Last week I kicked off a new sometimes-weekly segment where I will flashback-up a toy from the era of my childhood.
And I so creatively call it — Toy Tuesday. Read here if you missed out on the kickoff celebration that might have included free pairs of Romper Stompers for every man, woman and child or actually just a print-yourself poster of Russell Crowe wearing white suspenders.
Today I’m honoring the simple wonder that is the View-Master.
The View-Master was magical! Here’s how it worked. You stuck a round card of tiny slides into the View-Master. You looked through it. You saw a picture. Then you clicked the lever. And then you saw — get this — another picture. And another — it just kept going! Forever. That’s the beauty that is a circle. It never ends. Amen.
Our View-Master was among the usual suspects of toys that ended up lying in the corner of the basement next to the toy box. These were the toys flung out in search of other toys.
Sadly, I can remember only two of the reels we had for our View-Master. The rest were probably lost, damaged or confiscated after being fashioned into Chinese throwing stars. In fact, all of them were fashioned into Chinese throwing stars, which is why they became lost or damaged.
One reel we owned was some kind of directory of the wild animals of Africa. Perhaps a lion. Maybe a gazelle. I seem to recall a zebra hiding in some tall grass. No, I think now it was the wild animals of North America. Yes, that’s right. Perhaps a mountain lion. Maybe a deer. I seem to recall a moose hiding in some tall grass. Okay so I don’t exactly recall what animals I saw. But I am 100% certain about the tall grass.
The other View-Master reel I remember contained scenes from Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Which is why I never had to visit Disneyland as a kid. I had the View-Master slides, you see. My parents were really thoughtful.
View-Master, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Pretty snappy, right?
Eight other names I came up with for the segment that did not make the cut:
(1) Totally Tubular Toy Tuesday:
(2) Toys Were Us Tuesday:
(3) Throwback Toy Tuesday/Thursday (Depending on What I Have on My Schedule on Tuesday or Thursday):
(4) Remember That One Thing? Tuesday:
(5) Slightly More Fun Than Sticks and Rocks Tuesday:
(6) When Lead Was Fun Tuesday:
(7) Toys That Almost Killed Us Tuesday:
(8) It’s Tuesday:
But there’s more! I will also be taking your input on toys to feature in future segments. See that adorable bite-sized comment box way down below? If it so moves you, please leave a suggested toy feature right there. Or drop me an email at email@example.com.
If I pick your toy idea to feature, I’ll be sure to give you a special shout-out.
But I will not give you a toy. Repeat. I will not give you a toy.
Today I’m featuring one of my favorite old toys – Romper Stompers.
What’s that, you ask?
Yes, that’s right — Romper Stompers.
I know, you probably didn’t even know they were called Romper Stompers.
I personally knew them as “those plastic cup things that you walked about on during nursery school in order to appear taller and intimidate the biters.” And when I googled that, I learned they were called Romper Stompers.
Not to be confused with Romper Stomper:
Not to be confused with Romper Room:
Not to be confused with Romper Brat:
What I loved the most about Romper Stompers is how sometimes one foot (particularly if clad in a wooden-soled clog) would slip right off the front of the cup and sort of launch you to the linoleum floor — in the process, creating an entirely different type of toy. The hurty variety, if you will.
What I also loved about Romper Stompers is how the foot apparatus appeared to be, quite simply, plain old recycled Parkay margarine tubs, thereby allowing the toy company to capitalize on what children had already been doing for centuries — standing up on random stuff to reach something.
Romper Stompers, wherever you are, I raise my glass of Tang to you.
Dearest Readers, the video thingy at the end of this blog is an advertisement and not part of the content of Childhood Relived. These ads help off-set a small portion of the cost of the copious amount of coffee I drink, necessary for writing this blog.
Today: What the Reunited on Ice?
You may have noticed I’ve been slacking off with my blog lately. That is, if “lately” encompasses all of the past three months.
I will try to make it up to you today. Because today I have a magnificent What the Friday? double feature for you. That’s right, kids — not one but two WTF? videos. And it isn’t even your birthday. Or maybe it is. Happy birthday, maybe.
I know you’re on the edge of your seat with anticipation so let me just put you out of your misery. Today I have for you the 1982 commercial for Riunite wine and the 1978 performance of the Reunited love song.
