The year was 1982. I held in my hot little hands a bible-thick guide to the most awesome visual cornucopia a kid of 10 had ever seen. Thinking back on it, it was about this time every year that I would be glued to the Montgomery Ward Wish Book, planning out to the last detail (including page number and corresponding letter) every toy, game and accessory that would fill the void under the Christmas tree. Fuck it ... under and around the Christmas tree! We never got the Montogmery Ward Wish Book at my house, I had to sneak the one from my grandparents or from the neighbor lady. For some reason my mom and dad only got the nasty JCPenney catalog. There were plenty of people in underwear to look at in there (that had a different purpose few years later), but when it came to toys, nobody could beat the Wish Book. What's funny is that I had no desire to ever go into a Montgomery Ward outside of the holiday season and to their discredit when I did, it wasn't anything like shopping inside one of their catalogs. Major cool points lost there. Also I am pretty damn sure that my parents never fulfilled my Wish Book-based list from the catalog itself. This is well before the internet and I would go back and see the catalog's order forms snugly intact. Or maybe they wanted me to think that because Santa would never use a middle man.
Check out little Mary Jane's hot pants. She'll drive the boys blue when she shakes her rump at recess this year in that get-up! Very smurfy Mary Jane. Next is Roger in a very typical 80's Christmas morning outfit. God, that could be me. It's okay to be a boy and wear Smurfs and rainbow shirts that say "Follow Your Dreams Wherever They May Lead." It's very positive and in 1982, the Smurfs ROCK! (You're smiling too much Roger)
Yeah. more. clothes.
As a kid this would have killed me. First of all because I didn't wear nightgowns or "panties" but because clothes sucked! Like, not even months after Christmas did you ever appreciate this garbage. It has taken me about oh, 22 years to get into the fact that I would have embraced some cool Smurf racing stripe long johns.
9:13. It's Smurfin' time! How much of this latch hook business did you have as a kid? Personally I can claim a Garfield and a Kermit rug in this fashion. The catalog lists these as wall hangings. Yum!
Okay, I really don't mind saying that I would love to be smurfing some Smurf sheets in the Skinny Tie bedroom these days. I have a fierce set of Superfriends and Transformers sheets but when I need to go softer and when I'm feelin' a little ... blue, I'd love to think that Papa Smurf would be there to warble me to sleep.
PAC-MAN FEVER DRIVING ME CRAZY! PAC-MAN FEVER! I'VE GOTTA CALLUS ON MY FINGER AND MY SHOULDER'S HURTIN' TOO! I GOT PAC-MAN FEVER DRIVIN' ME CRAZY!
Now here are some great looks promplty over-cooked in the last few years once the 80's gold rush got underway. All that is missing from the two marys on the right are their matching trucker hats and possibly a lip ring. Still, in all of its redundance, what I wouldn't give to have had one of those shirts the first time around. I don't think that the guy in the blue shirt had any hope of growing up and becoming attractive.
Pac-Man fever had me so bad as a kid. I used to even draw other video games that had the Pac-Man characters in them like this Jungle version or one where Pac-Man was in a Haunted House. ... Errrm, Okay, here's a run down of some of the stuff you see on the page. It is hard to tell from the photo I took but the sheet set has two different versions of Pac-Man. If you were observant like me as a kid you were constantly bothered by the "skinny" Pac-Man with two legs and red eyes and the "round" strong man Pac-Man with boots on. I think they were German creations. You of course see the Atari game but the jewel here is the board game that I had as a kid. Same concept as the video game but you actually set up the grid with marbles and your Pac-Man would gobble them up blah blah blah. All I remember is taking it to school and dropping it so that all the marbles went all over the school's basement. Oh, and I remember I also was sick and had diarrhea that day. TMI I know, moving on ... (R) shows you how scary the Pac-Man craze got. They're puppets! Aaaaaah! I would have thrown the Pac-Man puppet as far across the room as my little stick arms would let me and then burn him!
(O) and (P) are beauuuutiful pieces of jewlery, 14K to be exact. If you wear them correctly, the little Pac-Man earrings will look like they are going to ear your ear lobes. The necklace is just tacky. How could you not love the Pac-Man belt though, pick it up at Hot Topic today!
A Skinny Tie first! Sports anything! The reason I decided to include this was to show how interesting it is to find the exact moment in time when sports teams products were sold without the use of a pro athlete. I think the next year Terry Bradshaw's ass was plastered on everything.
