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!
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!
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…..
By the fall of 1986, my thoughts were starting to turn to the coming Christmas season, and anticipation was starting to build for the holiday. The hope of children isn’t easily pushed to the side, but back in those days, I would be lying if I said that Christmas didn’t feel a little lacking.
Admittedly, I personally never felt slighted on Christmas morning. Whatever was under the tree from Santa Claus always left a lasting impression on me, even if I sometimes felt the little internal tug of wanting a little bit more. But when I would return to school, and see and hear about all the cool things my friends and others had gotten for Christmas, I would get a little jealous.
I was a good kid. I never caused trouble at school, and I definitely knew better than to cause trouble at home. I did my chores and I ate my vegetables, so why did I seem to be farther down Santa’s Nice list than some of the other kids? “Jonathon pushed Samantha down and hurt her arm”, “why did he get a huge Lego set and I only got a trumpet?”. “Zach punched me in the arm all year…hard.” “Why did he get a cool G.I. Joe HISS Tank and all the Dreadnoks figures and I ended up with a set of cars?” Such are the worrisome wonderings and questions of a kid who is not aware of all the comings and goings of adulthood.
What I didn’t know or understand back then, and actually I’m still learning and gaining a greater perspective on now, is that times were very tough for my family in the early eighties. My Dad was a self-employed business man. He bought and sold new and used conveyor belts to coal mines, and as the coal business went, so did my family’s financial well-being.
1983 was a very tough year. My Grandfather’s alcohol addiction was in the last stages of consuming his life, and my Dad spent more time helping my Grandmother, both emotionally AND financially, than he did on the business. The first week of December, my Grandfather passed away. Christmas was lean due to dealing with the emotional struggles of losing someone close, and the fact that so much time had been spent away from the business.
1984 came along, and so did the large-scale United Mine Workers of America strike in West Virginia…..primarily against the A.T. Massey Coal Companies and subsidiaries. West Virginia was always the bread basket of my Dad’s business. When strikes occurred, it crippled his business and our financial well-being for quite some time, and unfortunately, this strike would not be over quickly.
1985 came, and the strike was still on. It wasn’t resolved until late in the year. Too late for lost income to be made up. Several straight years of lean and underwhelming visits from Santa Claus was wearing on my faith in the man.
But then came 1986. The strike had been resolved, and with the mines back in full-time operation, orders poured in from all sides. It was a VERY good year. Not so coincidentally, Santa seemed to fill his sleigh completely just for my family. I guess he was making up for lost time.
Now that we’re past Halloween, it’s time to start turning our attention to Christmas! I know to some it may be early, but ever since I was a kid, you always had to get an early start on the Christmas season. That’s because back then, the annual Sears Christmas Wish Book would arrive in the mail in mid-October. I’d spend days on end pouring over all of that years offerings and circling all the cool stuff I wanted.
So in that grand tradition, let’s take a trip back in time to 1986 and re-visit the pages of that years Wish Book, and make a list of all the cool stuff I would have liked to receive that holiday season!
What better way to stay warm in the coming winter than with a sweater showing your support for your favorite NFL football team? I imagine these looked nice back in their day, but I can also see the word “tacky” written all over them in the mid-90’s. But these days, they have a cool retro look and I would happily parade around town sporting one of these. Add this to my list this year honey. Let me get a 49ers one in XL.
As for whats available these days, I kind of dig these intentionally ugly NFL team sweaters.
Boy, did my parents ever regret getting me a drum set like this. For probably 12 solid hours after getting it for Christmas, I banged away on it. But unfortunately for me, the quality of the drum faces were just thick paper, and I busted all of them within two days of getting the set for Christmas. Honey, add this to the list as well so I can relive those glory days.