Before I begin, let me give a shout out to the three people who made today’s blog post possible.
Thank you to Misty of the blog Misty’s Laws for calling my attention to the fact that today is National Day of Redundancy National Day. That day is today. Or maybe it was last month. Doesn’t matter. I will honor the day in my heart and try to keep it all the year.
Redundancy is the theme for this post about redundancy. More on that later.
Now it is later. This post is about redundancy.
Thank you also to Peg of the blog Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings and Dave of the blog 1 Point Perspective for their tantalizing commentalooza about Riunite wine, which they so generously waged on my last WTF? post.
While these two WTF? videos may seem completely unrelated, they are so much the same.
In fact, I don’t know where the Riunite wine jingle ends and the Peaches and Herb Reunited song begins.
I can’t think of one without the other. I can’t think of either one without the other one. I can’t think. What?
I can’t think of reuniting without thinking of wine.
Both songs were musical scores that ran in the background of my ’80s childhood.
Both songs involve people.
Both are songs. And one is about a wine. And the other is about two people. Who might also drink wine.
And then one night in college while lying in my dorm room . . . studying, naturally . . . the song Reunited came on the radio.
And, for whatever reason, I was reminded of Riunite wine. And then I thought of the Riunite wine jingle. But I couldn’t really think of how the jingle went, what with the Reunited song playing on the radio and all. And that led me to some deep thinking about which was which and were they even different? Is Riunite the Italian word for reunited? Should I order a pizza? Should I drink more wine? It was all one big philosophical dilemma.
So I decided to sleep on it. And then I woke up with a headache. That’s how deeply I thought about it.
Riunite and it feels so good.
Reunited so nice, reunited on ice.
Today’s tangent was brought to you by booze.
*What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.*
You may know that around October I scaled back the frequency of my blogging. And it’s been nearly seven long weeks now since I offered you a WTF? post.
I know, I know — without your weekly dose of video-awkward, what’s the point of getting up in the morning, am I right?
Well, just for you, I’ve begun scouring the internet tubes again.
Oh how far we’ve come as a society.
Let me just start by saying that today I am a much more sensitive person than I was twenty years ago.
For example, I now know that calling out a person’s “spandex” is shameful, that “spandex” is hurtful and derogatory.
It’s difficult to accept that a long, long time ago, we all felt comfortable dropping this word into casual conversation, even going so far as pointing at a person and right to their face saying “spandex.”
What’s more heartbreaking? People even once used “spandex” to describe themselves.
Like if I told you people many years ago would willingly nickname themselves The Spandex Twins, you would tell me I was lying.
Oh how quickly we forget our bitter past.
Most likely you subscribed to my blog last week after reading my post on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page. Welcome and thank you! The following post is more reflective of the inane musings you’ll typically find here. But while you’ll find little in the way of the soft-underbelly-exposing seriousness of my previous post, I do offer horribly awkward adolescent pictures that will make you weep with pity and numerous shameful tales of a pants-piddler gone bratty. I hope you’ll stick around just the same.
Your friend in flashbacks,
Holy Awkward School Photos Made Even More Awkward.
I never knew love could feel like this.
And do I ever have a special treat for you today.
Well, hold on to your Members Only jackets, folks, because here it is:
Is this the work of Olan Mills, perchance? If so, you broke the mold, my friend. That’s right. Broke it right over our heads.
It goes without saying that I owe the blogger Misty of Misty’s Laws a tremendous debt of gratitude for sending this my way. (Check out her hilarious writing here — as if this link referral can even come close to repaying my debt.)
You’ll notice that Misty has shrewdly blurred her face to prevent anyone from recognizing her.
Although, perhaps you remember a girl who wore a lacy pink dress with a fake sewn-on pearl necklace, courtesy of the K-Mart Nellie Oleson Collection? Chances are that girl was Misty.
Oh, but I digress. And I blame the fake sewn-on necklace.
Now let’s get back to the important matter at hand here — the photo backdrop.
Halley’s Comet? Get out of town! No really. My science teacher Mr. Scott said you can see comets better when you drive out of the city limits.
