brief forays to the computer lab in college for stats and psych testing classes. Of course, I'm quite a bit more savvy now, though I'm not very sophisticated when it comes to web design, html and the like.

Just an aside: I posted earlier this week that I planned to stop blogging. I just don't seem to have a lot of interesting thoughts to write about these days. I'm going to keep my blog up for the time being. I'll photoblog some of the time, and post thoughts when the mood strikes.