This is a listing of the great toys I had as a kid, back in the Sixties. (By the time the Seventies arrived I was fourteen, and my toys were tarot cards and books, mainly.)
A lot of these scans come from an absolute must-have book, Toy Bop, by Tom Frey. (You can order it from amazon.com.) Also, the timepassagesnostalgia.com site is a good source for some of this stuff.
Not only do I get a kick out of looking at toys I once had, my kids enjoy it, too. In fact, they're convinced my toys were cooler than their toys. They're right.
Zippy the Chimp (1956). As this photograph from June 1956 (I am two months old) amply illustrates, my earliest toy was this stuffed monkey, Zippy. I barely remember it. For some reason I recall the buttons sewn onto the corduroy pants more than the monkey's face, which perhaps disturbed me. Here's Zip from the 1962 Sears Christmas catalog.Plastic rattle blocks (late 50's). A very early toy. I know I had them because they perplexed me. I think I must have thought they were room temperature ice cubes or something like that. Strum Fun Getar (Mattel, 1959). This appears in some home movie footage I have, so I know for sure I had it, but I do not recall the toy at all! You could install one of those disks in the back and turn a crank and the guitar would play, or you can play it by strumming. (Assuming it's in tune.) Broom Tail Horse (late 50's). This was a plastic stuffed horse's head on a broomstick. They came in white, red, blue and black, I think. Mine was black. I do recall wearing them out pretty quickly, running around the block with them; I had a few of these before I lost interest.
Truck set and Japanese metal tank (Christmas 1958). I don't remember much about that truck set I got for Christmas, other than taking it out into the front yard and stirring up mud with it. What I have lasting memories of, however, is that Japanese metal tank. It was rather cheaply constructed, with metal pieces held together by tabs. I confirmed this by taking it apart one day and cutting myself on the arm on one of the tabs. To this day I have a crescent-shaped scar on my right arm from it!
The Sears Allstate Super Service Station (1959 - shown below.) I loved this one; it was all shiny, printed metal and, best of all, it had to do with cars, which I loved. You could "drive" one of the little cars into the elevator at right, crank them up to the roof level and park them. To leave, they go down the red exit ramp. Look how cute I am as a three year-old in this shot (dated October 1959)... doesn't it make you go, "Awwww....?" (Here it is from the 1958 Sears Christmas Wishbook. Here's essentially the same toy - with later, different markings - from the 1964 Sears Christmas Wishbook)
Another early toy I can recall having was Schaper's innocent Tickle Bee (1958). The idea here was to make the bee navigate a path by the use of a magnetic wand. Simple, but it kept me busy - for which I'm sure Mom was thankful.
M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E (c. 1959.) Mom tells me that when I was about three or four I was a devoted Mouseketeer, which is certainly borne out by this photograph. And while I do recall watching it on TV, I don't remember anything other than the animated opening sequence. Hey, wait a minute... Those mouse ears have what looks like a red bow on them. Those wouldn't be Minnie ears, would they? What on earth was Mom trying to pull?
Jumbo, the Bubble-Blowing Elephant (1960). I have some 8 mm film footage from December, 1960 that shows me proudly demonstrating this toy in my room; I was four. Oddly enough, the only thing that jogs any memories about this particular toy was that multi-colored harlequin-patterned base!
Mattel's Talking Beany Boy (1961). I didn't have Cecil the Sea Serpent. I only had Beany, who would sit, untouched, in the corner of my bedroom, gazing at me with that horrible grin and that lunatic stare while I tried in vain to go to sleep. Initially he repeated many phrases, but mine became stuck on "Watch out for DJ." The horror!
482 Electronic Thruway (Woodhaven Metal Stamping Co., 1960). This toy appears on the shelf in my bedroom in a Christmas 1960 home movie my mother took (2:54 point); with some effort I managed to finally identify it. I recall the circumstances of its purchase (I was four): we were in a wholesale warehouse of some kind when we saw it on display. My mother purchased it without my knowing it and put it in the back seat of the car on the way home. I saw it, and asked her why she bought it. At first she said that she bought it as a birthday present for some little boy she knew from work - a co-worker's son - but when we got home she gave it to me! I was delighted. The little cars move along on the track based on a vibrating motor. A clever toy.
Citroen 2CV (Daiya, c. 1960). This is another toy that appears on the shelf in my bedroom in a Christmas 1960 home movie my mother took (2:54 point). I don't remember it at all, but there's no arguing with the evidence - I had it. (At least I think this looks like the same car.) I think my Dad was probably in the habit of getting me an inexpensive Japanese toy every now and then and this was one of them.
Old Timers Car (Modern Toys, c. 1960). I came across this image while doing a google search for 1960's toys and felt a shock of recognition: I'm sure I had this car, or one very similar. (There were a number of "Old Timers" cars produced by Modern Toys.) I may have had more than one type... Again, this may have been a purchase of an inexpensive Japanese toy by my Dad. The car went with a pair of pajamas I had with old cars on them as well as with an Econolite motion lamp we had and some small wall pictures. Old cars may have been a decorative thing in the late Fifties/early Sixties.
Boys, guns, guns, boys. The association was obvious and guilt or overtone-free in the Sixties. Being a boy, I had guns. Guess what? I haven't killed anyone or committed a felony with one yet. Go figure. When our son was little my wife resisted buying him weapon toys for the longest time, until we noticed he was making guns out of Duplos, sticks, and even bananas. Imagine my surprise one day when my wife arrived home from shopping with my son, who was brandishing the He-Man Masters of the Universe sword. "Capitulated, huh?" I asked, smiling. Anyone who is the parent of boys and girls can tell you this "Nurture vs. nature" argument is a no-brainer. Toy stores, who unapologetically separate the aisles by sex, know better, too.
My favorite gun couldn't be had at a toy store. It was the Weller soldering gun my parents kept in the original cardboard box. It looked black, industrial and somewhat futuristic, had two lights that glowed when you pulled the trigger and a tip that hummed and got very hot and could melt plastic and cardboard, in addition to metal. (After all, this gun plugged into the wall.) It was a distinct improvement from the Wham-O Air Blaster.
