Hot Wheels Sto and Go Playsets

Oh man, what a rush of nostalgia this past weekend. I’m sitting on the couch watching college football, and at the same time, checking out the TRN Slack Channel. It’s where everyone at The Retro Network congregates online and share all kinds of retro stuff and family life with each other.

So anyway, I’m checking it out and come across a picture that Jason had posted of his latest thrift store find. It was the Hot Wheels Sto and Go “City” playset. This particular playset holds a special place in my nostalgic heart for reasons I’ll explain in just a bit, but first, let me explain what a Sto and Go playset was for those who may not know.

In the early 1980s Hot Wheels started releasing their Sto and Go playsets. It was a playset that doubled as its own carry case. You could carry it around and when you wanted to play, you just popped it open, pulled out some cars, and away you went on whatever adventure your mind could come up with. All of the Sto and Go playsets had a theme.

The first one released was the Service Center. My brother owned this one and being in the same house, of course, I got to play with it. It was more fun than just imagining that you were taking your cars to the gas station or to get them washed, but in comparison to the other sets they would release, I found it a little lacking in the fun department.

The only one I personally owned was the Construction Site playset. It was great fun when you owned numerous construction vehicles as I did. That crane you see in the picture was the most fun part of it. I used that crane to lift so much stuff to the top of the playset, that I almost broke it on numerous occasions. When the weather was bad, and I couldn’t take my construction cars outside, I could always bust this out and let the good times continue.

The City Sto and Go playset was the one I really adored. Neither me nor my brother owned it, but it was one of the “community” toys that were at my grandparent’s house. The buildings that this playset had look a whole lot like the buildings on main street in Hazard County from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. My cousins and I all had the ERTL Dukes of Hazzard cars, and I was always sure to take mine along for a visit to the grandparents. We’d take this playset outside with our Dukes cars. Being how most of Hazzard County seemed to have dirt roads, we’d set the city playset up in the middle of the action, and then incorporate all the dirt and grass around it as the rest of Hazzard County. The garage that says “Fire Station” above it became Cooter’s garage, and the Police Station was still the Police station where Roscoe’s car stayed when he wasn’t chasing the Duke boys. We had so much fun out of this playset, that one of my cousins and I still talk about it to this day.

Hot Wheels put out several more Sto and Go sets through the years, but these were the only three I ever had the joy of playing with. There was another one of them that really caught my attention, and to this day, I still hate that I never got to play with it. It was the Sto and Go Freight Yard. I’ll leave you with a picture of it, but I’ll save my thoughts on it until the next “Toys I Never Had” post.

Remembering the 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, is 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!

NBC unleashed a pretty swank lineup in 1985 with a lot of cartoons that are still enjoyed to this day.  It may not have been evident at the time, but The Smurfs would go on to become a powerhouse for the next 37 years, and will probably continue to be one for still a long time to come.  Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears debuted in 1985 and was one of the slickest-looking shows on any of the networks.  Alvin and the Chipmunks went on to be another powerhouse in the pop culture world, and Mr. T was near his zenith, so his Mister T cartoon was flying high at this point as well.  Its Punky Brewster was piggybacking off the success of the live-action prime-time show on NBC, and The Snorks was a Smurfs clone that went on to moderate success of its own.  Kidd Video and One to Grow On were minor hits in their own right, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends helped to capture the young comic books fans to round out the block.

CBS countered with a decent lineup of their own.  They were banking on the mega-popularity of the World Wrestling Federation and Hulk Hogan in 1985 and made Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling the cornerstone of their 1985 lineup.  Much like NBC and the Smurfs, CBS had a powerhouse in their midst with Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies cartoon, and the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show featured iconic characters that had been bankable for years.  The Berenstain Bears were well known to kids everywhere since most kids had read, or at least heard, a lot of their stories from the popular books, so this looked like it could have been a big hit for them.  Dungeons and Dragons was on the tongue of most kids in this time frame due to the popularity/taboo of the game.  The Wuzzles, CBS Story Break, and The Young Astronauts rounded out the lineup.

