Category: Best of…

Some Awesome Toy Ads From 1984

I was flipping through some old comics books the other day, and came across some random title from 1984.  As I was flipping through it, I came across a bevy of kick-ass old advertisements.  These are too cool not to share, so here are five toy ads that I think you’ll like.

Masters of the Universe Monogram

We’re starting things off with my favorite one of the batch.  Up until I saw this, I never had any idea that Monogram made model kits of the MOTU vehicles.  I was big into model kits back in the day, and He-Man was my hero, so how this escaped me for all this time is mind-boggling.  This Talon FIghter and Attak Trak just look bad-ass, and I wonder if any of these kits could still be found on ebay?  If so, I bet they will cost a small mint.  I’m going to have to look into that.

Power Lords

So I must have missed out on Power Lords.  Knowing what I do now, I know that the line debuted in 1983, and each of the figures featured a “shape changing” ability.  Or better stated, you pushed a button on the figure and the top half would spin around revealing a Lord Power side.  These figures look cool, but I’m just not sure of the playability.  I mean, would you have played with these guys by themselves, or tried to mix them in with other figure lines?  If this dud walked up to Skeletor and flipped around like that, Skeletor may just laugh at him. Or on second thought, maybe he would recruit him to help take over Castle Greyskull.  In any event, the ad itself is pretty rad.

Matchbox Puffy Stickers

Back in the day, I was kind of into stickers in general, but puffy stickers were the cream of the crop.  I had a binder that i put loose leaf paper in, and then plastered all the pages with stickers.  I called it my “collection”.  And Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars were a go to toy for me.  I don’t remember this promotion at all, and that sucks because my old man would be a car every week, but I guess we never sent away for the free stickers.

In case you missed it, quite a while ago I did a piece called 5 Fun Matchbox Toys.  Check it out.

Remco Toys

Now here’s an ad for several of the Remco action figure lines.  Most of their ads you see feature multiple figures from the same line, but this is just a glimpse at several of their offerings.  The Warlord line was a lot of fun, but I never had any of the Hercules or Arak, and until I saw this ad I had no idea they made Sgt. Rock figures.  That’s pretty badass.  My brother and I would have worn out Sgt. Rock figures if we had them back then.

He-Man Atari

We’re ending this the same we started it, with a Masters of the Universe ad.  This one is quite the beauty too, as it’s an ad for the Masters of the Universe game for Atari.  Up until about a year ago, I was oblivious to the fact that He-Man was on Atari.  This is another one I truly wish I could have had as a kid.  Of course, I’ve heard that the game was quite tough, and really only featured you trying to fly the Wind Raider.  Still, I wish I could have experienced it for myself.

If you’re itching for more of these cool old toy ads from 1984, go check out our Patreon page where I’ve put the rest of the ads I found.  You can check it out here.  If you’re interested in helping support Retro Ramblings by becoming a Patron, you can get access to exclusive content for just $3.00 a month.

Saturday Morning Cartoons of 1985

Saturday mornings in 2019 are a far cry from the Saturday mornings of 1985.  Hell, it’s been that way since the late 1990’s when the networks started phasing out their cartoon lineups in favor of other programming on Saturdays.  I’m not sure what caused the change unless it was the fact that cable television was a staple in most homes by that time.  But one thing I do know, Saturday mornings in the ’80s and early ’90s were the bomb for kids.  All three of the big networks stuffed their Saturday morning lineups with some of the best cartoons ever produced, and we ate them up!

We all had our favorites, and we all had the ones we weren’t fond of.   Channel hopping was commonplace for us kids on Saturday mornings as our favorites were usually spread across all three networks.  And back then, that took a little effort.  I had to keep getting up to change the channel between shows because I don’t remember having a television with a remote control until the late ’80s.  Not that it really mattered though because it was worth the effort to get to the cartoon I really wanted to watch.

Let’s take a look at the Saturday morning cartoon lineups from 1985 and talk about what our favorite offerings were!

