Tag: 70’s

Christmas Mornings of the Past, Part 1

No other time of the year holds more nostalgic memories for me than Christmas.  All my life – from a kid, up through today – I spend all year long looking forward to this time of year, and making plans to make it as special as possible for my kids.  The climax of the whole season is Christmas morning itself.  That magical time of the year when you get up real early, and rush to the Christmas tree to see what Santa Claus has left for you.

It seems that Christmas morning is kind of a tally sheet for the year doesn’t it?  Like, as a kid, you had all these things you wanted all year, and all those wishes would culminate in that one single morning.  If you got a lot of loot, or very cool loot, your year was a success.  If not, well…better luck next year kid.  At least that’s the way it went in my mind all those years ago.  I had a few of what I thought were less-than-stellar Christmas mornings, but then 1986 came along and changed all of that.

Nowadays, I like to look back on different people’s Christmas mornings of years past and marvel at how cool it must have been to be in their shoes on those mornings so long ago.

Christmas Morning

So first up, this kid looks pretty pleased to have gotten the Go Bots Command Center play set under his tree on Christmas morning.  I was a big fan of the Go Bots cartoon, but only ever had two of the action figures….Loco and Dive-Dive.  Now while I wish I had more of the figures, and would have loved the Command Center, I never put it on any of my Christmas lists because it wouldn’t have been very much fun without a lot of the action figures to go along with it.

In the background on his right, someone has gotten some kind of G.I. Joe play set, because we can clearly see the opened box.  I’ve gotta take a few points away from this kid now knowing that he chose to pose with the Go Bots toy when he could have been posing with the G.I. Joe one instead.

I can’t really tell what his brother is holding in the background, but just in front of it is a nice looking piece of gold ribbon, which indicates their Christmas presents were probably well wrapped and made for a very nice presentation.  And I am almost certain, that on the far right of this photo, you can see what is the box of a G.I. Joe Cobra Rattler!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that these kids had a pretty damn good Christmas.  A Go Bots play set, and a couple of G.I. Joe toys means a big Christmas morning, regardless of what other loot they may have found.

More Christmas Memories:  Making My Christmas Wish List From the 1986 Sears Wish Book

Man these kids really hit the jackpot!  You can clearly see a buffet of G.I. Joe play sets including the Cobra Rattler, Cobra Vamp, G.I. Joe Wolverine, and the G.I. Joe Dragonfly helicopter!  I don’t see any carded figures in the picture, but one can only assume these kids already have several of those.  I’m sure there was quite a battle fought between the Joes and Cobra later on this Christmas day.

More G.I. Joe:  My 5 Favorite Episodes of G.I. Joe

While this kids looks happy to have received the legendary Castle Grayskull, he doesn’t seem excited enough.  When I got my Castle Grayskull I ran around the living room shouting and jumping for joy.  I just don’t see that kind of enthusiasm pouring out of this kid.  It looks like there is a stack of boxes in the background that clothes are usually given in, so his senses may be dulled at the moment by opening all of those crappy presents before getting to the main event.

More He-Man:  Wax Pack Flashback – Opening a pack of He-Man Trading Cards From the 80’s

I bet these kids had one long, and awesome Christmas day filled with video game fun since they got the Atari Video Computer System that morning.  I just hope they got some cool games to go along with it.  I believe my brother had gotten his Atari for Christmas, but not I’m not sure as I can’t quite remember back that far.  But I do remember spending whole days playing it with him.

The one kid in this photo is handing off what looks to be a camera maybe?  I’m thinking that due to what appears to be a one of those old flashes that used to be on every camera.  Speaking of flashes, am I the only one who always loved the look of the long stack of flash cubes attached to the top of cameras from back in this time period?

So these three kids all look like they got exactly what they wanted for Christmas judging by the looks on their faces.  That poor dog in the arms of the little girl looks like he’s having a rough morning though.  I’d be willing to bet he was forced to play tea party or something with the girl and her new stuffed dog toy.

The kid in the cool red pajamas looks pretty bad ass on his new big wheel.  The particular one he is astride is the quite popular and sought after “Green Machine”.  That thing was pretty awesome due to it’s alternative steering versus tradition big wheel toys.

