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Friday, December 14, 2012

Classic Christmas Toys

Here I am in 1970 or so unwrapping a gift while my dad
looks on from behind me with interest. By the way, I
still have that Santa you see hanging in the window.

“Yes! You touched the side. My turn.”

“No I didn’t. I got ripped.”

Five minutes after my sister and I opened our Christmas gifts as kids, we could be found playing Operation because invariably one of us would receive it every year. Remember that game? You had to use tweezers (which would seem to give females a distinct advantage now that I think about it) to remove body parts from a cartoon guy.

I saw a piece on the news the other day about the types of gifts kids used to receive versus the ones they receive today. The video panned past the game Operation and boy did that bring back memories. And that made me want to write a blog post about my favorite toys I received as a kid at Christmas. 

Maybe some of your favorites are on this list. If not, by all means, list your favorites in the comments section below. Here are mine, in no particular order:

Operation. The guy’s “spare ribs” were always the most difficult to remove because they were so tiny. The poor guy had some rather comically named body parts: broken heart, actual butterflies in his stomach, a bread basket, a pencil which symbolized writer’s cramp, etc. The game not only buzzed when you touched the sides with the tweezers, but it also vibrated and the guy’s nose flashed bright red, leaving no doubt that your turn was over. Although, you could always claim someone moved the game, which caused you to touch the side, or that the sensors weren’t set correctly.

Etch-a-Sketch. Somebody recently called this the iPad before the iPad. It allowed a kid to explore his imagination as he twisted and turned the knobs, trying to create something recognizable. I usually created words rather than images, which I guess makes sense since I went on to become a writer.


Hot wheels. My best friend Willie had the largest collection of hot wheels of anybody I knew. Whenever I would get a new one, I would head for his place and we would set up two parallel hot wheel tracks using extensions so they would go all the way down his front porch steps and onto the sidewalk. We raced our cars against each other, recording the results in a notebook. He had a hot wheel with the No. 43 on it that could not be beat. I learned later that it was modeled after Richard Petty’s car. No wonder it was undefeated!

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Before video games, we had a game that featured a green robot going up against a red robot. You could move them around the ring with the controller, hoping to land the perfect shot that would send your opponent’s head skyward. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like knocking your opponent’s head off (or up, as the case may be). There was a flaw in this toy though ... sometimes, if you moved your robot around violently enough, the other robot’s head would pop up without being touched. That made the entire game suspect in my young mind.

Nerf basketball (or football). Nerf basketball hoops didn’t last long around my house. They had a hitch on them so you could hang them over a door. I would invite a friend over and we would go to war in the kitchen. Of course, we had to try to prove how manly we were by trying to dunk on each other – hence the need for a new one every year. Nerf footballs were the bomb as well. When you are a boy, you can’t grip or throw a real football. But a Nerf football made you feel like you were Terry Bradshaw, and that reference probably dates me, but that’s okay.

Thinking about all of these classic toys gives me an idea for Christmas parties in which adults who are over 40 are gathering. Somebody could make a list of maybe 50 or 100 classic toys and all of the secret Santa gifts would come from the list. Imagine how much fun it would be to see two 45-year-old co-workers doing battle Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot style at the company Christmas party. 


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