Colorforms!

I loved playing with Colorforms. I guess they are still around even today as I have seen Colorforms products from the 90s.

For those of you who don’t know, Colorforms are a soft plastic cutouts that cling (statically?) to a smooth background. So from the picture below,  you could place the Bert and Ernie plastics on to the background and they would sort of stick to it which lets you create your own scenes.

I had a Battlestar Galactica set in the 70s. I still remember to this day getting that gift. We had a  farm store in the town where I grew up that had a toy section. Dad and Mom would occasionally out of the blue let me pick out a toy and this was one of those days. Of all things, that farm store had a Battlestar Galactica Colorforms set. As I was already addicted to the show, I quickly snatched that little gem up. I played with that set for many hours. I would even have to go as far as saying this might have been one of my top 10 favorite toys.

(For Christmas one year my wife bought me that same set from Ebay. What a whirlwind of nostalgic memories that was.)

Cardboard Playhouses from 1974

These are from the JCPenny 1974 Wishbook.

Cardboard Playhouses from 1974
Cardboard Playhouses from 1974

We didn’t have anything so fancy. We just used cardboard boxes. It was huge score to get a really big cardboard box from something like a water heater or washer/dryer. Reminds me of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons where Calvin created a transmogrifier from a cardboard box. That wasn’t far off from how we grew up. It is amazing how creative a child’s mind can be.

We had another big score when Dad was able to bring home two huge industrial wooden spools. These things were almost as tall as I was. We played with those spools for days. We would stand on the spool and try to make them roll with our feet, we tumbled all over the place with them, and when it rained hard they became rafts. So much fun.

Various Clocks from the 70s

I have always had a fascination for old looking clocks for as long as I can remember. I would guess that part of that fascination comes from the fact that my grandparents (and a few other relatives) always had a grandfather clock and/or a cuckoo clock somewhere in the house.

Various Clocks from the 70s
Various Clocks from the 70s

My tune might have changed if I had to sleep in the same room as one!

More Clocks from the 70s
More Clocks from the 70s

But thankfully I did not… so I still find some wonder (maybe even a hint of magic) in those mysterious mechanical time pieces.

One thing I will never forget is the clock that was on my parent’s wall in the living room. It was a huge, round,  brass clock that had points coming out of the side of the circle so that it resembled the sun. I can’t recall when they got rid of it, but somebody should have put that clock out of its misery years ago. 😉

 

Hostess Treats

Even though Hostess products are available still today, I have a fond memory of them from childhood.

My mother would go to the day old bakery, buy a couple boxes of Ding Dongs, and then put them in the freezer when she got home. When my friends came over to the house everyone one knew there would be frozen Ding Dongs in the freezer. And that is how we ate them… right out of the freezer. I get funny looks when I tell people this story, but that is okay. It is one of those memories that made my childhood even more special.

(Remember when Ding Dongs were wrapped in tinfoil?)

I hadn’t thought about frozen Ding Dongs for years when one day it just came to me and it sounded delicious.  So I went to the store, bought a box, and threw them in the freezer. After waiting several hours I tore into the box and thought “What’s this? They are wrapped in plastic.” I shrugged off that obscurity and bit into one. Sadly the magic was gone. It didn’t even taste like I remember. Maybe my taste buds have changed since childhood, or maybe Hostess changed the ingredients,  or maybe the box was just to fresh. (lol)

Here are a few commercials featuring the Hostess product line from the 70s.

Commercial featuring cartoon mascot “Twinky the Kid”:

http://youtu.be/Gwv31vusRQw

This one has the “Happy Ho Ho” mascot:

http://youtu.be/53UF-Pb0RRY

“King Ding Dong”:

http://youtu.be/uiRcQVzN01A
http://youtu.be/FyR5ZK4WWqc

The Bridge Troll

I don’t recall what triggered this memory but I wanted to write it down before it escapes me again.

If you follow my blog, you have probably read several times about how awesome I thought my grandmother was. I will always cherish her and the time I spent at her home and this is one of the reasons why.

My grandmother lived in a small town located in Illinois. The town likened to something straight out of a 40s movie. It had a lot of the original store fronts from the early 1900s and a large portion of the town’s roads were still brick. To get into town from my grandmother’s you had to cross a really old, single lane, concrete bridge as she lived on the other side of a river. The bridge had a high arch, high enough that you couldn’t see the other side.

On this particular day, my grandmother had invited me to go into town with her. I was still in grade school and probably only six or seven years old. So we climbed into her red Plymouth Duster and headed towards the bridge.

When we reached the bridge, she blew her car horn, and then crossed over. Now of course, being that this was a single lane bridge with a high arch, you can figure out why she blew her horn. She had to warn oncoming traffic that she was crossing the bridge. As a small child, I had no clue why so I asked her.

My grandmother proceeded to tell me there was a troll that lived under the bridge and that you had to honk to warn him that you were going to cross over or he would get angry. I was into the whole fantasy world theme so I ate this explanation right up. I even told my friends about it in school.

