Around the time I turned 35 (and my oldest son turned 4) I started thinking about some of my own experiences from my childhood while I watching my son hard at play with some of his favorite toys. I had a wonderful childhood, at least up until my parents’ divorce in 1983, but my fondest memories are primarily from the 1970s. I was born in 1974 but I have memories all the way back to 1976 (albeit not too many from that young of an age). Most of my memories are from 1978 and on.
I’d been wanting to put together some sort of nostalgia page, something to commemorate the things I liked the most from the 1970s, from the days when I was still young and innocent, before my world was turned upside down and I was forced to grow up way too early. I thought I’d include some of my favorite toys and television shows and anything else that struck my fancy from those days. As I watch my son experience the world for the first time (and now my youngest son doing the same) it reminds me of my own experiences of me doing the same thing. It makes me want to make his experience as special as possible.
My parents weren’t rich but we had enough toys to keep us occupied. Christmas was always special because we really got some cool stuff. It all looks dated now but there’s really no getting around that after so many years. It was always so much fun on to come out of our rooms on Christmas morning and see what good old Saint Nick had brought us. Most, if not all, of our toys were given to us on either Christmas or our birthday, at least as far as I can remember. We didn’t get much in between holidays. Here are some of my most memorable, for various reasons (click the thumbnails below for larger images).
Weebles Haunted House
This is one of my favorite toys from my childhood. I played with this house for countless hours. The pictures below are from a house sold on eBay and when I looked at these pictures, particularly the close ups showing significant detail, I felt a wave of nostalgia and memories wash over me. I can remember the colors, the textures, and the feeling I had while playing with this toy. I have no clue where my original house is but I’d love to have it back again. I placed some bids on the house in this pictures directly below but I was outbid. Better luck next time I guess. I ended up using that money to buy an iPhone instead.
Below are a couple photos of my actual haunted house from the late seventies. On the left is my brother playing with MY haunted house (I think I was in school and wasn’t there to put a stop to it) and on the left is Christmas morning when my Weebles Haunted House was delivered unto me.
I think my parents got one of these for both my brother and me. They were large, black plastic trains that made a train whistle sound when squeezed. I think they picked these things up at the Cass Scenic Railroad in Cass, West Virginia. Once we’d grown tired of them they made their way into the toy chest at my grandparents’ camp in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
This was my mother’s teddy bear from when she was a child. I was given this bear and I named it “Tigger”, despite the fact that it wasn’t the real Tigger. I slept with this bear for years and years and still have it to this day. Despite our tumultuous relationship I really love this teddy bear.
We used to save up pennies and other spare change and drop it into this bank. At some point we ended up getting some dollar bills to put into it. Some time later I opened that bank and those bills were gone. I asked about them and I swear I remember one of my parents telling me they “disappeared”, essentially turning to dust. I think they might have ended up somewhere else, if you catch my drift.
Apparently there was a set of rules for this game but I don’t think I could understand them. Could have been because I didn’t know how to read. My brother and I just put them together in various combinations and played with them as toys.
Ahhh…the Starbirds. Rarely was I so excited to wake up on a Christmas morning. These things had infrared technology (this was the late 70s) and could do battle with each other. The engine pitch changed depending on the angle one held the Starbird. If your arch nemesis shot you then your engine would sputter and cut out for a few seconds.
To the left you can see a close up of a Starbird “Intruder”. To the right are my brother and me with our very own Starbirds.
This was my first bicycle after graduating from the Big Wheel. I learned to ride it around Kindergarten or First Grade, if memory serves. If you look behind the “banana seat” you’ll see a curved metal ring. My dad would hold onto that ring and run behind me while I learned how to ride and balance. One day he was doing just that and let go. I didn’t know it at the time and was actually riding on my own, thinking he was balancing me. I was floored when he told me I’d done it myself.
In the background you and see my first electric train set. I’ve always liked trains so this was a toy I was particularly fond of. I can remember several occasions where I spent time with my dad playing with this thing. Good memories.
Simon wasn’t actually mine; it was my brother’s and we shared it. I didn’t really play well but I tried. If you look at the above picture with my train set you’ll also see the Simon sitting between the three of us.
Barrel of Monkeys
This isn’t my barrel of monkeys; this is picture I downloaded from the Interweb. Mine had a red barrel, I believe. I think there were rules to this game too but we just played with the monkeys.
The Intellivision was my favorite game system ever. It totally kicked the Atari’s ass. The graphics were better, the controllers more capable, and the graphics were better. Did I mention that the graphics were better? I spent hours and hours playing this with my brother and my cousins. We only had about twelve or thirteen games but we played the hell out of them. I also spent significant time playing “Major League Baseball”, “Star Strike”, and “Night Stalker” with my dad. More good memories.
Lincoln Logs…what more can I say? Who didn’t have these things? My son has some himself.
I remember very little about the Little Professor (no pun intended). I’d actually forgotten about it until I ran across a picture on the Internet while looking up another toy. I never really understood how to use it (I wasn’t even in school yet) but when I saw the picture I had a vivid memory recollection I couldn’t ignore. I decided to include just because of that.
Merlin looked like a cell phone fromthe early eighties…only smaller. I only knew how to play two games on it even though there was something like eleven or twelve available.
Star Wars X-Wing Fighter
The X-Wing Fighter was one of my favorite Star Wars toys. That and the Millenium Falcoln (not pictured). My brother had one too but he didn’t take care of his things. I saw his lying in the floor where he’d carelessly left it and thought about either picking it up or telling him but I didn’t. Shortly after that my mom stepped on it and broke one of the wings. I felt badly about it because I should have stepped in and done something but hadn’t. I couldn’t imagine leaving mine in the floor like that; why, it could get stepped on and broken! He was the careless one. It’s funny how in so many ways we’ve never really changed.
Every Christmas while I was young (under the age of say 6 or 7) we’d get Gerber baby cookies in our stockings. I loved those things. Probably full of transfats.
This was a shared toy between my brother and me. I’d pretend I was in school when I used this thing (or so I remember). We used to store the chalk in a plastic Orville Reddenbacker popcorn can (back in the days before microwave popcorn). I still have that can with the chalk in it, a surreal reminder of a childhood that seems so distant now.
Burger Chef “Ghost of Grizzly Mountain” Record
This came in a Burger Chef kids’ meal. We almost never went out to eat so these types of toys were rare. Not like my son, who has all kinds of these toys. My brother and I listened to this again and again. I now have an mp3 of the audio from this record.
Scary Spooky Stories
My brother and I listened to this again and again. We never bored of it. Read more about it and download these here.
I watched Captain Kangaroo every morning before I started going to Kindergarten.
Charlie Brown Christmas
I waited all year for this special. Well, this one and the Halloween special. When I saw that spinning CBS “Special” logo I’d get so excited.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
My absolute favorite Christmas special ever. I still watch it every year to this day…now with my kids.
This wasn’t as much from the seventies as it was from the early eighties but I used to watch this show at my dad’s house on the weekends after the divorce. I’d stay up while everyone else slept and watch Rod Serling do his thing. I now own all 156 or so episodes on DVD, a collection that set me back several hundred dollars. What the hell? We didn’t have kids then.
Some Plastic Donkey
This donkey adorned our wall for years and years. It’s not particularly useful or even attractive, but it’s a fixture in my memories.
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