Category: Christmas 2017

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.



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.

How I Remember Christmas


Like I’m sure it was for most kids, December 25th has always been one of those benchmark dates on the calendar. Along side my birthday, and the last day of school, it has always been a measuring point for the year. And for good reason, as I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the gift giving, gift getting, food, and fellowship that the magical holiday brings.

For me though, the highlight has always been about the time I get to spend with family. Especially my Dad. All through my years of growing up, my Dad traveled. He would be gone for roughly 300 out of the 365 days of a year. But his work always slowed down in December and he had a lot of time at home that lined up so well with our Christmas break from school. And while he himself never got overly excited about Christmas, he did so many little things to make it special for me. Things that most would not think are overly special, but so special to me, that I try to do the exact same things for my daughters every year now.

There is so much nostalgia built into the holiday season for me. So many different things about the holiday that trigger vibrant memories of some of the happiest times of my life. So here in this article, I want to share with you a lot of the little things that I enjoy during the Christmas season, their origins in the past, and some of the strong memories associated with them.

Continue reading “How I Remember Christmas”

The Mega Haul of Christmas 1986


Two weeks ago, I spent quite a bit of time working on, and posting the article, 1986:  The Year Santa Became Real, for the Christmas season here at Retro Ramblings. In it, I go into detail about how my Christmas experiences took a huge upturn in 1986, and mentioned several awesome toys that I got from Santa Claus that year. I didn’t have the space in the article to go into a lot of detail on each of those toys, so this whole article is dedicated to just that!

Cobra Terror Drome

The big one that Christmas morning in 1986 was the G.I. Joe Cobra Terror Drome. At that time in life, my world revolved around four toys. G.I Joe, Masters of the Universe, Construx, and Legos….with G.I. Joe being at the top of the list. Knowing this, it was no surprise to my parents that the biggest hit of the holiday season would be this huge G.I. Joe play set.

It had room for plenty of figures, so massive battles were a foregone conclusion. I stockpiled this sucker with every bad guy I had in my collection, and then began a full on assault with all of the good guys I could find. Even Bo & Luke Duke in their 3 3/4″ figure form and the General Lee got in on the action on the side of the Joes!


More Dukes of Hazzard:  Looking Back at Dukes of Hazzard Merchandise From the 80’s



Cobra Terror Drome

The initial battle was a stalemate, with Cobra barely able to hold off the tremendous might of the Joes, as they retreated back a little ways to regroup and plan for a second assault. Now of course this stalemate was only to ensure that the Terror Drome was intact to play with again the following day. I spent a while Christmas afternoon interacting with various parts of this set. The Cobra vehicles re-fueled at the re-fueling station built into it, while some of the top Cobra brass interrogated a captured Joe down in the holding cell area.

The shine of this toy didn’t wear off anytime soon, but I had gotten quite a few other new toys this Christmas that required my attention, so I had to let the action cool down a little so I could get on to some of the other stuff like…..

Continue reading “The Mega Haul of Christmas 1986”

Woolworth’s Christmas Book from 1954

Enjoy this old school trip back in time and check out Woolworth’s Christmas catalog from 1954.  It was a time of simpler toys, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t a large selection to choose from.  This would be our parent’s and grandparent’s version of a Sears Wish Book.  So flip through, and see what it would have been like for them.


Continue reading “Woolworth’s Christmas Book from 1954”

The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1950’s

Christmas Through the Decades


It doesn’t matter how far back through the decades you go, each Christmas season has had it’s “must-have” hot toy that all the kids wanted.  Cabbage Patch Kids dolls were hot in 1983, but Davy Crockett coonskin caps were just as hot in 1954.  We’re going to be taking a look back at the hottest toys for Christmas’s through time, and this time we’re looking at the 1950’s.  You can also check out the decade of the 1940’s.



Buzzy Bee

Buzzy Bee

Fisher-Price introduced the Buzzy Bee, a wooden pull-toy shaped like a bee whose yellow plastic wings not only rotated when pulled but made a delightful clacking sound.  Further delight was added by red wooden balls that waved at the end of coiled-spring antennae.


Hopalong Cassidy Lunch Boxes

Hopalong Cassidy Lunch Boxes

Hopalong Cassidy lunch boxes, inspired by the new TV hit, flew off the shelves.  Before December is out, over 600,000 had been sold.

Continue reading “The Hottest Christmas Toys Through the Decades: The 1950’s”

Vintage Holiday Recipes From 1967

I recently came across an issue of McCall’s magazine from December of 1967, and while getting lost in all the great advertising, I stumbled upon some fun and tasty looking recipes from that magical year.  The Christmas season always brings along it’s own unique blend of tasty treats that are usually reserved for the holiday and not many other times of the year.  So chances are these recipes only saw print a few times through the years.  Well today, we’re pulling these old recipes out and sharing them with the world!


While all the food on this spread looks pretty tempting, the only recipe given is for the Cream Wafers that are pictured at bottom right.  They seem easy enough to make, and look pretty dang good too!  The main thing I’ve picked up on in these old recipes, and you’ll see as we go along, is they call for butter and not margarine.  These are my kind of people right here!