I laughed out loud when this memory came back to me. Looking back, that was just 100% grandma. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Is it amazing that kids from the 70s survived?

Or was it just a different way of life that society has forgotten how to live?

I am going to be honest. I haven’t been blessed (or cursed) with kids of my own. If I had, maybe I would be singing a different tune. But I have watched people my own age with their kids and I sometimes shake my head in disbelief. When did it all change? I am not debating whether the changes were good or bad… just noticing the change itself.

Car Safety:

When we were kids, we never wore seat belts. We would climb over the front seat or better yet went sliding all around the back of my mom’s station wagon with every quick turn.

I don’t ever recall seeing a car seat, mothers held babies in their lap.

Air bags were brown paper sacks that you blew air into then smacked it really hard with your hand to make it pop.

Pickup trucks driving thru town with passengers sitting on the side of the bed or even on the tailgate was an everyday occurrence.

Germitus:

This disease seems to have grown rampant. I don’t know how many times I hear parents these days screaming “Put that down, it’s dirty!” or “Don’t play on that, it’s filthy!”. Oh my god… I don’t think there was a day I wasn’t covered in dirt after being outside.

We would swim in anything that would hold water including lakes, ponds, streams, creeks, and even extremely large mud puddles after a heavy rain. (Heck we even played in the rain.)

We played on old rocks, bricks, dirt mounds, fields, junk piles, and everything else that looked liked an adventure on this planet earth.

We drank water out of wells, garden hoses, and public fountains.

Yes… we got  leeches now and then, or ticks, or chiggers, or what not but it wasn’t a big deal. That was part of life, not a reason to stop doing what we were doing.

Toy Safety:

As you can tell by my blog, I have a fondness for the toys of my childhood.

We had toys with small parts, toys that shot projectiles, chemistry sets that required flame,  and wood burning sets that required hot irons.

We had trains, race tracks, and games that required us to plug chords into sockets without safety plugs.

We had hobby kits that required needles, scissors,  x-acto knives, paints and glue.

We had model rockets and gas powered toy planes.

We had firecrackers, bottle-rockets, cherry bombs, smoke bombs, sizzling snakes, and plastic smoking monkeys.

We had all of this… and my parents house is still standing.

Child Safety:

I lived just outside of a small town so my bike was one of my best friends. I didn’t have a safety helmet,  knee pads or elbow pads. Get dinged up? If I would even stop playing long enough for mom to look at it, she would wash it with a washcloth, slap a band-aid on it and out the door I would go to eventually crash into something else.

I couldn’t even count the number of times I kissed the concrete while learning how to skateboard, took a tumble while trying to walk on stilts, or slipped and fell out of a tree.

Family Time:

We ate as a family at breakfast and supper every single day. On weekends that included lunch.

We watched several television shows together like Hee Haw, Sonny and Cher, Battlestar Galactica, and The Muppet Show.

My father was not my best friend. He was my father. He corrected me, he paddled me, and he gave me his wisdom. We became best friends after I moved out and started a life of my own.

Cooking and Tools:

My mother was a stay at home mom until probably about the time I started 7th or 8th grade. She had taught me how to cook at a very young age. So when mom started working again it was nothing for my parents to come home and have seen that I had cooked Spaghettios on the stove or baked up a batch of cookies for a treat.

We used hammers, nails, knives, saws and drills to build things like ramps, club houses, and tree houses. (Though I must confess we did get in trouble a few times for leaving one of dads tools out in the rain.)

Independence:

After my mom went back to work I rode my bike home to an empty house after school. I would watch after school programming while eating a snack and then go outside to play.

During the summers I would go to a friend’s house or just find something to do at home. What may start out as an adventure in the creek of the back field may lead to an all day extravaganza in town. My parents didn’t know where I was 24/7, and they didn’t worry. I just had to be home in time for supper. If I was doing something wrong, believe me, someone would have called my parents and they would be fully aware of the situation way before I got home.

Everybody seemed to lookout for your kids without you even asking.

Fashion:

I don’t ever remember fashion being an issue while growing up. When we were kids we could have cared less what each other was wearing. There weren’t any must have brands. The only thing I remember hating was new jeans. I wanted to wear them out as fast as possible so I could get some cool patches on them. (Which was really hard with those stupid Sears Toughskins.)

Guns:

We also learned how to shoot “BB” guns and real guns at an early age. I had a my own very simplistic “BB” gun in grade school. When I showed that I knew how to use it respectfully, I was upgraded to a much nicer “BB” gun. Eventually I got my own .22 caliber rifle.

My father always had loaded guns in the house. We knew that the wrath of God would be upon us if we even touched it with the tip of a finger. We never, ever, handled those guns even when we were alone in the house.

The sad realization of this post is the fact that I grew up with loving and caring parents, I had a great time being a kid, and these same parents would probably be considered monsters by today’s standards.

But I also came to the realization of how much faith and trust my parents had in me. When looking back at all the privileges that I had, my parents trusted me a lot.

