Here’s his list:
- Shrinky Dinks
- 50 Facts about the 50 States
- “Brite Lites” [I think these were actually “Lite Brites”]
- Schoolhouse Rock
- Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective
- James & the Giant Peach
- Mad Libs
- Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
- Pop Rocks, Fun Dip & Dots
- Stickball bats made out of broomsticks
- Mattel Football 2 LED game
- Pogo Sticks
- Home-made ice sticks made with orange juice
- Sea Monkeys
- Felt banners of my favorite sports teams
- Big Wheel & The Green Machine
But let’s look at that list, shall we?
Shrinky Dinks – These came along well after I was little, but the principle fascinated me. Draw on a piece of plastic, then heat it and watch it shrink to a fraction of its former size. Whoopee. But as a Grown-Up, I used to sell millions of pounds – nay, hundreds of millions of pounds – of plastic resin that was used to make shrinkable meat packaging. Shrinky Dink technology applied to Real Life.
Mad Libs – I think I first encountered these in fifth grade. Har dee har har.
Play-Doh – a classic, with which I became familiar very early in life. More about this later.
Stickball bats – I used to play stickball when we would visit my cousins in Brooklyn. There was a whole raft of Urban Games with which today’s kids are totally unfamiliar: stickball, stoop ball, box ball. The common feature of these games was that they were all played with a Spaldeen, a pink rubber ball (the name is a corruption of Spalding) that, as it happens, is the unfuzzed core of a tennis ball.
Pop Rocks, et al. – Pop Rocks came along after I was older, but Fun Dip was originally known as Lik-m-Aid. You’d consume it by licking your finger, dipping it in the little pouch of Candy Powder, and licking off the powder that would adhere to the fingertip. Got a lot of interesting looking fingertips with that stuff – it looked like Iraqi Election Day on the playground.
Pogo Sticks – have been around forever.
Sea Monkeys – Mainly of interest for the incredibly cheesy ads that appeared in every single comic book in the 1950’s and 1960’s – probably required by Federal law. Nobody in his right mind would actually buy these things, am I right?
But wait: there’s more. What about these?
Nik-L-Nips – You can get these today for $2, but back in the 1950’s, a package really cost 5¢. It consisted of five tiny wax bottles, each filled with a colorful sugary liquid. You’d bite the top off each bottle, suck the liquid out, and then chew the wax. Inane.
Fizzies – The bastard get of a Soft Drink and an Alka-Seltzer. You would drop a Fizzies tablet into a glass of cold water, wherein it would fizz (hence the name) and yield a glassful of mildly carbonated, alkali-flavored soda water. The fun was in watching it fizz – because even then, we knew that to actually drink that shit would give you Brain Cancer.
Mr. Potato-Head - Back in the day, all you got was a bunch of plastic and felt Body Parts attached to Pointy Toothpick-Like Spears. You provided the potato. Lots of great impalement possibilities.
Flavor-Straws – Drink your milk through a Flavor-Straw and you would have milk that tasted vaguely of chocolate, or strawberry, or, whatever. Good, but only if you were too fucking lazy to deal with opening a can of Hershey’s Syrup (Yeah, back then it came in cans.)
Great Garloo – This was a
Great Garloo, nemesis of Eli’s Other Son.
The Gilbert Chemistry Set – I’m sure that nobody in their right mind would dare to buy one of these today. It had actual chemicals in it, some of them potentially nasty. The interest I later developed in chemistry and chemical engineering no doubt comes from the happy hours I spent mixing and burning all kinds of Toxic Shit at the kitchen table.
The Easy-Bake Oven – That one’s been around forever...but even it had predecessors. And therein lies a story.
When I was about three or four, my parents somehow got it into their heads that a Toy Stove would be a Good Thing to Give Little Elisson. And so they did. What the fuck were they thinking?
This was no Easy-Bake Oven. This was a real stove, with little working burners and (I suppose) a fully functional oven. It came with a full set of Tiny-Ass Metal Cookware.
Ah, but what to cook? It took me no time to find something. Play-Doh! I filled the various Pots ’n’ Pans with Play-Doh and set that crap a-cooking. You know what? You can boil Play-Doh if you get it hot enough. But your Mommy and Daddy will not like it if you do.
This is the same Mommy and Daddy that gave me, at the tender age of four, a stapler. For a Chanukah present, no less. And, some time shortly after that (but well before my fifth birthday), a pocketknife. I think they must have been trying to kill me.
Or maybe they were just oblivious. I mean, back in the ’50’s, boys (especially toddlers) were not generally encouraged to cook. Damn thing was probably on sale. Yet perhaps that Toy Stove was the distant source, the Ursprung, as it were, of my interest in Matters Culinary...
Do you have any memories of your own Random Childhood Crap? If so, howzabout sharing in the Comments?