Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I was a spoiled, spoiled, spoiled bastard.

Ah, well. Been away for a bit, sorry about that.

I hope you've come by the ol' S&P anyway, and made yourselves comfortable. There may not always be new tales to tell, but the door's always open here. You all know that.

The ridiculous length of this post should make up for it.

As 'That Other Holiday' rapidly approaches, most of us have all kinds of things to do.

Planning, traveling, guessing, stressing, and the shopping, my God yes, the shopping.

No one gripes more about the stress of the Season than those who celebrate it most maniacally (and people think I'm nuts for liking Hallowe'en more).

Still, Christmas was always so much fun, and goodness knows that with my parents and my 1,217 siblings living in a box made for a deck of Bicycle Playing Cards, a fun Christmas was a near-miracle.

And somehow they pulled it off each and every year... with serious, serious success.

I look back on the things I received from my parents, much of which I still have but most of which went the way of old clothes and young waistlines, and I realize that I was a lucky, undeserving, spoiled, spoiled bastard.

OH, Mom will say 'What do you mean undeserving?' and I'll say 'I'm just being dramatic', and in her happiness she'll run off and get me something else totally awesome and completely undeserved and the cycle starts all over again.

I did do a Thankfulness post on my folks, right?

At any rate, I received or enjoyed others' receiving a lot of really, really cool stuff for That Other Holiday when I was young, and I thought I'd indulge myself (this is a 'blog and a pub after all; indulgence is required) and show you some of that really really cool stuff.

First up, a few things I never received personally but my 4,367 siblings always let me enjoy, and the very look and feel of them bring back Christmas very vividly.

Oh yes, the Space Fidgit. Swirling, finger-driven joy.
I can feel that
thin, little plastic octagon even now.

More swirling joy, this time from the hypnotizing Magic Window. I still have no idea what
'Microdium' is, or how they made crystals from it,
or even if it would kill you to eat it.
A really marvelous product.

Being the monster kid I surely was, I mostly got horror, sci-fi and fantasy-related gifts from a very early age. Mostly...

In no particular order, I give you a few.
The infamous and desirable Kenner ALIEN 18" figure from 1979. Coolest not-from-this-world creature design ever (don't argue). I still have mine (from Christmas of '79!) proudly displayed.

An odd bit of ALIEN merchandise from that same year; a jigsaw puzzle of the
Alien xenomorph inside a sickly green alien egg. LOVED it!

Sci-Fi things have always been fascinating to me, and even though I'm a Hallowe'en, Monster and Horror lover at heart, the space toys and games were always a delight and a launch pad for creative adventures with my 17,003 brothers.
On what we still recall as the Greatest Christmas Ever, Joe and I received the Star
Trek Communicator walkie-talkies AND Phasers!

The Entex/Actronics Space Invader handheld LED game. The mere look of this is Christmas to me. I spent a million hours with this prehistoric and awesome 'video' game.

My brother Joe (#24,547) got this very popular Epoch Galaxy II tabletop game when it first came out in 1981. We played it incessantly. I can still hear the beeps, music and click-clacking of the 'Fire' button. And just look at the vivid and colorful display:
Just heaven.

And then there were Micronauts... oh yes.

Micronauts need a place to live. We built a hundred different futuristic cities for them with this 1980 kit. Later, we'd find pieces strewn among rooms and sometimes awake with pieces stuck to our cheeks or backs.

Ah... BARON KARZA!. A magnetic ball-socket jointed master of Space Evil.

Antron. An evil Alien Micronaut. Half Ant, half... um, Ron, I suppose. Had a glow-in-the-dark brain on the back of his head. I could never tell if he was a pirate, a fisherman, a plumber or a chimney sweep, but with all those arms, I suppose he could've been all at once.

And now...
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Hornetroid... the absolute coolest vehicle accessory ever made for any toy line in the history of toy lines that had cool vehicle accessories. A tool of Evil Aliens (so why wouldn't I like it best?), the Hornetroid flew around my house powered by my little hands and would rain his orange plastic wrath on Micronauts, Strawberry Shortcake, Weebles and even my Dad's H-O trains.

Monsters, though, were always the main focus of my life, and my folks never forgot it. True, I never let them forget it... but when I consider that there was no Internet, were no specialty Monster shops that I knew anything about, and no real way for them to know what was available and what I'd enjoy, I am astounded that they were able to consistently surprise and overwhelm me with things I didn't even know existed!

