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Thursday, May 13, 2010

5 Classic Toys (That Weren't Allowed in My House)

I don't want to give anyone the impression that I didn't have toys as a kid - my brother and I had plenty of them, and we had a great time. But there's a reason why "A Christmas Story" resonates so clearly with so many people; I'm sure we all had toy requests that met with unreasonable and forceful opposition. Here are my top five:

1.) Squirmles - My mom insisted that this was "a pipe-cleaner on a string" and thus we were never allowed the luxury of a Squirmles toy. The absurdity of equating Squirmles with a pipecleaner struck me as I watched friends on the schoolbus, magically weaving their "pets" in between their fingers and around their shoulders. I remember puzzling over just how I could accomplish such fluid and graceful movements with a pipe cleaner.

 2) The "Ready Ranger Backpack" by Aurora. Well, this one was allowed in my house, but very quickly became the focal point of my personal "Ralphie" moment.

Christmas, 1974. I had longed for this toy for months, after seeing the commercial, in which kids about my age and size used all of the cool gadgets and dials on this backpack to climb mountains, spy on each other, and survive in the wilderness. That black hose you see the kid talking into on the left was the backpack's "communication system" and the single feature that I was most excited about.

Well, X-mas arrived, and the backpack sat under the tree. I tore it open, and within seconds was ready to try out the bullhorn. I had my brother put other end to his ear, and then I proceeded to scream into the mouthpiece. Upon witnessing this, my horrified mom warned me that I'd "rupture my brother's eardrum" with this toy, and disconnected the hose. Minus the "communication system," this awesome gadget very quickly began to look just like what it was - a hunk of cardboard and plastic.

3) The Inchworm. Everyone, it seemed, had one of these in the 70's, but for some reason my dad was convinced that this innocent-looking riding toy was a deathtrap. I'm still mystified by this one...

4) Micronauts - These were the greatest toys ever! Colorful, plastic, and had interchangeable parts. Basically, the precursor to the Transformers, and they also had great space-age sounding names like Biotron, Gammaron, and Phobos.

My favorite aspect of these toys was that each had a spring-loaded launcher somewhere on its "body." The launcher would propel red plastic "torpedoes" with a rubber ball at the end. In order to be allowed to have Micronauts, my brother and I had to convince our parents that we would be vigilant not to accidentally launch the torpedoes into each others' mouths.

5) Sea Monkeys. Described by my mother as "crap." Good call, mom!


  1. I think if I had to pick my favorite childhood toy it would have to be Micronauts. There was something indescribably cool about them.

  2. Interestingly, I recently read that, very indirectly, Micronauts were responsible for the downfall of the great Mego action figure company.

    Mego was just coming out with Micronauts when Star Wars hit the theaters. The president of Mego didn't want to produce the Star Wars figures because A:) he didn't want to produce two competing sci-fi lines and B:) he had no idea what Star Wars would become. Kenner purchased the rights to the Star Wars figures, and that was the beginning of the end for Mego.

  3. I loved Squirmies!

    My grandmother would buy me one every single time she would visit me. She would also get me one of those water-filled snake things that you would grab and the one end would suck in and the whole contraption would go flying out of your hand, fall on the ground and--inevitably--spring a leak.

  4. Somehow I don't remember that whole water snake thing. Sounds like something else that would have been deemed "dangerous," though.

  5. Dan....we had one of those water snake things.

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