Outer Space Ray Gun, Sears (1958). I the cryptic plus and minus controls on the side. What were they intended to do? Vary the intensity of the sonic ray? Whatever they were for, I liked 'em. I also liked the compass; I approved of anything that looked like a gauge or an electronic indicator.
The Wham-O Air Blaster and Gorilla Target (1963). A gorilla as a target. Sure. Every kid knew that the best use of this gun - which, by the way, produced a concentrated puff of air - was to aim it at some other kid's ear, close up. (The illustration even shows it being used like this, so who am I to take the rap for someone's damaged eardrums?) What I liked about it was the black, industrial look, like it was manufactured on the cheap somewhere in East Germany.
Ohio Art Astro-Ray Gun (1962). This was a combination flashlight and dart gun in a futuristic package. I much preferred Ohio Art's Astro-Launch game (see below), which was a family hit.
Jupiter Signal Gun by Remco (1963?). Essentially, a four color flashlight with a handle and a scope. I liked the compass on the side.
The Lost in Space Roto-Jet Gun (1965). There were two sections to this gun that could fit together to form a rifle. Either part could fire off those circular helicopter things. What made this one cool is that you could aim it horizontally at a kid's face!
Topper's Johnny Eagle Magumba toy pistol (1965). Actually, I had the pistol and the rifle. They can be seen in the April 1970 Den photograph. There was also a World War II (the "Lieutenant") and a Western (the "Red River") model. (Click here for an image of the handsome wall plaques.) I liked the ivory elephants on the Magumba.
The Susy X711 by Edison Giocattoli (Italian manufacturer, c. 1966). This was a cap gun that fired a special, louder cap. I recall it was significantly louder than a cap gun firing Mattel Greenies. Just after my parents bought it for me we had lunch at a restaurant, where I "accidentally" fired it off. It sounded even louder indoors than out - and I suppose that firing it off in a quiet restaurant made it sound louder still. Spy Gear
Now that the Cold War is over and my covert services are no longer needed, my extensive secret agent weapon armory can be safely disclosed. You see, I was an astronaut and space explorer in the early Sixties who was called into the spy game in 1965-1966. (You can read about my interest in secret agents here.)
Mattel's Agent Zero M Radio Rifle (1965). I don't care how many of these things Mattel sold to other kids, it can now be revealed that I, Wesley H. Clark, Jr., was in fact the legendary Agent Zero M. (And Napoleon Solo, and James Bond, etc.) What invariably blew my cover, however, was that hokey Agent Zero M logo on the dial. And the fact that the radio didn't play.
Mattel's Agent Zero M Camera Pistol (1965). I had this, too.
Mattel's Agent Zero M Pocket Knife Pistol (1965). And this. (One couldn't be too heavily armed in the spy trade.)
Mattel's Agent Zero M Sonic Blaster (1966). As I recall, this was basically a thick cardboard tubular affair that produced a sort of a loud "Whump!" Consumer Reports assessed it thus: "The Mattel Agent Zero M Sonic Blaster 5530 fires compressed air with a deafening blast. Our measurements top out at 157 dB - above a level that can do permanent damage to the hearing of an adult. We rate the toy Not Acceptable." (Spoil sports.) In truth, I wasn't real excited with it, either, but it had nothing to do with the fact that it could rupture an eardrum.
Topper's Multi-Pistol 09 Set (1965). The complexity, miniaturization and flexibility of this toy ensured constant service during my spy activities on the block. I could do without the clear plastic briefcase, however. (Geez, didn't these manufacturers have a clue about covert operations?) And I would have liked a heftier spring for that armor-piercing rocket.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. pistol by Ideal (1965). The cap pistol had a sleek, modern look to it I admired, and I thought the holster was especially attractive as well. The pistol could be turned into a rifle, with scope. Ideal thoughtfully included a membership card - countersigned by Solo and Kuryakin - with the pistol, in case there were any questions from federal authorities about one's need to bear this impressive weapon. What I liked the best, however, was the yellow triangular U.N.C.L.E. badge. One day a bunch of us fourth-graders decided to wear ours to school.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. THRUSH gun by Ideal (1965). What was cool about this was the fact that you could dial up targets that appeared in that huge telescopic sight. As I recall, they were in red, indicating an infrared sight. Anyway, there was a tank, a person (!) and various other objects. Could you imagine such a thing nowadays?
Lone Star's James Bond Cap Pistol with Silencer (1964). I had as much of the plastic Bond gear as I could get my parents to bankroll. (And seeing as how I was an only child, that was a lot.)
Multiple Products' James Bond 007 Attaché Case (1965). The ultimate James Bond toy, short of actually owning an Aston-Martin. Here's another image.
007 Snorkel-Blaster and Pistol Grip by Voit (1965). The 007 snorkel-blaster - which doubled as a squirt gun - was an invaluable aid in defeating SPECTRE agents in the backyard pool. (It wasn't very effective underwater, however.) I also built up my steely grip by flexing the pistol grip; but it was much more effective when thrown at somebody. I considered buying the James Bond Body Builder, but figured my pecs were appropriately-sized for a ten year old.
Secret Sam Attaché Case (c. 1965). As I recall, when the gun was fit into the case it fired a round out the side by pressing a button in the handle. Execution, clean and easy, and a distinct advantage over the James Bond attache case. The only problem is, why would a kid walk around with an attache case? It's not like the transportation of files are necessary in distributing newspapers, or picking up bottles from a vacant lot for deposit money.
Multiple Products' James Bond 007 Codebook (1965). I remember in class one day one kid handed another kid the Bond Codebook, which fired a Greenie Stick-um if the slide wasn't moved into "disable" position. When the cap went off, every boy in the class quickly identified the one dorky male who wasn't aware of the feature. I had one problem with this toy: How accurately could one portray a secret agent with something like "Secret Agent 007" written on the codebook?
The Multiple Products James Bond 007 Luger (1965). Did he carry a Luger in the movies? Of course not. He used a Walther PPK, or a Baretta. But I dearly treasured this pistol. It fit snugly into the attaché case. Here it is assembled.