Hey it's Joe Cool! Believe it or not I was very much into Joe Cool. Joe was the precursor to all of us John Hughes worshipers wearing Panama Jack and OP in school a few years later. Just so you know. I had to include this kid in the M*A*S*H 4077 pajamas. Without even being too ironic this kid is cool. You could be Hawkeye, Radar or Hot Lips ... your call!
There are some of you out there I KNOW still slipping into their "I heart heart heart General Hospital (with two exclamation points!!)" nightie. It's a little see-through now honey, even Luke and Laura knew when it was time to split up. Okay, the last of the clothes (for now).
I LIED!!! CHECK OUT THESE CLOTHES!!! Hahahaha, I hate me too. Now here's the question of the hour to all you girls (and boys): Are you a Bo or Luke Duke? Check out the little gossip queens from the picture up left. They know the Duke boys on their right are hugging each other a little too tight.
As many sleeping bags as there were, there were just as many play tents to go around. This one takes the cake though, Cooter's Garage. If there was a way to get laid as a nine year old, this had to have been it. I got the toy you see on the right (G) for Christmas one year. It was sheer car crashing, barrel jumping machismo. It suddenly stopped working as well when I launched it into my mom's Fry Daddy.
Bubbling Hot Berry Sass!
Nothing screams inapropriate like a 5 year old inStrawberry Shortcake Underoos plastered on a 33 year old's Blog. But seriously, check out those berries! Berry plates, berry radio, berry everything! Berry nice!
I am sorely disheartened about the limited amount of Shortcake friends listed in the Wish Book. The Berry Trolley was there and a few assorted nose candy toys but mostly there were clothes, sheets, watches and the like. Bonus points though for listing the Purple Pieman and the hard to come by Sour Grapes. This has to be made into a feature length film starring that adorable Dakota Fanning ASAP! Dakota of course would be Sour Grapes now that she has outgrown her "cute" phase. I picture it more of a "Little Darlings" kind of film.
It's Little Orphan Annie!!! Giving inspiration to red headed children and the meatball perm (that my sister wore for all of 1 month) ... and orphans of course. Annie was the best movie for your bottom dollar back in the 80's! I loved it. My only concern is the electric device showcased in poor little Annie's hand here. Hey, it's in the Wish Book!
Oh look, it's a microphone! A simple child's microphone. There were many households this year screaming for a "Silent Night" when little girls everywhere were getting their "bottom dollar" out of the song "Tomorrow" in all its tinny glory. Oh the joy. The pure jooooooy! The only good thing about these Mr. Microphone devices were their ability to be used as weapons. You would get a better sound from using a toilet role tube honestly. We love you Miss Hannigan! Don't forget the nighties with Annie and her worthless pooch Sandy. Clearly the little black headed girl here is portraying "Pepper" the older, more street-wise orphan and the girl next to her is doing her best Suzanne Sugarbaker impersonation.
TOYS! MOTHERFUCKING TOYS!
You ever have one of those sobering realizations that not everything was just as you rememberd it? I had my first such realization in cracking open my musty old Wish Book for the first time. Where I once remembered a bevy of male dominated toys, I found a paltry five, maybe six pages of top shelf nostalgic "action" figures. Mind you, the G.I. Joe lead off page here (and trust me, this was it for Yo! Joe!) was neat in the fact that it marked the first year some kids were able to get their mitts on any of these figures. More special are the walkie talkies like the ones used by the Davey gang in the Legend of Billie Jean!
Look kids! A set of Star Wars figures for $10.99! Mind you of course that is $11 in Reagan dollars! Eat it kid, you'll never get 'em! Am I crazy to think that you could still get a Luke Skywalker circa A New Hope even though this is clearly the year to promote Empire Strikes Back? I'd like to remind everyone that I had everything listed on these pages except for that horrid transporter ship that looks like a supository.
A set of toys that I never got my hands on but that I had searched forever for were the Indiana Jones figures. My cousins lived in a much larger town than I did so they were able to go to a Toys R Us every once in a while and get neat stuff like this. They even had the Temple playset you see here, and it came with a mummy and snakes! Snakes were big in 80's toys. Yoda came with a snake too and if you had your orange Yoda snake after a week you were good!
He-Man figures were also sold in a very limited assortment and again, possibly for the first time in the Wish Book. It is amazing how little anyone knew about the characters or the storyline when trying to hock these awkward figures. Look! Man-At-Arms is about to beat Stratos with his mace! Mer-Man looks like he is about to attack Beast Man. It all makes sense. He-Man could care less, he's posing for the packaging art.