1985 NBC Saturday Morning Cartoons

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The Story of McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

Shamrock Shake

We are deep into the month of March, which means we’re also deep into Shamrock Shake season.   Have you had yours yet?  Me, I’ve had several, and hopefully will have several more before they’re gone for another year.   The Shamrock Shake has been a tradition for me for many years now, and apparently, I’m not alone in my love them, as McDonald’s estimates they have sold over 70 million of them since their debut in 1970.  Well, McDonald’s official story is that it debuted in 1970, but a McDonald’s franchise owner in Connecticut, Harold Rosen, claims he invented the shake in 1966.

But for the point of this, let’s go with the official McDonald’s story.  Even though it was created in 1970, it was 1974 when the Shamrock Shake entered itself into the Pantheon of McDonald’s products.  Around that time, the daughter of Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill was battling Leukemia.  Fred and his family wanted to stay as close to her as they could during her treatments at the hospital, so they camped out on the sofas and benches in the waiting rooms of the hospital.  Fred Hill saw many other families doing the same thing and knew there just had to be a better way.

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Check Out All 24 Pages of He-Man Toys from the 1986 Mattel Toy Retailer’s Catalog

Does it get much better than this?  If it does, I’m kind of at a loss as to what that would be.  What we’ve got here are scans of all 24 pages of the Masters of the Universe section of the 1986 Mattel Toy Retailer’s catalog.  This is the thing that every major retailer in the world got a copy of.  Every year it was packed full of all the latest toys from Mattel that those retailers could order to stock their stores with.  Not only does it feature some of the very best images of all the toys for us to salivate over, it also has cool little details like which ones have TV advertising campaigns and other tie-ins.  The whole book itself is truly unique and a work of art, but the following pages in particular are astounding.  I’ve never seen so many He-Man toys pictured in one place before.

Take your time, and savor each and every scan below.  I’m sure you’ll see tons of He-Man toys you wanted, ones you wanted but never had, and maybe even a few you missed out on entirely all those years ago.  If you see something that tickles your fancy, drop a line and the comments and we’ll all talk about it.  If you see a particular scan you’d like to use on your own page or social media account, be my guest.  It’s not required, but a friendly link back to this page would always be appreciated.  Oh, and when you’re done wetting your pants over these He-Man pages, you may want to have a look at the M.U.S.C.L.E. pages from this same book that I uploaded a while back.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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The Best of Retro Ramblings for 2018

Well, 2018 is on it’s last legs, and 2019 is almost upon us.  Being the end of the year and all, I wanted to take a minute to look back at the year that was here on RetroRamblings.com.  I mean, all the big stuff like Sportscenter, CNN, and Time Magazine do it, so why not me too?  Anyway, I pulled up the stats from the site over the last year and took a look at the most popular stuff that went up on the site in the past year.

The results weren’t really too surprising, but it’s always fun to look anyway.  So below you’ll find the five most popular features that dropped in the last 12 months.  Maybe you’ve already seen them multiple times and have no interest, but maybe you enjoyed them so much you want to revisit them.  Hell, you may be new around here and missed these nuggets of nostalgia.  Either way, check them out below, and we hope you have a Happy New Year!

 

Diablo Sandwich

#1:  Recreating and Reviewing the Diablo Sandwich from Smokey and the Bandit

Unfortunately, we lost the great Burt Reynolds this year, and the hole in my heart has yet to close.  Not too long before he passed, my youngest daughter joined me for a video on our food review channel on YouTube, Our Table, and we searched out how to recreate the sandwich from the iconic film.  Once we posted it on YouTube, I just couldn’t resist adding the video to Retro Ramblings as well.  Turns out, a lot of us old retro lovers are big fans of the film, and the post rocketed to the top of the charts, and has been getting steady views ever since.

I know it is a personal favorite of mine, and I’m glad so many of you have found enjoyment from it as well.  My favorite part of the video is the running gag where my daughter dressed up like a snowman instead of “The Snowman”.  She’s just too cute.

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#2:  Do You Remember Green Stamps?

There are few things in this world that can bring a ton of memories back to the surface like seeing old Green Stamps.  My mom was a disciple of these things, and I relate several stories based around these things in the post.