The Multiple Products James Bond gun (c. 1965). I barely recall this one, and am sure I didn't own it. (I wouldn't want it!)
Topper's Sixfinger (1965). "Sixfinger!/Sixfinger!/Man alive!/How did I ever get along with five?" How indeed? Actually, while I had one of these and recognized it was intended as spy gear, I must have decided that I didn't want to be a mutant, six-fingered secret agent because I don't recall getting a lot of play value out of this. Of course, the kids on my block who owned these didn't wear them as modeled by the kid on the package, but wore them as an extended (but cap-firing) middle digit. (And it could be that an entire generation of proctologists got their start with Sixfinger.)
Sooper Snooper by Marx (c. 1965). A favorite toy and part of my spy gear. I used to go under the deck next to our above-ground pool and make this thing emerge to spy on swimmers. It was also handy to use looking down alleys without exposing oneself. The little lever on the bottom made it possible to look to the sides, but it was the periscope functionality I liked the best.
Rube Goldberg Toys (all by Ideal)
Rube Goldberg Toys (all by Ideal)
Mouse Trap (1963) is still with us, but in an inferior guise. When Grandma bought one for my son in the late Eighties, the trap refused to spring consistently. We took it back.
Crazy Clock (1964) was my favorite - I liked the clock. At left is a photo of me (age eight) posing with my Crazy Clock game.
Fish Bait (1965) was the last in the series. Not as complex as the first two, and not as interesting.
Other games: Monopoly, Battleship, Stratego and Tip-It. Fang Bang required two kids. You'd blow up those long skinny balloons, attach the snake heads (which had sandpaper as "fangs") and go at it. A fun game, but after running out of balloons I didn't get much play out of it. Jack and the Beanstalk (Schaper, 1965) was a simplistic and juvenile game that appealed to me for some reason. I guess I liked the leaves and the paint job on the beanstalk! Hat's Off! (Kohner, 1967) was cool because the little launchers with the sliding score keepers appealed to me. It was fun to play, too.
This Bingo game is memorable to me because the numbers were on black circular pieces that looked like liquorice to me, consequently, I put them in my mouth and chewed on them. Yes, I was a weird kid - tell me something I don't know.
Space and Instrumentation
Space and Instrumentation
I describe elsewhere how wild I was for outer space and instrumentation. I got a lot of play value out of some of these toys...
Space Station for a Fine Young Astronaut (Hallmark, 1965). A book and yet not a book. Curiously, the two features I remember best about this were the Storage Locker and the LOX canister on the wall ("Warning!"). Very novel, so much so that it took about two decades for one to finally appear on the Internet. I remember getting it just before we moved from Los Angeles to Burbank in February 1965.
The Corny 7 Rocket by Kellogg's (early 60's). Something you would endure a box of unsweetened cereal for. Prior to stumbling across these images, I had forgotten that the Kellogg's Corn Flakes rooster was named "Corny."
The Astro-Float by unknown (early 60's). Another food-space crossover (suggested by the name and the reference to its being "AOK"). Most of my astro-floats involved Bubble-Up and not Coke. Also marketed with space - sputnik, fizz-nik - was the Fizz-Nik. I think I had the transparent blue one.
Mercury Capsule Bank by unknown (early 60's). I liked the coppery color. I recall that it flew across the room pretty well when halfway filled with pennies. (Note: For an interesting story about this particular item, see the e-mail in my 9/17/12 letters section.)
Space Capsule and Astronaut Figures by unknown (early 60's). An inexpensive blister pack toy. I liked the silvery colored astronauts and especially the ones is the far-out "robotic" gear (at top).
Two Rocket Toys by unknown. I had the one on the left, which did not require the caps. Not a whole lot of play value with these - I barely remember them.
Operation Moon Shot or Operation Orbit by Transogram (circa 1962). I liked that orbiting sun/moons structure on the left. I don't recall making many landings, however. I would have been too impatient and unskilled.
The Bobbin' Head Astronaut Manufacturer unknown (early 60's). I was at a tiki party when I saw this little guy; not sure if it's an original or a reproduction. Anyway, I had one as a kid. The only thing I liked on it was the silvery space suit. For me, astronauts were rough and tough adventurers, not cute little bobbin'-headed children. I'm pretty sure I broke the ceramic head of mine with a thrown d-cell battery, my projectile of choice. I preferred it with a spring sticking out of the neck rather than that smiling face; at least then I could pretend it was a robot. What gives it away as an astronaut is that little box he's holding. I suspect they reused a fighter pilot's head, which would explain the lightning bolts on the helmet. My father or mother (I forget which) once took me to an Angels game where I got a bobbin' head baseball player - that one didn't last long at all.
Astro Launch by Ohio Art (1963?). A very well-designed, futuristic-looking pressed metal game. (Actually, just a themed version of "Aggravation" or "Trouble"). The play pieces were green, blue, red and yellow space capsules; green being my favorite color, I always insisted upon taking green. Jimmy Rutherford would always take blue, and Mom would take red. I loved the atomic design on this one, and the fact that if your opponent put his capsule on the top of that neat clear plastic "pop-o-matic" hemisphere the flipped dice would occasionally launch it! (I am happy to say that sometimes one's childhood can be recaptured. I bought a well-preserved Astro Launch game recently via e-Bay for a very nominal $10, and I enjoyed playing it with my kids. Even better, it passed my son's coolness test.)
Deluxe Reading's Jimmy Jet (1961). If I couldn't pilot a spacecraft, a jet was the next best thing. I liked all of the gauges on this one, and the thing that looked like a sight was an appreciated feature as well. The only thing that annoyed me about the Jimmy Jet was that Deluxe Reading heraldic crest on the steering wheel, which looked like it belonged on a '49 Plymouth, not in a jet cockpit.