Who knew that ‘80s school photo backdrops could offer you anything more than soft swirling taupe? (Exhibit A:)
Or the chance to appear awkward and abandoned in a remote wooded area? (Exhibit B:)
Much, much later while in high school, we got a lot more options. There was (A.) Swirly Red, (B.) Swirly Blue, and (C.) Swirly Taupe. The answer is C, of course. C, always answer C!
And speaking of C, I give Halley’s Comet Photo Backdrop a mere “C” for effort. While it was certainly a brave attempt at pomp and circumstance, I had to detract points for its total lack of relevance.
Of course I remember being told in 1986 that Halley’s Comet was a Really Big Deal. But the problem with declaring something as a Really Big Deal in the midst of the supposed Really Big Deal is you don’t always know if the proposed Really Big Deal will actually be remembered as a Really Big Deal after the Really Big Deal is over.
Yes, I’m sure we can all remember where we were when Halley’s Comet blew through the atmosphere. Nope. Beats the heck out of me. I was probably playing Nintendo.
I have instead proposed a few other ‘80s commemorative backdrops that would’ve made for much better school photos. Just imagine the grandeur of seeing these momentous occasions off-setting your acne.
(Option A.) The 1982 Release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller Album commemorative photo.
Who doesn’t agree that the Thriller album was among the most significant musical contributions of the ’80s? Who doesn’t agree that this video was groundbreaking? Who doesn’t agree that a telescope would be really hard to photoshop out of this picture?
(Option B.) The 1980 Who Shot J.R.? Greatest TV Cliffhanger of All Time commemorative photo.
Who shot J.R.? Misty did. In the Conservatory. With a telescope.
(Option C.) The 1982 Release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Summer Blockbuster commemorative photo.
The best part of this, Olan Mills? You get to reuse the Halley’s Comet telescope prop. Those props don’t come cheap you know.
(Option D.) The 1987 Signing of the INF Treaty commemorative photo.
Mark my words, someday you’ll be asked this date in a trivia game. Put it in a school photo and you’d remember it for a lifetime. You’d remember it because it was the same year you wore that dress with the fake sewn-on necklace.
And, unlike Halley’s Comet, don’t expect to see that dress in another 76 years.
**Heartfelt thanks to Tony, my beloved brother the graphic designer, who helped make my Photoshop dreams a reality.**
The smoke twisted and turned across the sky in a fluffy white cotton candy stream. I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like – should it look like this? I looked to my teacher’s eyes and I knew – something was wrong. The Challenger was broken.
But there I sat among the neat rows of 4th graders, in our Crayola-colored chairs, waiting for the explanation. Instead, we heard gasps on location in Florida. And we stared in silence at the television cart that only minutes before had been wheeled in for the momentous occasion.
For weeks we’d talked about the Challenger’s impending launch. Christa McAullife would be on board — a curly-haired, common school teacher whose smiling face we’d come to recognize. We’d read about her selection in our Weekly Reader and watched video of her training at Space Camp. And now she was . . . where? Our eyes stayed locked on the swirling smoke until Mrs. Seeger turned off the television set.
“Well, we won’t know what happened for a while, so we better get back to our social studies.” And then she finished by saying we could check back later. And that was all. I found this somehow reassuring. “We can check back later.” But the television was left off that day. And I wondered about it through lunch and recess. Everyone was okay, I decided. We couldn’t see the astronauts, but they were there — they’d parachuted to safety, I just knew it. Just like the end of a Sunday night Disney movie, there’d be a happy ending, an uplifting swell of music — only without the chimpanzees or Don Knotts.
Instead, I’d learn by evening that Christa McAullife and all six astronauts perished that day — in real-time, right before our eyes. And other classrooms across the nation watched it too.
Today, I hardly know of a person my age who can’t recall that day, the day the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. Perhaps it’s my own generation’s 9-11 or Kennedy being shot – that clear moment in time that you can mark on a calendar, that very instance when the world felt really scary for the first time and the life-as-we-know-it bubble burst.
For years I’d been carefully stored in a safe little snow globe in Anytown, USA. Sometimes people died before their time, this I knew, but I was either unaware or not affected enough to take heart of these occurrences. Murder and war were hardly in my vocabulary. My dad was a Vietnam vet, my grandfather survived the second world war, my parents took shelter under their school desks for bomb drills — but these things were also in our history books and, therefore, not of our modern times it seemed.