And the kid in the middle…the one after my own heart…holding up with pride his new set of Legos!  That would be the iconic Galaxy Explorer set.  My brother had that thing and I was never allowed to touch it.  What a douche.  Anyway, these kids look like they had a great day, and many days after that too thanks to the cool stuff they got for Christmas that year.

You can get a scaled down version of that cool space cruiser along with the book, Great Lego Sets:  A Visual History.  It is a fantastic look back at a lot of the most popular and well-remembered Lego sets of the 80’s and 90’s.  I highly recommend it.

We’ll do more of these Christmas morning photos next week, so check back then.  But you don’t have to wait that long for more retro Christmas content.  We’ve got fun stuff coming up each days this week, so visit often!

 

MeTV to Air Christmas Episodes of Classic Shows Every Sunday

It’s my favorite time of year!  The time leading up to the Christmas holiday is full of Christmas movies and TV episodes in my house, and MeTV is making that a little easier this year with their A Very Merry MeTV starting this Sunday.  For the next seven weeks, MeTV is presenting three hours of Christmas themed episodes every Sunday afternoon.  Check out the schedule below to find when your old forgotten favorite will be on.

Sunday, November 12

The Facts of Life “The Christmas Show” 2PM | 1C

The Facts of Life “Christmas in the Big House” 2:30PM | 1:30C

Mama’s Family “Santa Mama” 3PM | 2C

Mama’s Family “Mama Gets Goosed” 3:30PM | 2:30C

The Lucy Show “Together for Christmas” 4PM | 3C

The Lucy Show “Lucy the Choirmaster” 4:30PM | 3:30C

Sunday, November 19

The Facts of Life “Christmas Baby” 2PM | 1C

The Facts of Life “Pre-Christmas Card” 2:30PM | 1:30C

Saved by the Bell “A Thanksgiving Story” 3PM | 2C

Mama’s Family “An Ill Wind” 3:30PM | 2:30C

Happy Days “The First Thanksgiving” 4PM | 3C

Cheers “Ill-Gotten Gaines” 4:30PM | 3:30C

Continue reading “MeTV to Air Christmas Episodes of Classic Shows Every Sunday”

The Night Gallery

Night Gallery

“Good evening, and welcome to a private showing of three paintings, displayed here for the first time. Each is a collectors’ item in its own way-not because of any special artistic quality, but because each captures on a canvas, and suspends in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.”

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone had a cult following like few shows this side of Star Trek, and ever since the program’s cancellation in 1964, the die-hards had been begging for new episodes. They wouldn’t get them during Serling’s lifetime, but the king of eerie TV satisfied the masses with an all-new anthology series in 1970. He called it Night Gallery, and while it wasn’t exactly the same thing as The Twilight Zone-in fact, it was considerably more horror-tinged-it proved that there were plenty of chilling stories left to tell.

A made-for-TV Night Gallery movie in 1969 introduced the format: Serling once more served as host, introducing each segment of the show by walking the guests at home through a gallery of creepy paintings. Each had a story to tell, and everyone was either darkly comic or just darkly dark. Like The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery rose and fell on those individual stories, and there were a number of highlights. Among them:

“Eyes” – Directed by a young Steven Spielberg and starring Joan Crawford, this segment from the pilot movie has Crawford as a blind woman desperate to buy or steal a working pair of eyes.

“Pickman’s Model” – In late 19th century Boston, a woman becomes intrigued by a strange painter and his horrible works.

“A Fear of Spiders” – A callous food writer turns to one of the recipients of his callousness when he finds a terrifying spider in his sink.

“The Return of the Sorcerer” – Vincent Price plays a sorcerer looking to unravel the secrets of an Arabic manuscript, hoping to find clues about his brother’s mysterious death.

“Rare Objects” – A gangster with a price on his head thinks he’s willing to pay anything for safety, but then, he doesn’t know what “anything” might entail.

As an anthology, Night Gallery had a cast that changed with every segment, and again like The Twilight Zone, the players included several famous faces: Crawford, Price, Leslie Nielsen, Diane Keaton, Edward G. Robinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ozzie Nelson, Sally Field and many more. Initially, the series was part of NBC’s Four in One anthology hodgepodge, but by the fall of 1971, Night Gallery went solo.