Space Orb Kaleidoscope Unknown manufacturer (mid-1960's). Instead of abstract shapes and colors, this one made funny-looking monsters and aliens. (Video.) I found it kind of boring when I had it, but had the idea that I ought to set this toy aside to have as an adult, when I'd appreciate it more. I was right - I'd like it more now! Mine came from an odd sort of specialty store - I forget the name of it - that sold gimmicks and clever things. Another item from this store was a keyfob with a parking meter timer on it which I appropriated from Dad. I recall when we bought this toy, just before Christmas 1966. I heard Frank Sinatra's hit song "It Was a Very Good Year" on the car radio and thought it was the most depressing song I had ever heard. I still feel this way about it.
Operation Moon Base by Marx (1962). My favorite piece in this set was that flat blue spacecraft in the middle, with the rear end in the crater. When I saw an identical experimental NASA jet suspended from the ceiling of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (probably the inspiration for the toy), ancient chords of memory were strummed. Seeing this picture, now I know why. A page from the 1962 Sears Christmas catalog.
X-500 Launch Pad by Deluxe Reading, 1960. Image from the plan59.com site. I can see that I had this from a hazy 8mm home movie of Christmas morning, 1960. See Operation X-500 Rocket Base, below.
Operation X-500 Rocket Base by Deluxe Reading (1960). Now we're talkin'! What was that dome-like instrument for, in the center of the control panel? Didn't know - didn't care. It looked so cool! I remember the glee I had in firing six of those missiles off in all directions, like Dr. Strangelove. In the photo, I'm playing with it when I first got it - Christmas, 1960. From an 8mm home movie. A better image from the plan59.com site is here.
Fireball XL-5 by Multiple (1964). I was a real fan of the TV show. As I recall, the first stage of this rocket - lamely called "Fireball Jr." - separated from the rest of the craft.
The Magic Brain Calculator by unknown (c. 1966). Purchased from an ad in the back of a comic book, this is one of those toys that sounded a whole lot more fun than it actually was. I always did poorly in math - perhaps I bought this hoping it would do my homework for me. Anyway, it was a variation on an abacus. I'm pretty sure I didn't learn how to properly use it.
Countdown by E.S. Loew (1967). For some reason or other I never played this game, but I certainly liked the astronaut/space cards and little rocketship/capsule playing pieces that came with it.
Deluxe Reading's Playmobile Dash (1961). What I really wanted was the dashboard to a 1961-1963 Ford Thunderbird, which I thought was the coolest-looking car of all time. It had great rocket taillights, space age bucket seats, power windows, side scoops and a wraparound aluminum instrument panel that looked like a rocket's. The one I wanted had a light blue paint finish. To get closer to my ideal, I made and then cut out little Thunderbird logos and stuck them all over the Playmobile Dash - but it just wasn't the same. (Especially not with that heraldic crest.)
Major Matt Mason by Mattel (1966). I liked the space sled, but that was about it. By 1966 I was into spy stuff. Major Mason may have even wound up in Vietnamland, like Captain Action (see below) - I don't remember...
Moon Landing Diorama by Monogram (1969). One of my last space items, this was a plastic model that, when assembled, formed a diorama of the Apollo 11 moon landing site. I recall a cardboard background and a brown plastic frame that this kit doesn't have. Perhaps I am misremebering the manufacturer? Anyway, I assembled and displayed it on my shelf.Astrological Bank by Gerett (c. 1963) - I thought of it as a sort of space toy, so it belongs here. I think you had to insert a coin in a slot each day to advance the date, thus encouraging industrious, money-saving habits. This didn't work for me. These seem to be rare nowadays... the Cancer sign bank one was the only one I could find on the Internet. I'm a Taurus, so mine had that sign on it. I forget what laudatory traits were inscribed thereupon for Taurus, but if one was "Thrifty," it was a lie.
Big Loo, by Marx (1963). As I recall, I got mine on Christmas 1964, and he made the trip to Burbank when we moved from Silverlake in February 1965. Unfortunately for Loo (I wonder if they marketed him with this name in the U.K.?), I spray-painted him turquoise; why, I do not remember. In retrospect, I realize that I was capable of some devilish acts. I wish - oh, how I wish! - I had Loo today. Not only would he have been a great toy for my son, but today he's worth hundreds of dollars!
Books and other printed material
Books and other printed material
Hector Heathcote book (1960?). There is only one thing I remember about this book: Once, when my parents and I drove to Ensenada, Mexico on a vacation, I took it with me and read it in the hotel. I refused to eat the eggs they ordered for breakfast. They both got terrible cases of stomach sickness, I didn't. Earlier, they kept talking about getting me a "Mexican haircut," which, for some reason, terrified me. So I saw the egg incident as my revenge.
The How and Why Book of Planets and Interplanetary Travel by unknown publisher (1962). At one time I thought it was terribly important to know how much each planet weighed in tons, and, unless I'm very much mistaken, this is the book that taught me that. Note the cigar-shaped rocket ship on the cover. When I was a kid, real space ships (not capsules) looked like that.
Various Beatles magazines from 1964 For me, real status came with owning that yellow-covered "All About the Beatles" magazine. I begged my mother for it. I recall a thrill of pride when I got it; it made me feel a part of some kind of great Beatles youth movement. The fact that my friend Jimmy and I were initially repelled by the Beatles when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on 2/9/64 (we were also taken aback by his sister Kathy's ecstatic response to them) meant nothing in the intense wave of publicity and media attention, which swept all doubters aside. The Beatles Fun Kit was my second magazine. I remember it had a circular picture of the Beatles that one could cut out and put in a telephone dial. I didn't do this to mine because it involved damaging the magazine, but at a party my older friend Jane Holland did. She came outside to where I was and told me, "Hey, Wesley, you have a phone call." I ran into the house and there were the Beatles scotch-taped onto our telephone dial. As for "the Dave Clark Five vs. the Beatles," I recall Jimmy's sister Kathy disparaging the DC5 for making a trademark out of their foot stomping, which she claimed the Beatles gave up in Germany. When you think about it, one pop group being lined up "versus" another is a characteristically innocent, 1960's concept. (As are the "so and so says" comments about the match-up depicted on the cover.) The Dave Clark Five vs. the Beatles? No contest in my neighborhood. And, finally, I recall those "talking pictures," which I thought were very clever and led to a lifelong interest. To this day I love captioning photographs.