EEEEEE!!! The Rubiks Cube craze! God, what I wouldn't give to be un-sticking colored squares and re-sticking them onto my Cube so I could shove my friend Brian Hays's nose in my victory. The ultimate pet rock, my dad even had a kid in his class who studied these things and knew if one had been tampered with ... busted! I had just about every Rubiks whatever you could imagine. I had the basic cube, the pyramid, the star, even the dissapointing Orb thing that really and honestly had absoultely NO point except to make this annoying rattling sound. I actually tripped on it once and nearly broke my neck. The best Rubiks invention though had to be the Snake. I am not even sure that it was a puzzle as much as an entertaining way to make a (gasp) perfect square (gasp) wavy looking thing (gasp) the letter "W," and if you were really good (gasp) the shape of a small machine gun! But you had to be really precise and tight with it or you would end up one square away from something that looked like an elephant. Rubiks Cubes were best when they were worn out just the right amount to get a fluid twist with a nice "clicky" sound. The Pyramid seemed to have the most aesthetic feel to it. I think it was my favorite to kick around the neighborhood with.
Did anyone ever actually have either one of these toys? A staple for years in these catalogs I never ran across a kid who had the "ribbed" tunnel (for both their pleasure) or the black and white bouncy trampoline which for some reason always reminded me of an octopus. It is very hard for me to describe why, just know this. Also, I am slightly freaked out my the dis-embodied legs.
One of my favorite things were my Muppets toys. I had not this Miss Piggy but one that was similar to the one on TV except that her face was rubber and you could easily mimic that grinding thing she would do with her mouth when she was angry. Oh! And she had real hair! The Kermit I had is the exact one you see here. Mine though still bears the scars of where (not completely understanding of how the Muppets were engineered) I cut open the back of his head so that I could make the doll a puppet, presumably so he could kiss my other hand which was erstwhile up Piggy's felt ass. I included this pedal powered car because typical of the 80's ... it's a fucking Trans AM!!!
The "Gee Thanks Santa" Section
There was a section of the catalog that was right in the transition period between the clothes, the order form and sizing chart and they actual honest-to-goodness toys. This was the section that I used to think only poor people shopped from. Not because they were any cheaper but because I just imagined that poor people were directionless and didn't know any better, therefore some kid was going to be stuck with a pine wood derby car kit for Christmas or something. By the way, we were poor so I basically dodged a lot of bullets I guess. First up, did you know you could order your own gun kit? Hell yes! The second your sister picks up her Little Orphan Annie microphone, her Strawberry Shortcake dolls will be as good as yours! Also, won't you be the talk of the 6th grade with your Holly Hobbie watch. Jake Ryan is gonna flip!
Recurring theme? Star Wars and M*A*S*H watches! Mickey Mouse gets some love from Disney liscensing waaaay before they went gonzo with the princesses. My favorite thing to look for is the random times they set the watches to. Hey, it's 10:31! No, it's 5:23! No, it's 12:16!!! Something for your early risers and Johnny-come-lately's.
If you were anyone in the 80's you had a watch that did something other than just tell time. I had a transformer watch that did nothing more than extend two arms and two legs but it kicked some of the other kids' watches asses. Here we see two typical "far out" designs that had games on the that were completely too hard to see or understand but 7th period just wouldn't be the same without them. I ran across my Jungle Dan watch a few years ago. The silver quartz underbelly had eaten through whatever graphics used to be there save for what was printed permanently on the inside of the glass from when I played last. I wondered if I even finished the game the last time I played it. Like, when was that?! What day did I just decided that I wasn't going to wear it ever again?
Brass was king in the 80's. Ask anyone ... ask your mother! If you had class, you had to have brass. I love the great selections from the Montgomery Ward Wish Book here. You could either scream to the world that you are a blow dryer freak or that you are born again. Or go for the layered look and tell everyone that you are a born again blow dryer queen! I love the little lens flare they add to show pinache!
Truly pointless. I saw better stuff in mom's Home Testing Institute redemption catalog.
Brass stunk! I remember the craze was to have these little shadow boxes in your house and fill them with tiny little brass figures like the ones above. But after handling brass for a little while, which was my wekend chore while dusting them, your hands would smell like metal ass.
Okay, I just had to throw this in from the sleeping bag or "bedding" section. I think we caught a bit of an uncomfortable moment here. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for some of these hack job photo shoots.