The show’s popularity ebbed after the 1971-72 season – partly due to a shortening from one hour to a half-hour, partly due to conflicts between Serling and the producers and network – and after one more season of original episodes, the Night Gallery was closed. It may never have gained the same cult status as its Rod Serling predecessor, but Night Gallery lives on today, still chilling after all these years.

The Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Long before the phrase “virtual reality” was coined, wax museum caretaker Walter accidentally brought replicas of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man to life with his “crime computer.” The trio of leading men from horror’s golden age joined Walter to form the Monster Squad, dedicating themselves to a new after-life of fighting crime.

This show’s tongue-in-cheek attitude was reminiscent of the 60’s Batman series, but The Monster Squad didn’t reach the airwaves until the 1976-77 season, which was heavily laden with live-action series. Like many of its contemporaries, The Monster Squad featured a hip vehicle—in this case the squad’s van—and high-tech gadgets like the team’s belt communicators.

Character actor Vito Scotti played one of the villainous foes our heroes faced, a mad scientist dressed as a man on one side of his body and a woman on the other. Walter was played by Fred Grandy, who went on to TV fame as Gopher on The Love Boat. After ten years on that show, Grandy spent eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alas, The Monster Squad was not as long-lived, returning to the grave after only one season.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kolchak

It was woefully short-lived, but this horror/sci-fi series has become one of the most beloved series of its kind over time. First introduced in a 1972 made-for-television film called The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, a crusty old reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. The film, which had Kolchak investigating a vampire in Las Vegas, became the highest-rated television film of its time, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, found similar success. ABC subsequently ordered a series, which began its run in September of 1974.

McGavin continued to play the role of Kolchak in the new series, squaring off against a new otherworldly menace. Kolchak cut an intriguing and distinct figure, dressed in a light-blue seersucker suit and a straw hat. His personality was gruff and sarcastic and always put him at odds with authority figures. Vincenzo was his editor, who was driven to the point of ulcers by Kolchak’s penchant for bizarre stories. Emily Cowles was a fellow writer at INS who was friendly with Kolchak and also happened to be the only person he trusted.

The plotlines followed a consistent pattern: Kolchak would stumble across a series of grisly and mysterious killings and realize that something non-human played a role in the murders. Inevitably, the local authorities would want to keep them quiet, and Vincenzo would not believe Kolchak’s theory. Kolchak would risk life and limb to get to the bottom of the story and fight off the villainous menace in the process. Of course, the evidence would always slip through his fingers and thus cause others to not believe his story.

During the series’ run, Kolchak faced off with everything from vampires and werewolves to aliens and androids. The biggest favorite among fans of the show was “Horror In The Heights,” in which Kolchak stumbled across a demon while investigating a story about a rash of deaths among the elderly. He quickly discovered the culprit was a Hindu demon called the rakshasa that tricks its victim by taking on the appearance of the person he/she trusts most before killing them.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted one season, ending its run in August of 1975. However, it has become a huge cult favorite amongst fans of horror and science fiction. Many people even consider it to be a blueprint for the later and more successful The X-Files, which shared much with Kolchak in terms of style and substance. Even Chris Carter, the creator of that show, has acknowledged the important influence this show had on his work. In the wake of The X-Files’s success, all of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes have been released on video, including the two made-for-television films. As a long as there are viewers who like a good scare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker will always be in demand.

Sea Monkeys Were a Cool Concept

Sea Monkeys

There have been plenty of toys that allowed to children to put their natural creative energies to work. Legos, Erector sets, and countless other similar items let kids build elaborate kingdoms and complex machines to satisfy the need to create. Sea Monkeys took this process one step further and allowed more enterprising youngsters to actually create life. With the help of elaborate ads that seemed to appear in every comic book released during the late 1960’s and 1970’s, the scientific marvels known as Sea Monkeys became one of the most popular toys of all time.