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#3:  Forgotten Food:  The Fast Food Edition

If you’ve spent any time on this site at all, you already know that old food holds a special place in my heart.  I’ve written several things in the past just gushing over food that is no longer available to us.  Well, in this piece, I rambled on about four old fast food items in particular….The McDLT, The SuperHero Burger, The New York Patty Melt, and the infamous Chilito.  This one is going to make your mouth water!

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Press Your Luck Michael Larson

#4:  Big Money No Whammies!  The Michael Larson Story

Michael Larson turned the game show world on it’s head when he made his infamous appearance on the Press Your Luck show.  No one contestant had ever went on the streak that he had, but when it came down to it, not everything was on the up and up.  This post is probably one of the most factual posts I’ve done all year.

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#5:  Retro Round Table:  Favorite Stores at the Mall

Early in the year, I started this little thing where I invited several of my favorite retro-minded friends from around the internet to join me in discussing a particular topic.  We had a lot of fun, and covered several subjects, but this one proved to be the most popular.  There were several good stores remembered in this one, and some I never had the joy of visiting.  Give it a look and then add your own memories in the comments.

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Revisiting the Christmas of 2017

Christmas 2017

Ah, 2017.  It was a magical time indeed.  Why, it seems like it was only a year ago that it happened.  Wait…it WAS just a year ago that it happened.  Generally I try to keep this retro site grounded at least 25 years in the past, but I’m making an exception this time.  Hey, it’s my blog, I can do whatever I want, right?  I’m glad you agree.

I’m going back in time to just one year ago for a very good reason though.  In the last 12 months, this blog has seen a healthy growth spurt in new visitors.  So I imagine there are quite a lot of folks visiting the blog these days that weren’t coming around these parts last Christmas.  I put out a lot of Christmas goodies and nostalgic memories last year, and I would hate for the newer Ramblers to be deprived of all the joys that the Christmas season of 2017 brought to the rest of us.

So I thought I would go back and revisit all of those crazy good times, pull it all back front and center, and make it easy for everyone to go back to the Christmas’ of their childhood.  So what you’ll find below is a rundown and recap of everything I put up on the blog last Christmas.  If you’re new around here, get yourself a cup of warm apple cider or cold egg nog, put on your robe and slippers, and settle into your favorite chair by the fire and let these features take you back to the glory days of childhood…Christmas!  Specifically Christmas’ of the 80’s and early 90’s.  I hope you find several things you enjoy.  Just click on any title to be taken to that piece.

 

The Retro Rambler’s Christmas Gift Guide

What do you get for the young at heart?  The man or woman on your list who loves to live in the past is sure to be happy with anything you gave them from these fine retro selections.  I curated the list myself, and there is plenty of variety, whether it’s stuff to bring memories back, old school tunes, toys of yesteryear, and even some movie selections.  Since this list is a year old now, a few of the items may no longer be available.  Disclaimer:  All of these items are links to Amazon products that I would receive a small percentage of if you should buy them.

 

How I Remember Christmas

This is a selection of takes on various things that I’ve always associated with the Christmas season since I was young.  I was fortunate to enjoy many wonderful Christmases, and there are even some of my personal old Christmas photos included.  Maybe you enjoyed a lot of the same things through the years?

 

Making My Christmas Wish List From the 1986 Sears Wish Book

Man did this thing really bring back the memories!  I sat down and went through the old Wish Book finding things I wanted to add to my wish list just like I did every year back then.  And the selections I made weren’t just through the eyes of a child.  Heck no, this list was made by adult me with things I would still love to find under my tree these days!

 

The Year Santa Became Real

This is probably the most personal thing I’ve written for the site.  It’s a story of the magical Christmas of 1986, and the years preceding it as well.  This thing will tug at your heart, and make you believe in the full magic of Christmas.  Hell, it should probably be made into a movie someday.  I better get started trying to figure out who to cast as a young Retro Rambler.