Phantom of the Opera paperback (Dell - 1940's). I loved the cover! I think I got it in 1967 along with some old comic books at a bookstore in Glendale. It was a wartime edition with some text encouraging readers to read it and pass it on to some other G.I. to read, which I found interesting. I didn't care for the story compared to the movie adaptations, which I thought were all better.
Will Rogers Big Little Book (1935). Mom found this at an antique store and, naturally enough, I read it. From it I learned that Rogers was attracted to the woman who would later become his wife by her cropped hair, which was the result of an illness - a fact I have strangely retained all these years.
Doctor Dolittle books (Lippincott - 1960's reprints of 1920's books). I first read The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle in February 1967 as part of a fifth grade Newbury/Caldicott program. I liked it so much I bought all the other books. The amazing thing is that, unlike just about all of the toys and items on this page, I still have them! Reading them was a feat as they were mostly over 300 pages. A good little reader, was I.
Doctor Dolittle pop-up book (Random House - 1967). I'm pretty sure I got this on Christmas 1967. I was a fan of the Hugh Lofting books from the 1920's and was excited to learn that a film would be coming out, but was vastly disappointed with the production.
365 Bedtime Stories (Whitman - 1955). One for each day of the year, obviously. The one for my birthday (April 27th) was about some kids living on "What-A-Jolly Street" who put a note in a tumbleweed, encouraging whomever found it to phone the kids, telling of its discovery. They then launched the tumbleweed. Later on, somebody found the note. This was a Christmas present from 1966, I think. I was slightly too old for these by then.
The Wizard of Oz (1950's). A circa 1965 Christmas present. I was disappointed in it because the illustrations in it didn't look like the Judy Garland movie production. As a kid I was into consistency, I guess.
The Golden Book Encyclopedia (Western Printing - c. 1964). These were available at grocery stores and I had the entire set in a shelf next to my bed. I used to love reading through them; as it turned out, it encouraged my natural interest in many subjects. Good buy, Mom!
The Golden Book High School and Home Encyclopedia (Western Printing - c. 1964). High school... even better! I felt smarter reading them. They, too, were on a shelf next to my bed.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes (late 1960's). A circa 1970 Christmas present. I took the dust jacket off of it because I thought it looked garish. At age fourteen, this was the book which transitioned me away from comic books. After reading it I no longer had a taste for them - I wanted literature. I still own it! My next book read would be the complete short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
Crashmobile (Tri Play Toys 1960's) - At last! A toy that actually encouraged a boy's desire to destroy things! I loved mine (which was turquoise with a red top).
Sears train set (1964). I got this set (the $29.89 one) second-hand from somewhere - Mom brought it home one day. This was in early 1965, just before we moved to Burbank. I don't think it was a Christmas 1964 gift, but it may have been some other kid's gift that, for some reason, didn't work out. So I got it. I loved it! The transformer plugged into the wall, hummed dangerously, got warm and made sparks when you ran a wire across the terminals - just the sort of thing for a seven year-old boy! I assembled it on the living room floor in our Los Angeles house, but really got the most play value out of it when we moved into Burbank, where we got a big sheet of plywood and located the thing into the back house. Hours of joy with this toy. I especially liked the smoke fluid you could drop into the smokestack; it smelled neat.
Who Am I? cards by Topps (1967). After puzzling over the clues, you scratched off the disguise to arrive at the correct portrait. These were the non-sports cards; they also made a series based on baseball players. (No interest there!) For some reason I recall the ones for Henry VIII and Paul Revere the best - they were especially creepy.
Jon Gnagy art sets (c. 1960). I recall watching him on television and making it all look so easy. But rendering those shadows on geometrical objects was a source of frustration to me. It's worthwhile to note that back when I was a little kid, the only people wearing goatees were artists, jazz musicians, drug dealers and other non-conformists. Nowadays it's much more common. I wish the fad would pass.
Kenner's Bagpipe (c. 1962). I don't know what my parents were thinking. Yes, I had one of these, no, I didn't play it much - and I suspect my parents appreciated that fact. From the 1962 Sears Christmas catalog.
Spelling board (c. 1962). "It's fun to learn to spell or count." Not if you're me, it isn't. It's a lot more fun to simply enjoy the kinesthetic pleasure of sliding the blocks around. From the 1962 Sears Christmas catalog. If I didn't have this exact one I had one very much like it.
Porter Microscope (c. 1965/1966). One year my parents apparently decided to make me a scientist, so I got a microscope and a chemistry lab set (see next entry). It didn't work. I don't recall much use or play value with this.
The Gilbert Home Laboratory (1965/1966). I think I made two clear chemicals turn magenta, once, by pouring them together. Other than that, the only thing I remember about this was that the chemicals were smelly. As I'm pretty sure I didn't bother to read the instructions, my play and educational value with this was very limited.
Fritos and Nabisco dinosaur premiums (1960s). I couldn't have gotten much play value out of these but I certainly do remember collecting them.
Green Hornet flicker ring, Batman buttons and the rubber Batman ring by various manufacturers (1966/1967). Cheap crap that came out of gum ball dispensers. I recall being especially disgusted with the rubber Batman rings. Who on earth would wear one of those? I didn't. I lit matches under 'em.
Vari-Vue flicker buttons (Dimensional Research - c. 1966). These were popular in the schoolyard for a time, but images of the ones I had seem to be hard to find on the Internet. I had the "Yes/No" one and the "Cool It" one; the other two are familiar - I may have had those. I also had one that featured moving gears... I liked that one best. It was a "Collect 'em All!" kind of thing.
Paladin ring from a gumball dispenser (1962?). While I never could muster enough interest to watch the show, I liked the title sequence and the theme song. And when I went on an early trip to Disneyland, I thought the horse-headed poles on Main Street (meant to invoke the old times when people needed to tether horses) had something to do with this show!
Batman and Robin Society button (1966). I was equally unimpressed with the quality of this item, mainly because the sloppy printing made Robin look grossly overweight.
King Tut (1960's). The "mystery action" with this was that he spun around due to a magnet. It engrossed me for about, oh, about 2 seconds.