ABC rolled out a lineup in 1985 that was full of bankable properties.  Star Wars was still a mega-hit in all walks of pop culture, so ABC had a pair of Star Wars-themed cartoons in their lineup with Star Wars: Droids, and Ewoks.  They had all the stars of the always popular Looney Tunes with their Bugs Bunny Show and doubled down on the Scooby-Doo franchise with The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo and Scooby’s Mystery Funhouse.  While NBC featured Marvel’s Spider-Man, ABC rolled out DC’s Super Friends in Super Powers Team:  Galactic Guardians.  The Super Friends had already proven to be popular through years past, so milking them a little more was a smart move.  The fun but short-lived The Littles, ABC Weekend Special, and American Bandstand rounded out their lineup.

So that’s everything that the three networks were offering us kids back in 1985.  But the problem with 1985, is that we didn’t yet have Tivo or any other time-shifting technologies that would allow us to watch multiple cartoons from the same time slot.  So we kids were forced to pick and choose what we watched.  I’m going to run through what I watched and the channel surfing I had to do.  Here is how everything lined up on Saturday mornings in 1985.

Several of the best shows ended up being on opposite of each other which really sucked.  Some of the cartoons that I ended up loving, I never got to see in their original run.  I had to catch them later in syndication or part of something like USA’s Cartoon Express.  But here’s how MY Saturday mornings in 1985 shook out…

The network’s programming schedule didn’t start until 8 AM, but at 6 AM I was already settled into the recliner in the living room (that’s where the big TV was) with a bowl of cereal in my lap and ready to start the day.  But my Saturday mornings didn’t start with cartoons.  Nope, it started with classic television.  My local CBS affiliate would run re-runs of The Honeymooners at 6, and I Love Lucy at 6:30.  This is the era when I fell in love with those shows, and I watched them every Saturday morning.

After that, at 7:00 am, they ran old episodes of Tennessee Tuxedo and His Pals, followed by The Dudley Do-Right Show at 7:30.  Tennessee Tuxedo was my favorite cartoon of that anthology genre, so I never missed an episode when it was airing in those years.  Along with the Tennessee Tuxedo shorts, there was also Commander McBragg, Aesop & Son, and Peabody’s Improbable History.  While I’d love to say I loved them all equally, Commander McBragg was the best of the group back then.

Well enough with the pre-show stuff, let’s get down to the actual network schedules that got off to a roaring start at 8:00 am.  While I loved Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes in general, I remember watching the Berenstain Bears and The Snorks in the early mornings on Saturdays.  I’m not quite sure which one I was watching during this season because I seem to recall the whole of both series.  In another season, one of them may have been at another time slot.  I know I watched Bugs Bunny at one point around 10 or 11 am on Saturdays, so maybe it moved in another season as well.

At 8:30, I was all in Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears!  I must have seen some hype commercials for it at some point because I was super stoked to see it.  It never disappointed me either.  I love the fantasy/medieval themes in stuff like that, and the colors were so rich that I was hooked instantly.  My favorite episodes were the ones featuring Cubby as The Crimson Avenger, and the one where Tummy and Gruffy went and found Gusto on his island.  I don’t believe I’ve ever watched an episode of The Wuzzles, and have no plans to watch any of it here in later life either.

I wasn’t in on Star Wars yet, so Droids and Ewoks escaped me at that time.  At 9 am it was all about The Smurfs at my house.  I’ve always loved them and introduced my kids to the classic episodes when they were younger.  That helped carry on a tradition too as way back when my Mom would take a break from doing housework and watch some of the Smurfs with me.  It was a cartoon that she kind of enjoyed too.

I would watch the Smurfs for the first hour, but I had to cut and run before the last half hour because at 10 am it was time for Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling!  Pro Wrestling was my biggest hobby and attraction back in those days, so there was no way I was going to miss it each and every week.  The show had Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Tito Santana, Hillbilly Jim Junkyard Dog, Jimmy Snuka, Captain Lou Albano, and Wendi Richter on the good guy side of things, and featured Roddy Piper, Iron Shiek, Nikolai Volkoff, Mr. Fuji, and The Fabulous Moolah rounding out the bad guys side.  And let’s not forget “Mean” Gene Okerlund was in there as well.  Along with the cartoon shorts, it had live-action sequences which were a lot of fun for a wrestling fan.  And who can forget the legendary music video shown on the show multiple times featuring all of the WWF stars performing Land of 1000 Dances.  It’s still epic today.