 

Hot Wheels Snake Mountain Challenge

The Mega Haul of Christmas 1986

Following on the heels of The Year Santa Became Real, I look back in depth at the presents I got that year.  If you love tales of G.I. Joe, Construx, Masters of the Universe, and other such legendary toys, then this one is certainly for you.

 

Christmas Mornings of the Past

I didn’t spend all my time focusing on my own Christmas magic, I even went so far as to take a peak into the Christmas mornings of other kids from back in the day.  With the help of Google, I found all kinds of pictures taken by various families in various parts of the country on Christmas mornings of the 80’s to see what all those kids found under their trees.  Some of them really hit the jackpot!

 

5 Classic Christmas Commercials

To me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole season every year is the endless supply of Christmas movies, specials, and TV episodes.  As much as I remember all the cool offerings on the tube each year, I can also clearly remember several commercials that I saw year after year in the middle of them.  I take a little dive down the rabbit hole with some of those commercials.

 

Woolworth’s Christmas Book from 1954

Sears didn’t always corner the market on gift catalogs through the years.  Here, I pulled out this old Woolworth’s book from the mid-50’s and scanned the whole thing in so everyone could see what was being offered to parents to buy for the little ones back then.

 

Hottest Christmas Toys of the 1940’s

After going through the Woolworth’s book, I got a big old hankering to see what else was popular long before I was born.  As it turns out, a lot of the toys I played with in the 80’s got their starts over 40 years earlier.  This thing was an eye opener, and you really owe it to yourself to check out what the “Tickle Me Elmo” was for each year of the 40’s.

 

Hottest Christmas Toys of the 1950’s

After I wrapped up the 1940’s edition, I continued on into the 1950’s, and once again, I was quite surprise to see so many toys I recognized.

 

The Golden Age of Department Stores at Christmas

Learning about all those toys from the 40’s and 50’s got me nostalgic for a time I can only fantasize about.  You know how Ralphie and his family go out to see the window toy displays at the beginning of A Christmas Story?  This little ditty right here explains and expounds on that magical era.

 

Bugles

Vintage Holiday Recipes from 1967

One of the most popular things I put together all of last year was this recipe book.  It was actually an insert in a 1967 issue of McCall’s Magazine that took out and scanned, and put some personal thoughts with.  If you are excited to learn what you can do with Bugles with make an impression this Christmas season, give this a look.

 

Drink Hot Dr. Pepper as an Old School Holiday Treat

I know what you’re thinking….that sounds disgusting.  Actually it’s not, and it’s the perfect compliment to many of the recipes found in the feature above.

 

Classic Advertising:  Christmas Edition

A collection of Christmas themed ads for some of the all-time iconic products from through the years.

 

Retro on the Web:  Christmas Edition

Every so often, I share a whole big old list of links to other great retro content around the web.  Well, I put together this mammoth Christmas edition special.  Once you’ve finished reading all of these things of mine I’ve listed for you, then check out this list and you’ll find many more hours of retro Christmas goodness to enjoy.  It’s a whole holiday season’s worth of reading all wrapped up in one neat little feature.

 

Well, that was the best of what I put out last Christmas season.  I hope you enjoy all of if.  Keep your eyes glued right here to Retro Ramblings for some more awesome (hopefully) stuff this Christmas season.

Big Money No Whammies! The Michael Larson Story

Press Your Luck Michael Larson

 

A few weeks ago, Jason Gross released another episode of his Rediscover the 80’s podcast.  Along with frequent co-host Wyatt, they reminisced about their favorite game shows from their youth, and Press Your Luck came up.  Jason started relaying to Wyatt bits and pieces of the story of Michael Larson and his incredible performance on an episode from the mid-80’s.  I remember the episode well, and had since learned more about, so I thought I would put a piece together to detail the incredible story of how one man rose up and conquered a game show.  So, for your approval, I submit to you Big Money No Whammies:  The Michael Larson Story.


Michael larson

Back in May of 1984, a 35-year-old former ice-cream truck driver from Lebanon Ohio named Michael Larson flew to California to audition for the CBS game show, Press Your Luck.  Michael was no ordinary contestant though.  He was a man who had spent quite a lot of time studying the show, and was more than prepared when he got his break to appear on the show.