Maybe You Should Write on the Walls…

When I was in my early teens my mother had decided it was time to redecorate the house and my bedroom was on that list for wallpaper. My Uncle, with his wife and kids, were also visiting on the day that all of my furniture and toys were removed from my bedroom. That was the day I had the realization that I was surrounded by four walls of plain white paint.

As a kid, you are always tempted by that evil voice that tells you to write on the walls. I was a good kid, and I had resisted that urge my entire life! Now was a perfect time to give in to that desire!

So I approached my dad with the suggestion, “Hey, since you are going to wallpaper my room anyway… why not let us draw on the walls?” I was in complete shock when he said OK. You would have to know my dad to understand why it was such a shock.  He is a very precise, everything as to be in order, Air Force man. He won’t even move furniture without a tape measure to make sure both legs are the same distance from the wall. (Okay, this is an exaggeration but not a huge one.)

My cousins, who were about the same age as me, and myself took a bunch of my markers and began to colorize the walls of my bedroom. Everything from text to cartoons reached all four corners. Shortly there after the wallpaper was up and as most events in a kids life went, out of sight out of mind, the drawings were soon forgotten.

Thirty years later, I received an email from my dad that put a smile on my face. Mom had decided to repaper the bedroom once again and when she pulled down the old wallpaper all of our artwork was still on the walls and intact. Dad had taken pictures of our artwork and sent them to me.

Coca-Cola and Christmas

For me, Coca-Cola will always be synonymous with Christmas. It is more than just the fact I love the taste of it. I admit, I would prefer a Coca-Cola Classic over any other soft drink out there. (Well, occasionally I do crave an IBC root beer.) And it is also more than all the Christmas hype that Coca-Cola tries to market. I do enjoy their Christmas commercials, like the Coke trucks for example, but that isn’t what ties them into Christmas for me. It is all about tradition.

My grandmother was the coolest grandma that ever lived. She would actually stay up and watch Sammy Terry with me on the weekends when I visited with her. (For those of you who don’t know, Sammy Terry was a horror host for WTTV channel 4 in Indianapolis.) How many grandmothers would do that? But Christmas in the 70s at grandma’s house was always something a little special for me.

My grandmother’s house had a back porch where she stored, literally,  a pallet of Coca-Cola in glass bottles. To this day I do not know why she had bought so much Coke. I have asked my dad about it but he didn’t know why either. If you read my earlier post, about A & W root beer, you already know that pop (soda for you southerners) was a treat.  It was a luxury item for us, so you can imagine the affect it had on me seeing a whole pallet of Coca-Cola in one location. (I think it even glowed with a white light and angels sang out as I looked upon it.)

The back porch had windows all around it and it wasn’t heated, but there was enough insulation that liquids did not freeze.  So the December cold made those glass bottles nice and chilly like a frosted mug.

Some my fondest memories of Christmas, is going out on her back porch where the windows, with their frosted edges, displayed a panoramic view of snow falling down. I would grab a cold bottle of Coca-Cola and rush back into the living room where a warm fireplace was waiting for me. I would sit on the floor in front of the fireplace watching Christmas specials, enjoying the taste of my cold cola, and occasionally turning so that the fireplace would heat up my body evenly.

Unfortunately my grandmother is no longer with us. But those Christmas memories will live within me until the day I die. (As well as the mystery of the pallet of Coke!)

Plastic Army Men of the 1970s

I think plastic army men were pretty much standard issue toys for most boys in the 1970s. My brother had the Marx Battleground play set. I am amazed how many pieces this set came with. My brother and I played with this for years.

Marx Battleground Play Set
Marx Battleground Play Set

This is the Marx Navarone play set from the JCPenny Christmas Wishbook. I wanted this one really bad, but it never ended up in my Christmas stocking.

Marx Navarone Play Set
Marx Navarone Play Set

And another cool set from Marx called Desert Fox.

Marx Desert Fox Play Set
Marx Desert Fox Play Set

Even our dad used to play army men with us. We had a huge dirt pile in the backyard and our father would help us set up the army men posed in a classic American versus German configuration. The cool thing was, he was planting firecrackers in strategic places while helping us set up. Then when the battle was ready to commence he would light the firecrackers one at a time as we watched the battle unfold. Those were some good times.

Oddly enough (maybe not so odd if you knew me) not a single piece of that set survived. I clearly remember what happened to the last surviving army man in that set. I don’t remember which army man it was, but it was an American soldier. I will not outline exactly what happened (as I don’t want to give ideas to younger readers) but it involved a model rocket engine, an exacto knife, the army man, and an ignition device. All I can say is not even a single piece of molten plastic was left behind.

Big Combs, Very Big Combs

I was reading thru another 70s blog (http://www.curtistucker.com/) when I ran across a post from an individual who was talking about how everyone had big combs in their back pocket. I remember doing that.

Typical 1970s Back Pocket Comb
Typical 1970s Back Pocket Comb

Where we lived it was the handle of the comb that was sticking out. And we would have combs with all kinds of psychedelic swirls of colors. Of course the downside was everybody and their brother would see if they could get your comb out of your back pocket without you noticing.

What an odd fashion statement.