Watching “Mr. Woderful” Paul Orndorff kiss his biceps never gets old.

So that was on for an hour, and then it was time for Alvin and the Chipmunks at 11 am.  I believe I watched each and every season of Alvin, and in 1985 it didn’t have any competition that would hold my attention.  Well, Scooby might have, but I was never as big of a fan of many of the subsequent versions of Scooby after the Where Are You run. But I did end up with a soft spot for the 13 Ghosts series though because it was like a continuous series instead of stand alone episodes. You can watch the whole series for free on Tubi.

For my tastes, the 11:30 am slot is the weakest.  I never watched Kidd Video, and only occasionally watched Dungeons & Dragons.  Which is a shame now, because these days my kids are big into D&D and I’ve had to fill the role of their dungeon master from time to time.  If I had known how life was going to turn out, I probably would have watched it back then.  But I dug The Littles when they were on, and it was a passable series, even if it was on the short-lived side.

It’s funny, but my mind always seems to remember cartoons ending at 12.  But looking at these lineups, that didn’t appear to be the case in 1985.  I was a huge fan of The A-Team, and Mister T was another hit in my mind.  He was in one of my favorite prime-time shows and had been an integral part of the WWF scene all year, so I was on board for his cartoon.  Like Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, it had live-action features mixed in with the animation that I really liked. 

Side story:  Once during this era, we had Saturday school.  I gave my Mom a list of the shows I wanted to be recorded, along with detailing the times and channels.  Mister T was one of those episodes.  I would play that homemade VHS so many times through the years that it finally fell apart.  Can you imagine how cool it would be today to still have that?  A tape full of Saturday morning cartoons and commercials from 1985?  What a gem that would be.

And then wrapping up my cartoon viewing was Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  I absolutely adored Spidey, Firestar, and Iceman, and tuned in every week.  I just wish the show could have run longer than it did, but I still watch an occasional episode now and then on Disney+.

Even though there were still a couple of cartoons left in the day, at 1:00 my cartoon viewing ended because it was time for NWA Mid- Atlantic Wrestling on my local NBC affiliate, followed by WWF wrestling at 2.  Once wrestling was off the air, it was time to play with my He-Man and G.I. Joe toys before getting dressed to head out to eat at the family.  Which was usually somewhere like Pizza Hut.  You know, Back in the Glory Days of Pizza Hut.

So what about you?  I want to hear your tale of what YOU watched on Saturday mornings in 1985.  I’m always fascinated by others’ cartoon viewing habits.  Drop me a line in the comments below and share and we’ll go back and forth arguing over what 1985 cartoons were better.

In the meantime, if you want to relive my 1985 Saturday mornings with me, pour yourself a big bowl of Morning Funnies cereal or make a bowl of Oatmeal Swirlers oatmeal, settle in, and dial up some of these old cartoons on YouTube or Tubi.

Saturday Nights Main Event

There’s never been anything quite like Saturday Night’s Main Event for great Saturday night entertainment. I became aware of it after it had already begun its run, and didn’t even get to get my first live glimpse of one.

My first was on Saturday night May 1, 1986. I didn’t have a TV in my room, so I slept in my dad’s spot in his bed since he was out of town. He had a little black and white TV on the nightstand beside the bed. I tried hard to stay awake to watch it, but I didn’t make it. I had fallen asleep before it started. It was probably the news that did me in.

But I woke up just in time to see what was supposed to be the start of a Ricky Steamboat vs. Jake “The Snake” Roberts match. Ricky Steamboat was my favorite wrestler at the time, and I was always excited whenever I got a chance to see him on TV. Unfortunately for 8-year-old me, the match didn’t really happen, because Jake attacked before the match and nailed Steamboat with the DDT on the concrete floor. I was super pissed! While I hated that I didn’t get to see an actual match, the angle did lead to some good ones down the line.

