Time Machine!

Posted by: Andee / Category: ,

Last night I had a dream about an old Holly Hobbie Easy Bake Oven that I had when I was a kid. When my Mom would make cookies she would give me some extra dough and I would make mini-cookies. I was also really good at melting chocolate chips... proof of my future cooking abilities? Who knows.

I loved to pretend I was chef at a restaurant, and when I heard a line from "Friends" it struck true with me...

Monica: I used to love playing restaurant!

Ross: Not as much as you liked to play undercooked batter-eater.

I thought it would be fun to try and remember some of the toys I played with as a little kid. Remember M.U.S.C.L.E.s?

You thought the WWF had some bizarre characters? Pshaw. Anybody who wanted to see some real oddball wresting action in the mid-80’s took a visit down to the M.U.S.C.L.E. arena. Those brawny battlers on television may have painted their faces and worn scary masks, but they couldn’t compete with fur, fins, horns, snake heads, brick-wall bodies or a guy with a teacup for a head. Those kinds of freaks were only available in M.U.S.C.L.E. packages, and what’s more, they were much, much cheaper than the Hulkster and his action figure cronies.
My brother and I had a massive collection of these little guys. At first they just came out in this boring coral color, then they started making M.U.S.C.L.E.s in lime green, purple, orange... you name it. It became a slight contest to see which of us could get the largest collection... we would also trade these little figures with our neighborhood friends.
Invented by Ray Lohr for Marx Toys, the Big Wheel was a sit-down, low-to-the ground three wheel vehicle for kids—like a tricycle, but lower and nearly metal-less, and decorated with a much better color scheme. The seat back was adjustable, so that as a rider grew, he wouldn’t grow out of the Big Wheel. The two wheels in back were small, but in front was the so-called Big one. There were pedals and handlebars that you could decorate with ribbons or flying plastic. Most memorable of all, the Big Wheel made that distinctive scraping noise on the cement or asphalt (if you were riding on the street, that is…if you had, in other words, worked the steps of the ‘Freedom to Ride’ plan and worked them well). Molded plastic was never this good.
I had a Smurf big wheel. Santa left it for me one Christmas... our neighbors across the street had a steep driveway, and we would push our little legs as hard as possible to get up to the top and then ZOOOOOOOM!

Kids’ appetites were insatiable, stores couldn’t keep the things on their shelves, and to this day, many remember that fateful Christmas of 1983 as the Christmas of the Elusive Cabbage Patch Kid. Parents camped outside of malls and toy stores, and once inside, often worked themselves into consumer pandemonium. The fervor, by the way, helped inspire the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Jingle All the Way. By New Years 1984, over three million had been sold.
Santa brought me a Cabbage Patch Doll when I was about 5 or 6. Her birth certificate named her Betty Deborah, and she had short curly blonde hair. I can't believe I remember that.

In the early 1950’s, a company called Colorforms hit the educational toy market with their eponymous products. The original sets contained either basic shapes or letter and number decals—all in bright prime colors. The decals were made of paper-thin plastic, easy to press onto the Colorform playboard that came in the box, and just as easy to peel off. The sets were marketed as learning toys for ages three and up. A kid could get familiar with shapes, master the alphabet and his numbers…and if he had at it long enough, perfect various math and spelling skills too. In 1965, the smiley Miss Weather Colorforms set arrived, and it was here that the toy became humanized. Kids dressed their two-dimensional friend in clothes appropriate to any kind of climate situation.

I had a rainbow brite colorforms set... RAINBOW BRITE!!!

If, as a little girl, you wanted to save the world against mean siblings or the older kids at your elementary school, it’s possible you identified with Rainbow Brite. She wanted to bring color back to the fictional Rainbowland; you wanted to make sure your brothers and sisters wouldn’t always eat the good sugar cereal and leave you with the healthy bran stuff. She had the Color Kids, each of whom represented a color of the rainbow, and the furry Sprite animals on her team; you had your aging family dog, who wasn’t, by dictionary definitions, what we’d call furry anymore. The point is, you emulated Rainbow… she had a goal, and she pursued it courageously. Just like you. And let’s face it, there aren’t many crusaders quite as cute as this one—crusaders are always, well, they’re just always so unkept.

I slept with my rainbow Brite doll. She was my best friend. How sad.

The world may never know how many future Picassos, Monets, and El Grecos got their start in the dark of their bedrooms, sitting in their jammies and basking in the 25-watt glow of a new Lite-Brite creation. Punching colored pegs through black construction paper may not have been formal training for the next Guernica or Toledo at Night, but it couldn’t have hurt.
One thing that drove me nuts about my lite-brite is the fact that I kept losing those little pegs. I wanted to make a christmas tree on my lite-brite and didn't have enough green... or I wanted to make a pumpkin but ran out of orange. Mom would always call my name if she accidentally vacuumed one up, stepped on one, or found one where it shouldn't be... like the fridge.