We recently cut the cable again, and have been limited to over the air TV viewing. My favorite channels are the retro stations that show only classic stuff. I’ve been enjoying old Tonight Show reruns, and it brings back so many good memories watching Johnny Carson do his thing. As a challenge, I like to try and guess the airdate based on the guests appearing. Over the weekend, I watched an episode with Ann-Margret and Joan Rivers, originally aired on December 13, 1978. (I was off a few years on my guess.)
The most memorable part of this particular show wasn’t the monologue, or Joan Rivers’ crude humor, not even Johnny’s flirtatious interview with Ann-Margret. It was a short segment where Johnny read kids’ letters to Santa. These were actually written and sent to the Post Office by kids in 1978. Johnny pointed out funny things the kids wrote before ending the segment with a call for donations to needy children. It was so incredible to hearing what toys kids wanted back in 1978. I immediately started looking around on the web for information on these toys. It was a fun little research project, and I thought I’d share what I found here. If you are at all interested in vintage toys, or have nostalgia for the time, you should check out the links below. Hopefully at least some of these fantastic toys made it into the hands of those kids almost four decades ago…
Though Johnny didn’t say exactly which of the many Captain America toys was requested, odds are it was a Mego. These were the gold standard for dolls, I mean, action figures, back in the 70s. I don’t recall having Steve Rogers in Mego form, but I did have Spidey. I whirled the wall crawler around our house on a length of yarn, endangering many of my mom’s breakables.
This request was unusual, and the phrase refers to both a book and a movie based on it. I’m guessing the book was what this particular kiddo was wishing for. The movie (narrated by Rod Serling, no less!) is fully available on YouTube at the link above. I watched a half hour or so, and it brought back memories of reading every book on Ufology in the school and local library when I was young. I’m certain I would have gotten along well with the kid who requested this one.
I vaguely recall seeing ads for this toy in between the story pages of my aunt’s collection of comic books. A helicopter may seem like a strange choice of vehicle, since Spidey practically flies around on his webs anyway. I suppose a copter could be useful for oversea travel, or perhaps in the skyscraper-less suburbs. The copter is mentioned at the end of an old commercial for “Energized” Spider-Man, a toy that climbs up a string in realistic fashion. The clip is on Youtube and definitely worth a view.
Play-Doh is still, to this day, a toy aisle staple. Making things out of brightly colored modeling compound is lots of fun! And there’s nothing quite like the smell of a freshly opened can of Play-Doh, is there? I couldn’t recall offhand what a Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop was, but after watching the commercial (link above), I distinctly remembered it. I could spend a few hours shaving green Play-Doh off a plastic guy’s face, couldn’t you?
Unsurprisingly, Star Wars toys were big in 1978, and were mentioned in several of the kids’ wish lists. The most common request was for Star Wars action figures, and I am sure it was a rare tree, indeed, that was lacking a Star Wars figure that year. Two other, less well-known toys were also mentioned. One was the Star Wars Give-A-Show projector. Before the age of the VCR, this was the best way to see parts of your favorite movie in your own home. If you were on the go, the handheld Kenner Movie Viewer had a Star Wars cartridge available. I would have loved either, or both! (Please, please both.)
I don’t have a particular affinity for Hot Wheels or remote control cars today. But cars and toys based on them are very appealing to kids, especially when they are fast and/or sporty looking. I didn’t have the Sizzlers Nightmare Alley race car track, but my brother and I did race each other on a similar set. To be honest, I had more fun going so fast around corners that my car flew off the track.
The Micronauts! As as kid, I read the comic based on the toyline. I loved Acroyear! As an adult, I recognize that the Japanese toyline (Microman) gave birth to some of the best Transformers toys later on. I believe I had a few Micronauts toys as a kid, but sadly none remain in my collection. Taking a look at this Battle Cruiser, though, makes me want to get one, and fill it with all sorts of interchangeable cyborg goodness. And Acroyear would look cool on my robot shelf…
I was unfamiliar with this toy, but after learning about it I totally want one! It’s a futuristic target shooting set. A sweet white spacegun that would look right at home on Buck Rogers shoots a burst of light. The target has a rotating platform full of rockets on top of it. If you hit the target, a rocket shoots up into the air, and a new one rotates into place. I can only imagine how cool it would have been to shoot lasers at invading rockets in my own back yard. It really doesn’t get much better than that as a kid in the late 70s, does it?