During this season, when commercialism is at its best and I find myself staring blank-eyed at a wall of purses at Strawberry contemplating what to get my "tween" niece, I'm reminded of a simpler time. A time when toys had an inherent awesomeness. A time when the preferred color was "neon." A time I like to call -- the 1980's.
80's hair courtesy of my mother. Genuine look of child surprise courtesy of Santa.*
I'm sure that most generations can look back on the childhood toys of their era with a certain fondness. But I maintain that the 1980s produced some of the most kick-ass, memorable and, at times, weird and creepy toys. I personally can recall some of the more noteworthy gifts that graced the bottom of the Goshko tree (a tree that our dog would constantly pee on), and I'm sure some of you other Depeche Mode-generation kids out there can relate.
So now, in no particular order, I present my Top Ten most memorable 1980s Christmas gifts! Let the reminiscing and eggnog spiking begin.
If you took a hit of acid, and then hallucinated what it would look like if a dog, a goat, a kangaroo and your uncle's toupee all merged into one plush toy, you would have Popples. Mine was white with a blue tummy. And doubly awesome: When you ball your Popple up into its pouch, it serves as a great weapon to chuck at your sibling's face. Score!
2. Crocodile Mile
photo courtesy of retro80skid
"You run, you slide, you hit the bump and take a dive!" I can still remember that jingle to this day. Maybe because it's also become a metaphor for life. This toy is awesome if you like hurling yourself onto the hard ground and upsetting your father because it kills all the grass underneath the plastic slide, and then you have a 20 foot streak of dead lawn. It was a favorite.
3. Castle Grayskull
photo courtesy of he-man.org
Castle Grayskull was the perfect backdrop for my He-Man and She-Ra toys to showcase their pillaging powers. Even if the string that operated the little elevator always had some kind of problem, this was a pretty kick-ass playset. Unfortuantely, my time with ol' homestead Grayskull was short-lived, 'cause some religious nut gave my mom a book called Turmoil in the Toybox that basically said this castle was Satan incarnate, and we had to throw out all our Masters of the Universe stuff. The power of Christ compels you! Also, Merry Christmas.
4. Pogo/Lolo Ball
photo courtesy of Amazon
Okay, point-blank: Pogo balls are awesome! I owned its cousin, the Lolo Ball (equally amazing). Ever wonder what it would be like to jump on the rings of Saturn without ever having to leave your driveway? Well, wonder no more! The bonus to this toy is that after you've mastered balancing on this thing (which takes a while; the mounting process can be daunting), you can laugh at all your friends who look like they have equilibrium problems as they attempt it for the first time. Win, win.
5. Cricket Doll
photo courtesy of squidoo
Okay, honestly? This one falls under the weird/creepy category. Originally I wanted a Teddy Ruxpin because talking bears are cool. Instead, I ended up with this toe-headed doll with eyes that never seemed to stop watching me. To make Cricket speak, you place a cassette tape in her back, and then "voila!" You have a new buddy. A buddy that will freak you out.
6. Sylvanian Families
photo courtesy of sylvanianfamilies.com.au
Okay, if anyone else had these figurines as a child, you have to let me know so I can sleep a little easier knowing I wasn't the only kid out there orchestrating inter-species marriages. Sylvanians are anthropomorphic figurines with pretty snazzy clothes. I also had the Sylvanian cottage, tree house and several furniture sets. All in all, they're a great way to play out what you wish your family could be like.
7. Nintendo with Power Pad
photo courtesy of webring
I don't know of a kid around who didn't want a Nintendo. And we hit the jackpot when my dad also got us the Duck Hunt gun and Power Pad. Your ratio of friends goes up exponentially when they find out you have a Nintendo Power Pad. That ratio is directly proportional to the irritation your parents will experience hearing sugar-fueled kids stomping away on said Power Pad on their hardwood floors. You do the math on how long our Power Pad stuck around.
8. Pound Puppies
photo courtesy of powerhousemuseum
I loved my Pound Puppy! Not only do you never have to pick up after them, but you get the fun of signing an adoption certificate. I don't know why it was so thrilling to fill out paper work as a child, but hey, I had never had to work a temp job yet either. Perspective.
I had to put both of these together, because I'm running out of room in my Top 10, and you can't talk about 80's toys without including these. Long story short -- there's nothing not incredible about these toys. From Optimus Prime making semi-trailer trucks cool, to Cheetara providing years of future spank bank material for sexually frustrated boys, these toys both earn an A+.
10. Koosh Ball
photo courtesy of wikipedia
Although not the most riveting toy, this toy does provide therapeutic relief. Who doesn't like the feel of a Kooshball? And again, its inherent ability to be used as a weapon on younger brothers and sisters in unparalleled. Warning, though: If you're a nail biter or thumb sucker, do not engage in such activities directly after playing with your Kooshball, unless you like the taste of a thousand rubber bands in your mouth.
So there you have it! A holiday trip down memory lane. Wishing you all an awesome, 80s-inspired holiday season. Cheers!
*photo courtesy of the author