And evil? What was evil? I’ll tell you what were evil. Children of the Corn were evil. More on that later. Oh, I wasn’t completely unaware that bad things lurked behind dark corners. In the mornings, I used to eat my cereal beside missing paperboys on milk cartons. So I’d chew my Rice Chex and ponder what happened to them. They disappeared. But where and with whom? Maybe with a dad or uncle, I’d think – sad because they miss their moms, but living on the road in an RV like the Return from Witch Mountain orphans.
Or maybe like on the movie Savannah Smiles — maybe kidnapped and having the time of their lives. And maybe, like Savannah, they’d decide their kidnappers took better care of them than their wealthy, detached parents did.
Much later I heard Adam’s story. Adam Walsh was kidnapped from a shopping mall in Florida. His head was found in a canal. That’s the detail I remember. That horrible detail. How did I know this? I can’t say. Thankfully, we only had four TV stations in the early ‘80s, which kept us well insulated. And the news shows only came on twice – and I was in bed during one of them. And even still, even then, I believed that those horrible things that I now knew could happen could only happen if you lived in a far off city.
That’s why, in the summer before I turned nine, when a three-year-old neighbor girl disappeared from her backyard, I wasn’t really worried. It was dark and she’d been missing for an hour. Soon neighbors were out walking the blocks, calling her name.
My brother and I hopped on our bikes and pedaled to a nearby park at the edge of town. There we traveled up and down a dimly lit stretch of gravel road, along rows and rows of corn. I was terrified. As I yelled the girl’s name, I worried more for my own safety. The darkness, the endless rows of corn that seemed to converge into a dark hole — I hadn’t seen Children of the Corn, but I knew about it from friends and had watched previews on TV. Something could happen to me. Some form of evil lives out there. And that “out there”, the evil concocted by Hollywood, felt more real to me than the evil that actually existed among us, the human kind, the kind that would snatch children away from their sandboxes.
The neighbor girl was soon found – asleep inside a doghouse. But for days I couldn’t shut my eyes at night in fear of the demons inside the cornfield.
I don’t often cry at anything. And it’s felt like years since I’ve all-out bawled. Yet I’ve cried nearly every day since I heard the news of the Newtown murders last Friday. Every day something different hits me. And I don’t even watch television. But it finds me anyway.
One day, I cried while reading of firefighters traveling from New York to stand outside a young victim’s funeral – he wanted to someday join their ranks. One day, I cried at the very sight of a flag at half-mast. One day, I cried after seeing my daughter’s pure joy over where the Elf on the Shelf emerged that morning – with the sinking realization that many miles away there were elves on the shelves that hadn’t moved since Thursday.
One day, it was after reading that the young Newtown victims were going to make gingerbread houses that afternoon. For days I’ve obsessed over this. Having a strong connection to my own childhood, reading this sort of detail sends me immediately back to that place in life. In first grade, just knowing I’d be making gingerbread houses with my classmates on Friday would’ve made my whole week. By Wednesday, I would’ve practically peed myself in anticipation of the coming event, and on Thursday night I would’ve stayed awake strategizing how I’d turn gumdrops into shingles and use candy canes for fence posts.
I remain optimistic that healing can occur over time, that families will pull together, that the community of Newtown will endure. But I will continue to grieve for the loss of innocence, which is forever – for the children who witnessed things they wouldn’t even be allowed to see on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for those who lost siblings, for those who lost friends, for those who lost teachers – and on and on to every young child who heard the story from cautious parents and friends at schools hundreds of miles away.
Last Friday, I wanted to gather up my children, ages five and three, and store them away in the same little snow globe where I once lived — at least until they’re 12. Along the way, a beloved pet may die, an elderly relative might get sick, and I will help them grieve and experience loss as a part of life. But I will hope and pray with all my might that they’ll never hear what happened inside that school. I want their lives to feel safe and their innocence left in tact. I want them to believe that teachers, like astronauts, are invincible like superheroes.
And each day, when I kiss them goodbye and send them away to school, I want them to believe they’ll always come back.