Flicker pin (1965/1966). This one was one in a series, and I made it a point to get them all because I admired the clever flicker action. I especially liked one with rotating gears. Images of these have got to be on the Internet somewhere... I wish I knew where.
Flicker TV (1960's). Were these pencil sharpeners? I forget. I do recall that they normally came with dorky flicker subjects, such as this comic dog.
Lido TV (1962). This inspired me to manufacture my own rolling image television, which I made out of paper and cardstock. My images, of course, were much better than the commerically-produced ones, as they had to do with space and other things I was interested in. (In general, whenever I could personalize a toy it was more fun to play with - which is probably why my favorite toys were Lego bricks, crayons and discarded large appliance boxes.)
Pencil Case by Sterling Plastics Co. (1960). Not much to say about this other than the fact that I had a mild fascination with the gear action. And no, strictly speaking, it wasn't a toy.
Corina Cigars box (c. 1963). This really isn't a toy, either, but I got a lot of use out of them. My Mom used to bring them home from Toppys, where she worked as a waitress, and I'd fill them with pencils, crayons, smaller toys and whathaveyou. I figured if they kept cigars fresher six times longer I'd get six times more life out of my crayons and toys. Plus I liked the pretty lady on the lid.
Warner Brothers Cartoon Character Paper Plates (1959). These weren't toys, either, but I include them here because seeing them gives me the same jolt of recognition that I get when viewing the old toys I had. I am absolutely certain that we ate my birthday cake off of these, but in what year? I don't know.
Wooden gliders by various manufacturers (60's). These were only a quarter each and were therefore well within the purchasing ability of just about any kid. I had about 437 of 'em, growing up. I had some of the ones shown. I remember once, riding down Victory Boulevard with my dad in the family car, I held one out of the window and pretended to accidentally lose it; he then had to stop so I could recover it. I was mainly curious to see how it would fly without my actually tossing it. The results weren't worth Dad's effort.
Monkey Division Booby Trap Land Mine by Remco (1963). Remco made a collection of Monkey Division gear; the only thing I had that I can recall is this booby trap land mine. I distinctly recall setting it up in the overgrown jungle behind Jimmy Rutherford's house.
Green Ghost by Transogram (1965). The television ad made it look intriguing and creepy. The glowing pieces, the novelty of the game, faded quickly in the dark, making it a major disappointment. (My wife has the same memory from her childhood.) Transogram perpetrated a massive fraud on the game-buying public with the cover art for this one.
Horrorscope Movie Viewer by Multiple Products Inc. (c. 1964). An inexpensive flip-card viewer. I don't remember much about this save that I had one (when I saw an image on the Internet I had a flash of recall) and that I had it during the big monsters fad year of 1964. That's it.
Memory Card Matching Game by Milton Bradley (1966). I used to enjoy this game a lot, mainly because I liked the little pictures on the cards - the variety and rendering. My favorites were the mysterious owl near the window and the mosaic goldfish. I see from the box that this game was licensed to Milton Bradley by Otto Mayer Verlag, so I'm guessing that the designs are German. No wonder I liked them!
The Game of Life by Milton Bradley (1960 edition). Richard Springer and I played this one a lot in the Summer of 1967. It did not predict a successful existence for me as I normally wound up in the Poorhouse. One problem seemed to be that family planning played no part in this game; I kept getting the pin-like kids at random to stick in the limited seating of those little 1950's-style cars. (And, naturally, we named the girls "Peg." The wife pins were named for whomever it was we had crushes on at the time.) Still, it did not go unnoticed by me that one way to increase one's net wealth at the end of the game was to take the college route - something I did in real life. So I guess I have Art Linkletter, who "heartily" endorsed the 1960 edition of the game, to thank. (By the way, I have three children. None of them are named Peg. But I guess there's still the possibility that I could wind up in the Poorhouse.)
Gothic Chess Set by Peter Ganine (copyright 1947, 1957) - Pleasantime Games. Richard Springer taught me how to play chess, and my first set was the Peter Ganine "Gothic" chess set, produced in the late 1950's and the early 1960's. I have always admired the solemn-faced designs on this particular set, and, to this day, consider this the most artful and striking set I have ever seen. (Peter Ganine was a Russian-born sculptor working in Southern California.) For plastic pieces they were quite nice: on mine the white pieces looked like ivory, and the black pieces were like jet. I recall how we got them, in a memory that is something like a dream to me: my mother and I and a friend of hers named Diane were milling around in some kind of vacant lot. I must have been three or four, as this is a very old memory. Mom found this chess set in the lot somewhere. Even more oddly, I recall seeing the colors white and purple in conjunction with this, and getting the idea that these were "medieval" colors somehow. Perhaps I just made a connection between something we saw that was white and purple-colored and the chess pieces. Anyway, it was my primary chess set until Christmas 1968, when Mom bought me the deluxe E.S. Lowe Renaissance set in gold and silver-colored plastic. Unlike nearly everything else on this page, I still have them!
Coup d'Etat by Parker Brothers (1966). Every Christmas Eve my parents allowed me to open one present. As I was an only child and got lots of presents, it didn't take away from Christmas morning at all, so, on Christmas Eve 1968 I selected one present, and it was this one. I immediately liked the graphic art on the box, the obscurity of the French words and the little daggers. Obviously this was a quality game and I was intrigued. But what's that on the box? "An adult game for 3 to 4 players." The only person who ever played games with me was Richard from across the street - my parents rarely did. (And when Mom did she usually got frustrated when it appeared I was winning and claimed I was cheating somehow.) So I didn't meet the requirement for a minimum of three players. Also, I honestly tried to read and understand the directions, but they were beyond my twelve year-old brain. So this handsome game found a home on a shelf in my closet where it was never again opened. I think we sold it at a yard sale in the mid-Seventies.
Hands Down by Ideal (1964). When I was playing Richard Springer at board games during my board game phase (ages eleven to twelve), I found that I normally lost the games that required tactical thinking and won the games which required frenetic, sudden motion. I remember once making a list of all the board games in my closet and titling the list, "Games I Lose." The colorful Hand's Down, featuring "Slap-O-Matic" action, was not one of these. It seemed tailor-made to my hyperactive persona, as did another game, "Reflex," which it seemed I could not lose. After puberty I calmed down some.