Most people who get to be contestants on game shows spend a fair amount of time preparing for them.  Larson had went well beyond what a normal contestant would though.  He had filled his home with televisions that he never turned off.  He would watch for hours on end, trying to find ways to get rich, spending most of his time focusing on infomercial schemes and game shows.  After searching for countless hours, he finally found his angle.  He would “press his luck” to earn his fortune.

The premise of the Press Your Luck game show was simple.  There was a rectangular game board that was filled with squares that indicated different cash amounts.  The contestants would take turns “spinning” the game board.  The squares would light up in what seemed to be a random order, and the player would press a button to stop the “spin”.  Lights would illuminate the square they stopped on, and they won whatever amount was in that square.  In addition to cash prizes, there were also other prizes like vacations, pool tables, or sailboats for example.  The squares to stay away from though, were the “Whammy” squares that featured a little cartoon drawing of a devil that would wipe out their entire winnings.  The players would amass as much money and prizes as they could, try to keep their turns going by winning as many free spins as possible, and trying to avoid Whammies at all costs.

Press Your Luck Game Board

But after watching the show for hours on end, Larson realized that the blinking board wasn’t exactly as unpredictable as it appeared to be.  With the use of VCR technology and a whole lot of pausing and rewinding, he discovered that the board followed five distinct patterns, which he was able to memorize.  He knew that if he could only get onto the game show, he would be able to control the board in any way he wanted….stopping on big money and free spins without landing on the dreaded Whammies….and he could make a fortune.

Larson didn’t really have any money though, so to even get on the show, he had to borrow air fare from his home in central Ohio to California, and he bought the shirt he wore on the show at a thrift store for just $0.65.  With that part of the plan all set, all he had to worry about was actually getting picked to be on the show.  He had watched more than enough episodes to know what kind of contestant the producers were looking for.  He knew that he couldn’t look cocky or confident, so during the screening process, he acted perky, excited, and self-deprecating.  The act worked, because he made it onto the show the same day he auditioned.  He continued his act from his audition onto the show….being overly excited, bouncing in his seat, cheering on his fellow competitors, and even taking shots at himself when asked personal questions by the host, Peter Tomarken.  At one point, Tomarken asked Larson what he’d do with the money if he won, and Larson responded, “hopefully I’ll make enough so I won’t have to drive the ice-cream truck next summer.”

Michael Larson

After the first round of generic questions that were always asked in order for the contestants to earn spins, Larson was the first to get his turn on the board.  On his first spin, he stopped on a Whammy.  This was likely part of his plan to avoid suspicion since he had no money to lose to a Whammy.  On his next spins, he collected a modest $2500.  His two opponents on the show, Ed Long and Janie Litras, earned $4,080 and $4,608 respectively.  That ended the first round, and after a commercial break, it would be Larson’s turn on the board once again.  He wouldn’t be so modest with this set of spins.

On his first spin, he hit one of the best spots on the board:  $4,000 plus a Free Spin.  He followed that up with $5,000 and a Free Spin.  Next was $1,000 and a Free Spin.  And he just kept going.  He spun the board 40 consecutive times, and never hit a Whammy.  Not only was he not hitting Whammies, he kept purposely landing on the big money squares that also contained Free Spins.  Normally, contestants would hit a Whammy somewhere between 5 and 10 spins, but Larson shattered that average with his amazing performance.  When he finally decided to pass his remaining spins, he had racked up $102,851 and a couple of trips and other prizes.  The cash amount was so large, the show had to drop the dollar sign from his podium display, because it was only designed for 5 digits of earnings, but Larson had shocked the system and ran his winnings up to 6 digits.

Michael larson

For his first 15 spins or so, the mood on the set was electric.  The crowd was cheering him on to keep spinning, his fellow contestants were shocked and amazed at his performance, and host Peter Tomarken was simply astounded.  But you know who wasn’t excited?  The producers back in the control room, that’s who.  It didn’t take very long for the producers to suspect that not all was on the up and up.  They quickly assessed that Larson wasn’t just lucky, but that he had some kind of system in play.  Unfortunately for them, there wasn’t anything they could do about it because as far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any rules.