The next big event I can really recall from SNME was the Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Orndorff cage match from January 1987. I wrote about it in depth over at TRN last year, so I’m not going to go into much detail here. But I did want to share that I knew that match was happening that night, but my excitement level got turned up to 11 while watching The Golden Girls, as one of the commercials was a short promo from Hogan with the cage in the foreground. That was awesome.

And then in March 1987, the episode that featured a battle royal as a way to hype the upcoming Wrestlemania 3. Hogan and Andre went at it in that battle royal, and the whole thing was awesome.

There were numerous other memorable moments to be enjoyed through the years on Saturday Night’s Main Event, and every now and then on Saturday nights, I get really nostalgic for it. TOnight is one of those nights.

Thunder Run Movie (1986)

Here we are on a Friday night. It’s only 8 pm, but it’s already dark where I am. The weather is a little cool, and all things combined, it’s feeling like a “movie on the couch” kind of night. While browsing through the numerous streaming services we subscribe to, I was having trouble finding something I want to watch. But then a post on Instagram pointed the way for me.

In it’s entirety on YouTube is a movie from 1986 that I used to love watching with my old man when I was young. We had recorded it off of a pay channel like Cinemax or The Movie Channel at some point, and all through the late ’80s, he’d pull that tape out and pop it in the VCR to rewatch it. The movie is Thunder Run. It’s about a truck driver who gets lured out of retirement to haul a load of plutonium from Nevada to Arizona, and along the way, he has to fight off domestic terrorists who want the load. While that premise alone is a good one, it’s got the added benefit of being something like an extended episode of The A-Team.

With the job to haul the plutonium came a big payday. Our hero in this movie took a chunk of that money and bought a rig, and outfitted it with all sorts of cool weapons and such to fight off the terrorists. The whole movie is a fun, action-packed, thrill ride, and I’m going to give it another watch tonight. I thought I’d share it here too. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest carving out an hour and a half at some point and giving it a watch. It’s a great way to spend 90 minutes.

Mortal Monday (1993)

So I missed this anniversary by a day, but way back on September 13, 1993, the home video game version of Mortal Kombat hit stores in an event dubbed Mortal Monday. The Mortal Kombat arcade game was an instant hit when it landed in arcades around the country, so turning it into a game for home consoles was a no-brainer.

I probably played the arcade version just a couple of times when it got big, but being as how there weren’t any arcades close to where I lived made playing it more than that a virtual impossibility. But I was still excited for the game coming to home consoles nonetheless.

I was a Street Fighter II fan and played it at home all the time, so another fighting game seemed cool. Now I wasn’t one of the fanboys who were all excited about the fatalities and such, I just enjoyed fighting games. Mortal Kombat had an interesting story attached to the game so that was a plus as well. But my friend Geoffrey couldn’t shut up about it’s pending release. Between his excitement, the plethora of commercials advertising it, and the many ads for it in comic books and magazines were enough to make my head spin. When Mortal Monday finally arrived, I was kind of relieved because I wouldn’t be inundated with the hype anymore. Or so I thought.

What overtook that was Geoffrey’s non-stop babbling about how awesome the game was. He was one of those Sega Genesis kids, so his version had the fatalities intact. The SNES version did not. I still sometimes wonder what kind of deal Sega made to have that kind of exclusivity. But I did my duty as a best friend and went over to his house to play it, and enjoyed it, but not like he did. He just could not shut up about that game for weeks. But me, I went home and played Street Fighter II. That was my game.

But looking back on it all now, it was quite the promotion for a video game, and it even had a cool tag line in “Mortal Monday”. They drilled that into people’s heads. I guess it worked since the franchise went on to spawn numerous sequel games and movies.

Happy belated anniversary to Mortal Kombat and it’s Mortal Monday promotion.

If you’d like to read more about Geoffrey and video games, check out the entry for the Game Genie in an old comic book ads post I did, Even More Old Comic Book Ads. And if you remember the hype, share your memories in the comments!