Now I know that aluminum foil isn’t food, but Reynolds Wrap got in on the game with some “recipes” of their own to try and move more of their product by giving you ideas of things to do with it.  You can wrap a child’s present with it, Christmas candles look more “gala” when they have some foil curled around them.  From the looks of things, I guess bunching a big glob of it up and sitting the candle in it as a base works too.  It even says you can line your fireplace with it to reflect it’s glowing warmth.

Now this one is certainly one of my favorites, as it features the always delicious snack, Bugles!  It also features Whistles and Daisy’s, but they are no longer on the market, so we just have to settle for what we can get.  As much as I love Bugles, I am more than a bit disappointed I missed out on ever trying the other two offerings.

I’m not so sure about the dip though.  Cream Cheese, Blue Cheese, and onions mixed with Cheddar and other stuff doesn’t sound too appealing to me.  Maybe it does you.

Continue reading “Vintage Holiday Recipes From 1967”

The Golden Age of Department Stores at Christmas

In today’s world of specialty shops, discount superstores, and all the choices we have online, it’s hard to imagine the role the department store once played in American life.  Each town had one of these emporiums, housing thousands of square feet of merchandise beneath a single roof.  Located in the town’s central shopping district, the department store served as a kind of town square.  Wealthy people could not go to a “better” store, and poor folks would not be turned away.  As an economic blender, it was great.

Department stores also played a unique role at Christmas time.  Because their budgets, floor space, and potential profits were so much larger than smaller shops, they took the lead in marketing Christmas as an in-store event.  It cost a quarter to go to the movies, but for free one could linger for hours over fantasy windows, spectacular toy lands, mechanized villages, and red-suited Santa, all set against the backdrop of alluring and highly desirable merchandise.  Whole families trooped downtown each year to enjoy these spectacles, and a new annual tradition became part of millions of American lives.

More Department Store History:  How Retailers Changed When We Celebrate Thanksgiving


Retailed realized early on that windows made ideal picture frames for their merchandise.  In the 1920’s, Christmas windows took a revolutionary turn.  Ed Dean, display manager for Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis, began designing windows that were whimsical rather than merely merchandise-filled.  Although Macy’s in New York had long incorporated merchandise into various window themes, Dean’s windows skipped the merchandise altogether.  Among his creations were mechanical cutouts illustrating scenes from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a life-size elephant that swung its trunk and swished its tail, and several circus acts and nursery rhymes.  The idea was to give the windows a new theme each year, and to make each season’s offering grander and more alluring than the year before.  One year it was dolls, another the circus, still another nursery rhyme characters.

Soon other stores adopted the merchandise-free strategy, and fantasy windows became the rule of the day.  In 1946, Marshall Field’s in Chicago used its long parade of windows to tell the story of The Night Before Christmas from start to finish, which proved so popular with shoppers that the store offered the public a new story every year after that.  In cities across America, each season’s store windows became an annual news event, and town residents turned out to see the show.  The amount of free advertising, customer good will, foot traffic, and attention from the retail world was enormous.

Rudolph got his start as a story for one of these old department stores.  You can read his story on our Patreon page.
When Rudolph Mania Started Running Wild

Why are holiday windows always so secular?  Has commercialism completely drowned out Christmas’ true origins?  It turns out the opposite is true – retailers have always been cautious of anything that might seem to exploit religion.  In 1952, to satisfy customers who’d requested a nativity display, Dayton’s in Minneapolis created a sacred side of the store, keeping it separate from the Santa’s, sleigh bells, toy soldiers and decorated trees that enlivened the rest of the store.

Windows were by no means the only investment retailers made.  Awnings garlanded with holly, Santa’s and sleighs climbing store roofs, interior pillars wrapped with pine, elaborately decorated Christmas trees and Santa Villages and Toylands – all these were important in setting the holiday mood.  Marshall Field’s, in Chicago, was a leader in cellar-to-ceiling decorating.  In the 1940’s, instead of having windows to delight the children and decorations of various sorts in different departments, Field’s designers began decorating the whole store around and single theme.  This required not only ingenuity but massive effort as well – the store estimated that some 4,000 employees were required to complete the decorations each year.  The effect was dazzling, and people who might before have been content to see only the windows and the main floor now became interested in seeing the whole store, and as they walked through each floor they invariably made purchases.

The 1950’s and 1960’s were the heyday of downtown windows, with stores striving each season to surpass their previous year’s efforts and those of their competitors.  Stores that had kept their windows dark on Sundays began to light them up.  Eventually, by the mid-1960’s, states started to repeal their Sunday closing laws, and stores began to keep limited hours.

Christmas:  The Hottest Toys For Christmas Though the Decades:  The 1940’s

After the 1960’s, while large stores could still be counted on for interesting and delightful windows, soaring costs caused many retailers to scale back their efforts, to recycle decorations form one season to another, or rely on rented window decorations.  An even bigger factor may have been that new feature on the American landscape, the suburban shopping mall.  With branches of the main store located in the customer’s own neighborhood, there was no reason to lure shoppers downtown, and the advent of the sophisticated attractions like color television, animated movies, television specials, and later VCR’s and DVDs, made children just a little less excited about the prospect of pacing a long line of windows in the cold.