As Larson continued to rack up the big money and free spins, the mood of his fellow contestants changed.  You could see they were losing their patience as all they could do was sit there and watch him play.

 

Press Your Luck Scandal

Michael’s turn took so long, that one single half-hour episode couldn’t contain his entire turn, so it had to be broken up into a two-part episode.  Even though they weren’t happy with his performance, the producers knew that this was newsworthy, and could potentially be a ratings grabber if advertised correctly.  To have enough content from the game to completely fill two episodes, Tomarken recorded an interview with Larson.

Normally, winners on Press Your Luck were invited back on the following episode to defend their title, but that offer was not extended to Michael Larson.  CBS rules stated that any contestant who’d won more than $25,000 couldn’t come back.  That little rule robbed the world of seeing just how far Michael Larson could go.

The two episodes aired on Friday June 8, and Monday June 11, 1984.  That was the only time those episodes would see the light of day for almost 20 years.  CBS was so embarrassed by what had happened that they locked the episodes away in their vault.  In later years, when USA and the Game Show Network bought the syndication rights to air old episodes, CBS refused to let them air the Michael Larson shows.

So What Happened to Michael Larson After Press Your Luck?

Since Larson hadn’t really done anything illegal, he was allowed to keep his $110,237, of which he had to pay $30,000 in taxes.  After returning home, he put $30,000 into a real estate venture that ended up being a Ponzi Scheme, so he had quickly lost over half of his winnings.

In November of 1984, Larson hit on his next big money-making idea.  Everyday, a radio station in Dayton Ohio would host a contest where contestants could win a cool $30,000.  They would read off a set of serial numbers from a $1 bill, and if you could find the $1 bill with the matching number, you would be the winner.  Since the radio station allowed several days to find each bill and collect the winnings, Larson thought he had time to sort through plenty of them and find a winner.

Larson deposited the remainder of his Press Your Luck winnings into several banks, and then withdrew all of it in $1 bills.  He had so many bills that he bundled them, and stored them in trash bags and burlap sacks.Once he sat down and started sifting through bills looking for winners, it didn’t take long for him to figure out that it would take a week or more just to go through half the money he had on hand.  He put half of the money back in the bank, and kept about $40,000 on hand for the contest.

Eventually, staring at serial numbers all day can make you tired and cranky, so he and his female friend decided to go see friends at a Christmas party.  While they were at the party having a good time, Larson’s house was broken into and robbed, meaning all of that cash was stolen and now gone.  Larson suspected that his female friend had a hand in the robbery, and their relationship deteriorated quickly after that.  Eventually, after fearing for her life with Larson around, she kicked him out.

Larson bounced around from job to job after that, eventually ending up as an assistant manager of a Wal-Mart.  In 1995, he suddenly picked up and left Ohio.  Family and friends later discovered that he was under investigation for his part in a lottery scheme that robbed over 20,000 people out of over $3 million dollars.  He was never prosecuted for the crime, but eventually passed away of throat cancer in 1999.

Remember how I mentioned earlier that CBS locked the episodes away in their vault for almost 20 years?  Well, they finally agreed to let them air in 2003.  That year, the Game Show Network produced a documentary about Larson’s incredible game called Big Bucks:  The Press Your Luck Scandal, which included footage from those episodes.  

On the same night the documentary aired, GSN broadcast a special edition of their Press Your Luck revival series called Whammy!.  They invited back Larson’s competitors from 1984, Ed Long and Janie Litras.  The third contestant on  the show was Michael’s brother, James Larson.  And wouldn’t you know who won the pony….James Larson walked away the winner, leaving Long and Litras to feel disappointed at the hands of a Larson once again.

If you would like to relive the incredible series of events on the game show, you can watch both episodes below.

And why stop there?  Go ahead and watch the 2003 episode of Whammy! featuring Michael’s brother James.