The Last Straw by Schaper (1966). I think this must have been a Christmas present; I certainly would not be interested in it and didn't ask for it. But it turned out to be a lot of fun. One of the times when my parents knew best, I guess.
Booby Trap by Parker Brothers (1965). Everybody in the house and every one of my friends was better at this game than I; consequently I didn't like it. What's worse, it was made out of wood. I felt like a pre-schooler playing with a Fisher-Price toy.
Marble Maze by Hasbro (early 1960's). I think my parents bought me this toy when I was sick in bed with a fever. The reason I think this is because looking at the design reminds me of sickness and of smelling the rubbing alcohol Mom would wipe on my wrists to cool me down. I probably didn't have much interest in it when I was sick, and I didn't have any afterwards. The box states that it's "a real test of coordination." Since I didn't have any of that - or patience - it wasn't very fun. I was an easily frustrated child...
Playtime Water Colors by Binney & Smith (1960's). I thought those children's heads looked bizarre. I didn't do much water coloring with paints. I preferred crayons and markers.
Supercar by Remco (1963). I loved this show, and learned to draw the Supercar pretty well. I can remember making this toy move around on the flat kitchen floor. While I really liked the inserted disk that caused the car to make various patterns (and the futuristic plastic bubble packaging), I recall being disappointed with the minimum effort paint scheme. I also had this Supercar comic book and Little Golden Book.Super Helmet Seven (c. 1966). I don't ever recall wearing this dorky-looking thing. I do recall the removable flashlight, however. I liked the way it slid into the helmet. But as for actually wearing the thing... why? There were no caves in Burbank. I don't exactly recall whether I had this toy or a friend did.
The Roller Derby #10 Skate Board (c. 1964). These were very primitive versions of the ones available today. Mine was noisy and rough (note metal wheels), and had a nasty habit of stopping at cracks, leaving me traveling at speed. My friend Jimmy Rutherford and I went all over the neighborhood on these, and we always seemed to have nasty scrapes on our knees and legs as a result. I recall nearly constant scabs and pus, which I suppose was a boyhood thing.
The Wham-O Superball (1965). I remember taking one of these (the large one, not the small ones pictured) and giving it a mighty bounce against the sidewalk; it flew high up into the air (the "amazing zectron" property) and came back down into the rush hour traffic along Buena Vista Boulevard. I thought for sure I was about to cause a major accident - but didn't. The ball was lost, however.
The Wham-O Monster Magnet (1965). Eh. I liked the more powerful magnets I could get by tearing large speakers apart.
Motorific by Ideal (1964). These were battery-powered cars that raced along a "torture track" which included a crash test and a ramp into space as part of the gauntlet. The cars I had included a Rolls Royce (which I pretended was the "Burke's Law" car), a Lincoln, a Ford GT, a Jaguar XK-E (the quintessential 60's luxury sports car) and even the mundane Chevy Impala, which was my first Motorific car. My favorite, however, was the Ferrari. They were well-packaged in attractive, clear plastic cases that displayed the powerful CU-25 engine. (Click here for a view of the innards of the Motorific car, and here for some other cars and parts.) The only problem with these was that there was no control on the part of the driver; these cars moved along at their own pace. It was kind of boring, which is why I introduced falling Lego parts to the gauntlet.
The Batman Utility Belt (1966). Geez, I wish I had this again. I could auction it on e-Bay and buy some nice furniture!
Batman Pencil Box (1966). The main problem insofar as I was concerned with this item was that Batman didn't carry a gun. He was so awesome he could kick butt without one. DUH.
Ideal's Captain Action (1966). My wife calls these and G.I. Joes (which I never had) "Dolls for Boys," and she's right. One would get the basic posable Captain Action and buy outfits - okay, heroic costumes - to replace the ridiculous nautical-themed base costume. (A skipper's hat on a super hero? Yeah, right.) I quickly bought the Captain America and Batman costumes, and never had the slightest inclination to buy "Action Boy," the sidekick. (I hated super hero sidekicks.) Where dolls for boys differ from the dollies that girls play with, however, is in their fate when one got tired of them; what toy manufacturers call "play patterns." Mine wound up in the backyard "Vietnam Land," streaming bright scarlet enamel from various tortures inflicted upon him by the Viet Cong.
Monster bubble bath by Imco (1964). I demonstrated to friends that you could distort Frankenstein's features to make him look even more monstrous by holding lit matches under his face. A chronic over-user, I got, maybe, two baths out of this amount of bubble bath. (I never liked that stupid fish the Creature from the Black Lagoon was holding.) My interest in monsters is described here.
Monster Old Maid by Milton Bradley (1964). I vividly recall those lurid green and purple colors!
Monster wallets (1963). These came in a variety of designs: Frankenstein/Dracula (the one I had), The Mummy/The Wolfman, The creature from the Black Lagoon/The Phantom of the Opera, etc.
Monster pencil sharpener (1965). I had the Frankenstein one. I think I melted it in the back yard.
Aurora Monster Models (These get their own page.)
The Kenner Give-A-Show Projector (1963). I couldn't be bothered.
Fright Factory by Mattel (1966). I had this and the "Creepy Crawlers" set. The thingmaker, used to heat and solidify the plastigoop, was a great toy in itself. Essentially a heating element which had to be plugged into the wall, I enjoyed watching a round ball of spit dance around the surface and boil away. In the early Nineties I bought my son an updated version that used a lower-temperature formulation plastigoop that was heated by a 40-watt bulb. Feh.
The Beverly Hillbillies Car by Ideal (1963). Entirely missing the point, I removed the pots that hung on the front fenders and the rickety ladder on the back, causing as they did a slovenly appearance.
The Official Beatles by Remco (1964). I didn't really want these - I thought they were grotesque - but Mom bought them for me. It had to be admitted: there was a certain amount of neighborhood status in owning them.
John Guitar brooch, 1964 - John was my favorite Beatle. I don't recall having the other three.
