Friday, December 18, 2009

Top Ten Favorite Childhood Christmas Gifts

With Christmas less than a week away, I've been reflecting on Christmases of the past and all the great gifts that I've received from my parents and family over the years. Everyone knows that a toy received on Christmas is more special than a toy you saved your allowance for or happened to talk your Mom into while on a shopping trip. There was a special "magic" associated with the things you unwrapped at Christmas. In honor of those Christmas mornings of the past, I've compiled a list of my 10 favorite Christmas presents I received while I was a kid.

1. Evel Knievel Sky Cycle

I received the Evel Knievel Sky Cycle the Christmas of 1974. Evel had just attempted to jump the Snake River Canyon the previous September. So, this was quite a timely toy. The Sky Cycle was my first Evel Knievel toy and I remember getting it that Christmas very clearly. We lived in a townhouse in Minnesota with a very short hallway. That didn't stop me from sending Evel back and forth across jumps in that short hallway for the better part of the day. Because Evel Knievel toys were a huge part of my childhood and this toy was my first one, it snags the number one spot on my list.

2. Crosman 760 BB Gun Air Rifle

My Dad surprised me with this BB gun the Christmas of 1977. In a very "A Christmas Story moment" my Dad pulled this out from it's hiding place after I had opened all my other gifts and was feeling a bit disappointed that the BB gun I had been hoping for was nowhere to be found. My parents had made it pretty clear that I would, most likely, NOT be receiving a BB gun. Incidentally, I was shopping with my family a couple of weeks ago and was in a sporting goods store. Surprisingly, Crosman still makes this same model of air gun (some 30 or so years later) and there was an entire display of them on an endcap. It warms my heart to know that in this ever-changing world, some things stay the same.

3. Evel Knievel Dragster

I received this the Christmas of 1975. I have good memories of playing with this in our unfinished basement all day (couldn't play with it outside...SNOW). It didn't have the speed and jumping ability of the Stunt Cycle but it did do "wheelies" and deploy a red, white, and blue parachute.

The only photo of my stereo I could find. Dig the woodgrain. You can also see the wires running up to the speakers and just a hint of a Kenner tie-fighter on the top shelf.

left to right: Yours Truly (Look, I match my cake!), Brian McGill, Tom Fuchs, and my younger brother Mike.

4. Soundesign Stereo (Record player and Radio)

This was a BIG deal on Christmas Day, 1978. We didn't have mp3 players, boom boxes, or even Walkmans (if you don't know what a Walkman is... I pity you) back then. There really wasn't any way for a kid to enjoy music in private without the whole family listening in. I had to play most of my records (big plastic cds...for you youngsters) on my Mom and Dad's record player in the living room. So, this gift meant FREEDOM! I was suddenly free to play whatever I wanted when I wanted...IN MY ROOM (Gasp!). This was such a big deal to me that I requested a "stereo cake" on my next birthday. I think my Mom did a great job.

5. Maskatron

Six Million Dollar Man toys were always a Christmas staple for me in the mid-70s. I think I received this guy for Christmas 1976. Now, Steve would have an enemy...that could look like Steve! This toy was great fun.

6. Evel Knievel Super Jet Cycle

I think I received this Christmas 1976, also. I seemed to receive an Evel Knievel toy each Christmas for several years in a row in the mid-Seventies. Great memories of this one. The jet pods would send out sparks as the toy tore across the floor.

7. Sesame Street Cookie Monster puppet

This photo is probably from Christmas 1971. I had just received a cookie monster puppet that I had been hoping to get for quite some time. Back then, Cookie Monster was the "bad boy" on Sesame Street. He was dangerous. Sure, Oscar talked a lot of smack but we all knew who was in charge when it came to fuzzy monsters. I played with this puppet for years and years. I also had a Bert and Ernie, as well.

8. Bouncy Horse

I don't know what these are officially called but I received it on Christmas 1969 (I think). I played with this thing for years and years, too. This is currently sitting in my parents' garage and has even been ridden by my kids when they were little. It still works perfectly. I have such great memories of throwing on my Lone Ranger mask and galloping across the plains in pursuit of train robbers.

9. Talking Adventure Team Gi Joe Commander

I'm a bit unsure about what year I got this guy. I was only about 5 or 6 years old. I DO remember spending Christmas with my cousins (far away from home) that year. I remember playing with this Gi Joe while at my cousins' house. However, I don't recall playing with him ever again. I have no memories of this toy after that Christmas. I wonder if it became broken, somehow, and had to be returned. Strange. At any rate, I loved it while I had it and have very distinct memories of opening him and playing with the talking feature.

(the figure pictured is a replica...but a good one, right down to the box)

10. Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Mission Vehicle

I still have this toy stashed away, somewhere. This toy was a lot of fun and had quite a few play features. I loved the winch it could lower from the side. There wasn't anything remotely like this in the TV show but I didn't care. It was just cool that Steve finally had a "ride" that wasn't a rocket/operating table. You KNOW you are heading for trouble when your space ship transforms into a bionic operating table. The makers of this transport must have deemed it "safe" since it didn't fold out to to fix Steve immediately after a crash.

My first Christmas. Yes, that Santa is terrified.

A few years later, Santa gets "payback."
Guess who's terrified now?

I hope you enjoyed this little trip through Christmas past.

I'd like to TAG a few fellow bloggers to see if they are willing to list their favorite Top Ten Childhood Christmas gifts.

Brian B at What My Dad Saw

Chunky B at Eclectorama

Bubbashelby at Toyriffic

If any other bloggers would like to do this, just add a link in the comments. Even if you don't have a blog, leave a list in the comments. I'd love to see them.

Merry Christmas, Everybody!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mego Planet of the Apes Zira

Just about every line in the 1970s that Mego produced had at least one female character in it. With the World's Greatest Super Heroes we had Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Supergirl, Invisible Woman, and Isis. With the Star Trek line we got Uhura. With the Dukes of Hazzard line we got Daisy Duke. With the Planet of the Apes line, we got Dr. Zira.

When I was a kid, it was practically unthinkable to buy or ask for a female action figure. In fact, it seemed like the term "action figure" didn't even apply when it was a female character. Heck, Zira could have come chewing a cigar and been armed with grenades and a bazooka and I still would have thought of her as a "doll." These days, I'm too old to care...and if there's a hole in my collection that needs a female character, I throw caution to the wind and go ahead and "order it up" online.

Zira was a scientist and fiancee to the chimpanzee, Cornelius. She was fairly certain there was more to humans than meets the eye...that they were more than just animals. When she met Astronaut Taylor, her suspicions were confirmed. You see, Taylor was the first talking human any ape had encountered. After realizing how special Taylor was, both Cornelius and Zira did what they could to help Taylor escape the ape community that was sure to dissect him once they realized his special vocal ability and intelligence.

Zira comes with two brown boots, a skirt, and a tunic with velcro closure (pretty hi-tech for the 70s). She didn't come with any accessories, unfortunately. However, there is some nice embossing work on her tunic's vinyl panel. I have no idea what it says, though. Perhaps, it says, "Zira: Woman Scientist." It always cracked me up that the original Mego TV commercial for the Apes figures called her this. It was almost like code to little boys that said, "Don't buy me."

These days, Zira has a place of honor in my Mego Apes collection as the lone female character. I would even display her, I'm man enough.

....which leads me to a question I have about displaying vintage toys:

Does anyone else have an aversion to displaying vintage toys because you are afraid that old emotions and associations with the toy will be replaced with new ones if you have it around day-to-day?

Maybe, it's just me. Am I crazy?