Classic Kids At Play 1970’s Style (Part One)
In today’s GenForward Living Legacy blog I will touch on another conversation that comes up regularly with my son, which is about the kind of things we had as kids in the dark ages, which is apparently when I grew up.
Casting my mind back I can think of several items that topped out lists to Santa. These were mixed in with the usual present from some random ancient relative that we’d never met, but who clearly had little idea what had gone on in the world of children’s toys since the invention of the top ‘n’ whip, plus the, “parents trying to buy things to encourage creativity” type gifts.
I still try this one myself today, should know better really. As a child I pulled the heads off my Fuzzy Felts Nativity set and ate most of my Pay-Doh because it smelled so good, so why I expect my son to become Leonardo when presented with similar arty stuff I have no idea.
At various points in my lifetime my family was everything from dirt poor (council houses furnished primarily with boxes, and spaghetti with Campbells’ Condensed Soup as sauce to eat 5 night’s a week), all the way up to pretty comfortable relatively speaking. Regardless of times being boom or bust, somehow us kids were always spoilt to the best degree my parents could manage (and probably several they couldn’t really manage).
That being said there are some highlights I do actually still remember to this day so I’ll do a bit of a trip down memory lane and see what it pulls up. You have to bear in mind that the time I’m talking about was an interesting one for kids’ toys as there was the first emergence of electronic toys which started to take over from some of the staple classics.
It does bring a bit of a tear to my eye when I see some of the stuff I know I had and destroyed popping up on the antiques roadshow for god knows how much money. But then again, sorry for having a childhood. The stuff was supposed to be played with and more fool the poor sod who left all their toys in a box on the shelf.
So, let’s begin with a staple on both sides of the Atlantic……………
Now I don’t care what anyone else has to say, this is my life so he was called Action Man not sodding GI Joe. That being said I’m not quite sure how much “Action” was to be had as he was clearly suffering from rickets. As well as your basic action man, complete with facial scar, rubber “gripping” hands, and plastic underpants, you might also have been lucky enough to get one with “Eagle Eyes” (a lever on the back that made his eyes move from side to side like a cartoon baddie), or even a talking version.
As well as your basic man of action, there were various outfits to collect as well as vehicles in which to shove him into the furniture. Personally I had the Action Man tank, as well as the field gun. The latter was something that was about 18 inches long and if it existed today, it would be supplied with Nerf darts for safety, or no ammo at all for super safety. Of course as this was the 1970’s it was equipped with a vulcanised rubber bullet shaped projectile which, when loaded correctly into the spring based firing mechanism, could have the same effect on a small boy’s cranium as, well, a rubber bullet. I believe that the surplus stock of action man field gun bullets can still be seen in action today in some of the world’s crowd control hotspots.
As well as the tank and the field gun, the other biggie was the Action Man parachutist. This seemed like it was the coolest thing ever however in practice it did leave a bit to be desired. The real issue was one of overcoming gravity. An Action Man Paratrooper in full regalia, even with his anorexic limbs, was enough weight to mean that it was almost impossible for a small boy to chuck him high enough in the air for his parachute to unfold.
Not to be put off, this of course simply led to the quest for more altitude for launch. Step one, leaning out of the upstairs bedroom window, whilst balancing safely on a rickety chair. Most of the time we didn’t fall out during this operation, although on several occasions the chair toppled and we got a chin full of window sill and a fat lip. Unfortunately this extra height still wasn’t enough to stop action man hitting the dirt like bag of hammers. Even if you kind of unraveled his chute and held it by the top and let go it really didn’t work.
Climbing a tree with an action man stuffed in your pants isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do, but as ever, we managed. This plan was really foiled by the unfortunate fact that trees have branches and leaves. As I am sure many a Veteran of real world parachute drops can tell you, chutes and trees don’t mix. Eventually his chute got a bit ripped and he hit the floor so hard so many times his head came off. RIP Action Man.
Wow, I really got carried away with that one. I’ll do my best to keep the next few down in length (or just make this a 2 parter :P).
The next one I remember well is another action toy, this time based on a TV series from the USA (we were just starting to be exposed to such mind expanding things as American TV shows).
Steve Austin was the Six Million Dollar Man. In the 1970’s that was actually a mind bending amount of money. Given the exchange rate in 1975 we would be talking about 2.4 million pounds, which today might buy you the latest Bugatti so things have obviously changed a bit.
In the TV series, Steve had crashed his space ship, or experimental plane or something. Then, because he was such a dude, instead of just scraping him up off the runway and pouring the bits left into a bin bag, they decided to rebuild him.
This feat cost the previously mentioned 6 million dollars and resulted in him having replacement legs, one replacement arm, and a bionic eye. Quite frankly I think they were diddled but there ya go. This meant that Steve could run at 60 miles an hour, but only in slow motion and when being accompanied by the show’s theme tune. He could also perform Hulk style leaps up small buildings in slow motion, throw baddies a long distance (but only with one arm) in slow motion, and see a long way (but only with the one eye)(apparently one of the few things he did in real time).
All of these actions were always accompanied by a weird noise (which I really can’t translate but you all know what I mean, lets not pretend), which I am not sure what we are supposed to attribute to. Perhaps a dodgy servo, or maybe he just needed some WD40.
Anyways, as a toy, everyone had one. You could look through the back of his head to see thorough the “bionic” eye. Then he had a button on his back that you could press so that his one arm went up on a kind of ratchet arrangement, to bionically (according to spell check there’s no such word but it works for me) lift stuff, like the plastic truck engine he came provided with for showing off purposes. Although Steve did have a few outfits, most people I knew only had his standard one. I did however also own his “Rocket Ship” which was basically a tube you could put him in that opened up into an operating table he could be hooked up to for “repairs”.
I can see things getting abit lengthy now as I have really only scratched the surface on this one so I think I’ll restrict myself to a couple at a time and do multiple entries. Besides, as soon as he came in the office and clocked some of the pictures of toys in what I was writing, my son has been rubber-necking to try to get a read so I guess I can get this posted and let him start. Part 2 shortly, but I can see this one going on like the Rocky saga!