Sea Monkeys are not actually monkeys, but they do come from the sea and are real living things (contrary to popular belief and urban legend). To be specific, they are “Artemia Salina,” or “brine shrimp” in layman’s terms. They were thought of as mere fish food for many years until Harold von Braunhut, a man who is famous among toy enthusiasts for inventing X-Ray Spex, discovered these marvels of the sea. He saw their potential as a pet and developed a simple, three-step kit that allowed aspiring young marine biologists to raise their own brine shrimp in a container of water.

Honey Toy Industries obtained the rights to Von Braunhut’s kit and began marketing it in 1960 as Instant Life. When it didn’t become an immediate hit, Von Braunhut came up with the brainstorm of advertising the kit in comic books. Von Braunhut also noticed that the little brine shrimp resembled monkeys when they grew to adulthood, so he added the phrase “Sea Monkeys” to the packaging of Instant Life. As a result, sales for the newly-named Sea Monkeys began to skyrocket, and Sea Monkeys ads became an ubiquitous presence in the ad pages of comic books everywhere.

By the 1970’s, Instant Life was one of the coolest toys a kid could own. As a result of its success, Honey Toy Industries changed its name to the more official-sounding Transcience Corporation. Also, Instant Life became known simply as Sea Monkeys, since the fanciful depictions of Sea Monkey families used in the ads had become the crucial selling point. Indeed, comic book-reading kids everywhere fantasized about raising their own kingdoms of these strange humanoid-looking creatures.


Check out Kirk Demarais’ Awesome Book, Mail Order Mysteries, For More Great Toys Like Sea Monkeys


Sea Monkeys gained additional hipness when they were packaged with special containers called Ocean Zoos. These mini-aquariums have since become the definitive home for Sea Monkeys. Sea Monkeys gained another home when the Deluxe Sea-Monkey Speedway was introduced in 1974. This device, which took advantage of the fact that Sea Monkeys swim against the current, included “tracks” so the Sea Monkey owner could raise champion Sea Monkeys. Another success, the Speedway led to follow-ups like Sea-Monkey Cycle Race, Sea-Monkey Ski Trails, and Sea-Monkey Fox Hunt. There was also the Incredible Sea-Bubble, a mini-aquarium on a chain that could be worn as a necklace.

The Sea Monkeys phenomenon had become an institution by the end of the 1970’s. Its success also inspired a follow-up pet from Transcience Corporation known as the Crazy Crab. They were actually hermit crabs, a land-dwelling scavenger species. Like the Sea Monkeys, they became a hit and inspired a craze. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Sea Monkeys moved on to new distributors like Larami and Basic Fun with middling degrees of success. They were no longer as hip as they were during their 1970’s heyday, but the novelty of Sea Monkeys remained strong enough to keep them selling on name-value alone.

In the mid-1990’s, Sea Monkeys made a triumphant comeback when they began being distributed by ExploraToys. Now that the toy was old enough to be retro-hip, both kids and the adults who grew up with the Sea Monkey phenomenon were buying Sea Monkeys. They have also transcended their comic-book ad origins to be sold in national toy-store chains. And as long as toy fanatics want to take their love of creating things to the next level, Sea Monkeys will allow them to “create life.”

Lawn Darts – The Most Dangerous Toy of All Time

Lawn Darts

Starting in the 1970’s, people began to cast a suspicious eye on the safety standards used in making toys. Parents and lawmakers began voicing their concerns and this led to new legal standards for what could and could not be sold to children at the toy store. Toys have become much safer over the years as a result of this, but a hazardous toy slips through the cracks every now and then and makes it to the market. One of the most notorious examples in recent memory is the case of Lawn Darts. These outdoor leisure items enjoyed a lengthy period of popularity, but quickly got yanked from the marketplace when its potential for danger became too obvious.

Lawn Darts began to appear in sporting goods and toy stores in the 1960’s and were made by various manufacturers (Sears Department Stores had their own Sears Lawn Darts, and so on). Also sold under the name “Jarts”, these items were 12 inches long, with a heavy tip made of metal on one end and decorative plastic fins at the other end. The metal tips were blunt so they wouldn’t cut the hands of the person tossing them, but remained pointy and heavy enough to stick in the ground they were thrown at.

Lawn Darts

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