The thing I really treasured, however, was a humble circular button featuring a group portrait of the Beatles encased in a yellow plastic border. I recall gazing at it in rapt adoration. I'm now... A FAN.
Piglet Breakfast Buddy (Nabisco, 1965). A prize in a cereal box. I didn't get the other characters, just piglet. He could sit on your spoon or cling for dear life onto the rim of your cereal bowl.
Coca Cola Soda Fountain by Trim Molded Productions (1953). As I recall, playing with one of these things meant you had to use it, restraint thrown to the winds, which meant consuming lots of Coke. Bottles and bottles of it.
Candy Cigarette Bank by Minor-Matic (1960). Coke, cigarettes... the next logical step would be Sen-Sens and a kid's playtime cocktail bar. I seem to recall using this toy as a makeshift control panel when the candy that came with the bank was used up. (As I parent, I don't buy toys that require consumables. I never forgave a friend of ours for once buying our kids a toy gumball machine.)
Hamilton's Invaders by Remco (1964). I didn't have this toy; my next door neighbor and boon friend Jimmy Rutherford did, and we got a lot of play out of it. (We did not, however, deign to wear that ridiculous helmet.) The grotesque monster bugs crawled across the kitchen floor when their strings were pulled.
Clackers (early 70's). I was too old for these but could think of deadly uses for them. $1.98 plus tax, medical attention not included.
The Thing bank by Poynter (c. 1965). You put a coin in the slot, a green hand slowly emerged from under the lid, grasped the coin and zip! snatched it into the box. A neat little novelty item.
The Kenner Car-Plane (c. 1962). I remember playing with this as Dad drove me to elementary school every morning, and thinking that it was a really cool toy. (After all, it utilized airflow and control on a small plane in a realistic way. What's more, it had a control panel, which was always a big hit with me.) The odd thing about it is, unlike many Baby Boomer toys, nobody seems to remember it. For a while I was doubting my memory of it, until an Internet correspondent sent me this image of an ad, and, later, one appeared on e-Bay. Anyway, I seem to recall that the plane part broke off or something, and that I mainly used it without the plane and simply watched the airflow gauge. Frankly, I'm surprised this toy never got banned by local police organizations, who couldn't have been thrilled by the notion of a kid controlling a toy from the side window of a car. (Were these things air-tested at 70 mph, I wonder? I can just picture them flying off cars rolling down the Golden State Freeway.)
Princess phone keychain (c. 1959). Not that I ever wanted a Princess phone. The phone company was successful in marketing these as a woman's luxury, which was enough to keep me away. But somehow I had one of these little promotional keychains. I liked it because it was aqua blue, a color I identified with space exploration. The slogan on the bottom says, "It's little... it's lovely... it lights!" I wanted the basic dial phone in aqua blue - but no, we just had the boring black one, the basic model.
Scottie keychain (1964). I got mine at a Halloween Fair the last year we lived in the Silverlake house. Mine was an emerald green, but from the same plastic mold as this one. Because I liked green so much I considered this cheap little plastic keychain as giving me good luck. Needless to say, neither this nor the Princess phone keychain were considered major toys!
Gumball machine skulls. These loopy little things were obtained from gumball machines. When you moved the skull a counterweighted pivot within moved and stuck out a tongue or eyeballs. Ingenious.
Airplane puzzle keychain (1960's). It's interesting the way images on e-Bay can jog memories... I had one of these. As I recall, you had to rotate the cockpit to release the other parts - then put 'em all back together again. Not exactly hours of fun but it must have made an impression on me!
Spirograph (c. 1969). A really cool toy and a lot of fun, my only problem with it was the cheapness of the supplied ballpoint pens.
Kennedy Half Dollar Bank (c. 1964). As my mother revered John F. Kennedy and collected Kennedy halves, I wound up with one of these from a local bank, I suppose. I have no memories of it other than that I had one for a while.
Time to grow up: Video toys
Time to grow up: Video toys
The Atari 2600 (1978). We bought an Atari 2600 for something just over $200 for Christmas, 1978. It was considered a rather expensive amusement, but we figured that since we had so much money coming in from the Lincoln Cafe we could easily afford it. Since I was 22 at the time I shall call the Atari 2600 my last toy. I have never bought a video game unit since, resisting all pressure to do so as my son grew up. (We did have PC games, however.) My favorite Atari games were Chess, Breakout (paddling a square ball at a rainbow) and some game involving tanks. Mom liked Blackjack, which I also played. I developed a taste for video blackjack during a November, 1978 trip to Las Vegas, where we had our Thanksgiving dinner. I had never been interested in gambling before, but one night I sat in a casino and played video blackjack and slot machines for hours - and caught some bug which led to a fever and some truly wicked flu symptoms. I was awake most of the night hallucinating, and was barely able to crawl into the back of the Cadillac for the long drive home. Anyway, the whole experience pretty much killed any lasting desire I had to waste time with video games, and it wasn't long before the Atari 2600 sat, dusty and ignored, on the top of the television.
The Sanyo VTC-9100 Beta Video Recorder (1978). At about the same time we bought the Atari we also bought this Beta video deck, which was the main way we announced to the world that the Clark Family had truly arrived as consumers. It was a major purchase, costing us about $1,200 (!), and I'm positive it was the first VCR on the block. I remember the early blank Beta tapes were something like $30 each! Nowadays, with video recorders built in China and available for under $50, it's hard to describe the thrill of owning and using early video equipment. I was used to audio cassettes and reel-to-reel tape decks, but this was something else entirely. It was solidly-built, heavy expensive video equipment, and I felt like an NBC tech using it. Anyway, I kept this thing in use until 1986, when it finally gave up the ghost and I replaced it with a Toshiba VS-443 Beta Hi-Fi Stereo unit. (And yes, I am one of those people who maintain that Beta was a superior format to VHS.)
By the way, I recorded a television broadcast of Paul McCartney's 1976 "Wings Over America" concert which aired in April, 1979. It was still watchable and of decent video and audio quality in 2001, when I finally threw out my last Beta machine. By then, the main interest with my home tapes was in watching the odd commerical that also got recorded... how ancient they appeared!