The New Romantic Style
Shoulder Pads, Lace and T&A
"As you know, I have controlling interest in Denver-Carrington, and if you don't support this decision, I shall fire you all on the spot and replace you with a board that will!"
Show us the way to the cockfight! These senioritas have big ambitions and the hair to get them there. Vilma on the right here is intrigued by the new sexuality heralded in by the likes of Billie Jean King and Maude. Collars up! Raaarr.
Join in on the fun! Nothing comes between us and our new sensuality! It's okay, Sandra is used to being the "cheese" in our pajama sandwich. Get it up there girl! More wine coolers! I can hardly believe the smutty crap they sold in these Wish Books in the 80's! Pajamas with feet sewn in them?!
Aaaaah, the quilted coat. Still reverred and required to pull of a truly upper class 80's look. In mauve to be sure. Also behold the power of the 60 minute workout! The dance and fitness craze was sweeping the nation back then, when only about 5% of the U.S. population was obese. Sigh... For eons I have seen the Le Bag bag but never knew where to get one until now.
Kids Incorporated! K-I-D-S! Take a picture, it'll last longer. About 5 more years to be precise. This is the essence of optimism painted with crayola brightness framed in geometric shapes. This is before the power of goth creeped in and stole our cute 13 year olds!
There is nothing I wouldn't do to be seen on the street in any one of these outfits. Now, don't tell me I wouldn't be the cat's vagina. See, this kid knew he was ahead of his time. Go ahead and smirk little emo soldier, you're probably in banking now.
Just posting. No comment.
Raise your hand if you unconsciously looked for this kind of thing way back then. Pee pee shot! It takes a man to be an undergear model for any one of these catalogs. You are the cheapest form of porn and well, since it's the only work you can get, we are horrified to watch you get older year after year. But hey, it's steady work. Sad. You can put your hand down now.
Better Living Through Circuitry
Hey! They still sold record players! Just look at the happening all night disco that is going down behind this fierce turntable. This would be the best place for your Jackson's Victory Tour or favorite Anne Murray record. You know the one, with the naked angel babies on the front. Anne Murray rocked! In a gentle country pop kind of way.
It's somewhat hard waking up with a GIANT ALARM CLOCK ON YOUR STOMACH!!!! But it's even worse waking up in a room so bland it would make mental patients miss the ward. You can tell she's waking up because stretching your arms is the international sign for "waking up."
Finally, the gaming systems. This will revolutionize your life, take it away, give it hope again, take it away once more, open up paths to enlightenment and eventually show you how to beat up hookers and steal cars. Some honcho at the Wish Book knew they were the devil's play thing because he stashed them way at the back of the book (and yes I know that is generally where all the electronics go thank you). This is the grandaddy of them all, or at least the one that all the cool kids had. The Atari. The games were much better, the controllers were easier to handle, and you could actually name your kid Atari and have it be cool 20 years down the road.
Then of course there was Intellivision. I suppose if you had to have any other gaming system, this ran close to the Atari in the gaming wars. Oddly, it was priced higher than the Atari although it didn't have as much street cred. Their game selection was about the same but I could never get into the metal key pad thing with its slip in/out inserts. The one neat thing they did have over Atari was their home version of the Tron game. I loved nothing more than playing speed bikes on my next door neighbor's Intellivision.
Beware the ColecoVision! It was like math!!!!!!!
If you truly needed this even before the gaming revolution had gotten started, the end game for you was near.
For archival purposes only ladies and gentlemen, a true honest-to-goodness text book example of a ghetto blaster. I kind of get nostalgic for the simple archaic beauty of this beat box. I sometimes find it sad that I haven't once had to re-spool an album after it got wound up in my iPod. Where's the love when you don't have to work for your music? Check out Farmer Ted and his "game machine." Yeah, nice try. I think "The Man" is trying to make us think that computers are going to be all fun and games. suuuuure. Meanwhile I haven't been unshackled from mine in about 9 years. I laugh when I see our young friend play his "math game" in this picture. It's MATH FARMER TED!!!!!
I saved the best for last. Behold your chance to get your very own VCR for the low, low, low price of $799!!!!! That's right, now you can tape that snowy fuzz from the Playboy channel and pause it whenever you want! A complete 3-piece entertainment set costs only $1,295.67! If you act now, Montgomery Ward will sell you 1 (one!) VHS tape for only $16.95!!! Act now people, you won't want to wait the lenght of time it will take for these prices to be obsolete!