Here I am back with yet another year sifting through the yellowed pages of a Christmas catalogue gone by.
And for those of you keeping score at home, yes I am well aware of my glaring mistake by calling the Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogue the "Wish Book" when in actuality Sears lays claim to that classic title. Well, I'm too proud to be embarrassed and too humble not to disclose it to you but above all, I'm way too lazy to go back and change the information so there you go. I give you the Montgomery Ward "Christmas Values" WISH BOOK for 1983.
Why afford another year? But of course my dear readers, because the Eighties are like a fine wine and only get better with each passing year. Christmas catalogues produced over the years, regardless of decade, are like wonderful little time capsules. Plus I've got three more of these things and I want to put them to good use!
By the look of it, its the party that you always knew was going on in the short bus. The one to which you were never invited. You couldn't prove it, but you just knew.
I'm guessing, no ... pretty sure ... that the shirt is all talk.
Of course this is the year 2005 talking but I'm guessing today's modern young woman would not wear a nightshirt that says "I love receiving" on the front of it. Then again, I may be wrong about today's young woman. Also gander at Missy here in her near-porn moment. It's nice that they decided to use the little orange panties box to modestly cover her but what did this do to 13 year old boys back then! Might I remind you this is smack dab in the middle of the Garfield section in the front of the catalogue.
It's 1983 and Return of the Jedi heralds the last of the good Star Wars films that will made. Ever. The Ewok playset was the holy grail among my friends and I was lucky enough to have begged enough to get it that year. Of course it quickly became other things like the wooded fortress for my G.I. Joes and a really cool place for my green Voltron lion to hibernate until he was needed. The Millenium Falcon was du rigeur among Star Wars collectors and mine was ultra special because I gave mine some rennovations. I just knew there was something behind the cardboard partition that seperated the cockpit from the inner cabin. Sadly now, I cry at night thinking how I depriciated my only remaining nest egg.
And what was ultra popular about Return of the Jedi? Ewoks! How about a little Star Wars couture. The catalogue says "five pocket 100% cotton denim jean has Return of the Jedi embroidered on back pocket." Excuse me for being a child and beign somewhat smarter than you but that's Wicket W. Warwick on there! Also, the Ewoks were really annoying and their merchandising blitz stopped at nothing to conquer every market. Did you even know there was a pink Ewok? Her name is apparently Kneesaa and with a name like that she also represents the Endor urban market. Later on she would go on to star on the fledling UPN network under her stage name of Kneesaa Knight Pulliam. My apologies if your name really is Kneesaa. Now you know where your parents got it.
How awesome would it be to have parents this devoted to your Star Wars obsession that they would go all out in your bedroom decor? Not very. I think God my parents knew better. I got beat up enough for the red, white and blue motif I had going on. I do have to say that a little curtains to match the beadspread would at least been nice.
Q*bert and the Nasties. You know, aside from his obvious retro cred, I never much cared for Q*bert nor his need to get to the top of that pyramid. I might be comparing apples to oranges-with-feet, but give me a game like Dragonslayer any day! There was just something unnatural about Q*bert: he cussed (@!?*!), that phallic nose, a rainbow colored pyramid! hmmm.
I don't know what it is with Montgomery Ward and their inability to get Hasbro to sell their toys in this catalogue. Here it is a year later and still nothing to really clinch that G.I. Joe hungry market out there. You only have the H.I.S.S. and Cobra Commander to represent C.O.B.R.A. I'm a little put off by this. Still, with a cartoon like G.I. Joe around, kids will know what they want. They just apparently can't buy it out of this catalogue.