I think perfect gifting for kids is an art and skill that not many people have. My parents sure did, though.

How else to explain their unerring Monster sense to find things like:

The incredible Monster Gallery Coloring Book (Troubadour Press, 1974). A very special memory for me, this book and its sibling Science Fiction Anthology were pure treasure, only to be colored with parental guidance (just for cleanliness, not for creativity!), using markers like these:
... to give life to pictures like these beauties:
I think we had three or four copies of Monster Gallery in our home, and at least a few of the Sci-Fi version. I know every detail, I pored over them that often.

Of course, sometimes it's fun to make the coloring pages yourself, then color them in:
The Mighty Men & Monster Maker (Tomy, 1978) let us do just that, for hours on end. Mix n' match heads, torsos, legs and feet, rub the black outline crayon over the paper atop the plates ('just like a grave rubbing', my Dad was quick to inform me), and start coloring. Magic.

Of course there are other ways to make Monsters. In the 70's, the Glow-in-the-Dark Aurora Monster Model Kits were my preferred method of Creature Creatin':I had most of these at one time or other, and figured this nice shot
of all of them would be best. Wolfy was my favorite.

And what about Monsters that had already been made?

Mego's Mad Monsters (introduced in 1974) remain one of the neatest gifts I ever received. I didn't get them all at once, of course. My 342,015 brothers had the others, I had the Horrible Mummy. Time and trade got the rest to me at some point.

Whether for Christmas, birthdays or any other celebratory-gift-giving occasion, these classic Imagineering make up items were staples. Scar Stuff, the waxy, fibrous pink clay of horror, and my favorite tube of colored gel, Vampire Blood! I'd kill to have these again... oh! the memories.

Speaking of vampires, blood and colored goo... Gre-Gory The Big Bad Vampire Bat (Mattel, 1979) was one of the weirdest, coolest things my mom ever found for me. I had no idea such a thing was around, but somehow she found it. There's something so cool about opening this kind of hideous thing on Christmas morning!

You pressed/pumped a rectangular section of rubber on his back, and fake blood would course through the clear guts-n-ribs torso. Dubiously disgusting fun, thy name is Gre-Gory.

But you know, the single most pervasive and wistful little stocking stuffer memory has to be this odd little guy, sometime in the early 70's... I don't know why, to this day, the cute little fella below has just been Christmas to me ever since.
FunStuffs produced the Pet Ghost in the 70's, and for some silly reason I recall
the one and only time I ever received one from Santa in my
stocking as being some monumental gifting miracle. I don't know why the
little ghost-on-a-thread made such an impact, but there it is; this very picture
puts me right back there in .000004 seconds.

Well, as this very LONG post has been exclusively about getting, and not giving, material goods, I would not blame the visitor for going away from this post thinking I was a selfish, shallow, materialistic kid.

But it's entirely untrue.

The reason for this post, the point of this endeavor, is this: These gifts are only symbols of the attention and interest your family paid to your passions; that my family found such treasures for me so often and so consistently demonstrates not that I love gifts but that they love me enough to pay attention to my passions.
Face it -- you'd love the ones you love no more or less if you'd never received a gift from any of them in your entire life.

It's not the gift. It's the gifting.

And when it comes to being loved, I will reiterate... I was (and remain) a spoiled, spoiled, spoiled bastard.


  1. Remember when we said that someday we'll just be old people sitting around (hopefully smoking and drinking too much because it will no longer really matter) and talk about all the stuff we remember? I think you've already started.
    I loved every one of these pics and reminiscences. Maybe I'll send in some of the more girlie, yet Halloweeny-type gifts I've received. Thinking "Emerald Witch", "Upsey Downsys" and, well, a number of Madame Alexander dolls and blouses that I don't think were intentionally spooky. Plus the scariest gift of all, that most of us got one year or another: Stomach flu.
    We really were spoiled and blessed and everything in between.

  2. No doubt. Although I don't think I ever got the flu as often as our Lennon family on the other side of the hill seemed to. Good lordy, even now, they seem to get it three times a year... and yes, please send pics and memories, let's do it up right.
    Oh... Surprise!

  3. Thank you for posting the toys from the '70's! A nice trip down memory lane.