Behold the beginning of the decline of mankind! Dungeons and Dragons. What kid didn't dabble in a little satanism back in the day huh? Ha! Just kidding, I liked D&D mainly for the cartoon. If you aren't familiar with what I am talking about, don't worry I'll have a post this coming year on it but it was only the most freaking amazing cartoon ever!!! Six kids sneak into a theme park at night (wha?!) and jump on the Dungeons and Dragons roller coaster in which they get sucked into the Realm where they all find that they each have a unique power/weapon. Oh! And don't forget Uni the unicorn! Man, that was some good stuff. Sadly they never really made any toys based on the cartoon. As for the board game, I was really only into it for the dice. Man, did I waste a lot of my allowance on buying those 20-sided dice so I could show them off at recess. The action figures you see above, and I use the term "action" lightly here as most of them are more like statues, were more based on the books and game but I did happend to have Warduke and his black horse who ironically made an appearance in the cartoon. I also had the Minotaur with the axe but he was really a very large glorified PVC and didn't blend in well with my other toys. No real play scenario called for Minotaur man. Also pictured here are the genesis to Myst, Magic: The Gathering, Elseworlds, basically the ruin of all our future would-be Steve Jobs types.
Fake Transformers! Seriously, what were they thinking putting this crap in the catalogue. Of course I could figure it out as I had the originals of the two knock offs you see here. But the Diakon vehicle force guy you see above I actually got for Christmas one year (mmm, probably 1983!) and he was my most beloved piece of Hong Kong's finest for years to come. Until of course I eventually started losing some of the vehicles and little men that came with it. The reason he was so cool was that even though an obvious rip off of Vehicle Voltron (Voltron I to those of you who care to know), it was the closest I could get to finding the real thing as I lived in a very backwoods area. The neat thing about the little men that came with him was that they could also fit inside your Transformers should you be able to manage a way to shove them in there. But come on, Hasbro and Matchbox, where are your lawyers!!!
Cabbage Patch Kids! It's the craze that knocked yo mama's butt in the dirt! Everyone just had to have a piece of this action didn't they? No one was immune to the suction felt by the empire that Xavier created in some lowly Cabbage patch in Bosnia-Herzagovina. I was a Koosa man myself but the want of a child of my own eventually caught up with me and one magical Christmas my Grandma presented me with my immaculate delivery. Mind you this is one she made by hand from one of those kits. And he was black. But that was cool because I was had actually asked for a black baby, I was very progressive at 8 years old. I named him Webster which does bring a tinge of white guilt but I named him with love and meant every word that I said when I signed the also hand made document similar to the ones that came with real Cabbage Patch Kids. I bet a lot of kids out there got these handmade dolls as real Cabbage Patch Kids were hard to find and ate into your mom and dad's modest salaries. But the ones made by hand were more special as they were made with love ... aaaah, who am I kidding. If you didn't have a real one, your's was lacking that cute little "outtie" belly button and didn't smell like heavenly powder. I always thought it was neat that even though marketed directly at girls, there was a time that even the toughest boys carried one of these around. Today when I see a picture like the one above, they remind me of little zombies.
Why subject you to more Strawberry Shortcake crack? Because I thought it was neat that they included some of the more obscure and late-in-the-scene Shortcake friends such as J) Almond Tea with Marza Panda, K) Cafe Ole with Burrito burro, L) Mint Tulip with Marsh Mallard, and M) Crepe Suzette with Eclair the poodle. I've also included a photo of the listing for most all of the Strawberry Shortcake gang. I find it odd that each doll cost $13.98. That's a lot for back in 1983 but still, one whiff of these things through the box and I'd be willing to pay anything. I would invite myself play with these things with my sister just to get a whiff of them. What? If you're a guy and you think that sounds gay, please tell me that you didn't pop one of their little freckled heads into your mouth because you just knew there was a real peach pit inside! No? My bad. That's a demon I'll just have to live with I guess. Oh, below are also V) Lem and Ada with their sheep dog Sugar Woofer.
If you think I obsess over Strawberry Shortcake a little too much, you'd be right.
Herself the Elf. Every self respecting Riot Grrl today owes a lot to Herself the Elf. Come one, she's earthy, independent and above all, no boys in the toy line at all. Give this righteous babe a guitar!
Who Cares. About the return of the Care Bears I mean. What was once a very special group of cuddly bears bringing stories of love and care to us in our youth are now a group of very special bears bringing half hearted nostalgia to our actual youth(s). Do kids even know that these guys' past history? Maybe it doesn't matter. What does matter is knowing that these loving guys (I think) were the creation of American Greetings, part of an industry responsible for such fake holidays as Valentine's Day, etc. But even with possible sinister capatalist synergy working behind it, we all fell in love with the Care Bears. They spawned a major motion picture and a line of other Care Animals (I remember a lion and an elephant). What kind of bums me out is it seems that this time around they're missing a few of the Care Bear family members. No?
If you're keeping score at home, the Care Bears are: Tenderheart Bear, Bedtime Bear, Birthday Bear, Friend Bear, Good Luck Bear, Cheer Bear, Grumpy Bear (my personal fav), Funshine Bear, Love-A-Lot Bear, and Wish Bear. They Lived in Care-A-Lot and only fostered positive abmiguously non-secular messages.
I used to love these little hard back books. Let's see there was "The Trouble With Timmy," "Sweet Dreams For Sally," and "The Witch Down The Street." Also, behold the cloud car! Now, why they didn't make a Big Wheel out of this one, I'll never know.
Poor Carrie, you are what you eat. And you're eating beets. Never fear, someday soon little Carrie will meet her Mr. Big and not have to worry about snacking on Russion peasant foods every again. She will have to upgrade the yellow sundress however. Samantha on the other hand is already using her trip through the grocery store to pick up men. Look at how high that skirt is!
I loved the fake food that came with the kitchen playsets. Especially if it looked like ice cream. It didn't matter that I had tested it a million times before, it would always end up in my mouth again. I always though the little plastic hot dogs in the Oscar Mayer wrapper were a hoot too. The Snoopy Snow Cone maker should be preserved in the Pop Culture History Museum. These had to be the worst snow cones ever though. The ice that you had to prepare before making the snow cones was nothing but pure sugar water and if not done properly, would make you wretch. POOCHIE!!! (I think toy law requires that her name be in pink). Die Bitch Die!!!! I hated this fucking pink poodle with all my might! Gah! No one remembers you!!!
Now here we go. Shirt Tales. The Eighties were so chock full of animal themed cartoons that it wasn't hard to miss these guys. Wuzzles, Gummi Bears, Snorks .... sort of. The Shirt Tales were also possibly part of a greater plan to sell greeting cards but we won't let that tarnish their good name. The shirt tales were a band of crime fighting animals who wore shirts that displayed theier name, thoughs and images on them. A lot of what they did and were about is still a little fuzzy for me but 1983 was big for them. They Shirt Tales were: Tyg the Tiger, Digger the Mole, Bogey the Orangutang, Pammy Panda and Rick Racoon.
I included this to show you the cool retro raglan Digger tee.
You know, since Shirt Tales seems to have managed to dodge the comeback bus thus far, they seem kind of edgy and cool. I'm sure that only time will tell before they punk them out and Hot Topic puts Pammy Panda in some fishnets.
Two Great dolls from the Eighties that I remember vividly because of their commercials. First up is Baby Alive from Kenner. Even the name harkens this child's magical prowess. This baby ask you to feed it, which all kids love to do but then, magically it would bring forth a torrent of fake baby shit and return to you whatever you fed it. I may be a smidge too detailed on the exact mechanics of it all but let's face it, this is why every girl wanted this thing. Baby Alive came with various flavors of food that you would mix with water and then spoon feed to her. Oddly, the baby food packaging instructed you not to eat it but then why flavor it? hmmm? Was baby (gasp!) really alive? The great marketing catch here is that soon you would be so mezmerized by the ever flowing canal, circle of life thing that you would run out of food and have to "aha!" run to the store and purchase more of it. If you were like any young enterprising kid, you would just go into the kitchen and whip up the next best thing for free ... Cream of Wheat. Unfortunatley, you would also end up jamming up baby's endochrin system and have to force water down her throat or blow with all your might up her poop shoot until the clog was free. Not a pretty sight. I do have to wonder how some of these novelty products ever made it past a month of play. Take the Barbie styling head for instance, once you've given her the Grace Joens look, isn't she ready for the Yard Sale? Next up is Baby Skates. Nothing really too spectacular after you've experienced her sister the shitting wonder but still, she could skate. TO HER DEATH IF YOU POSITIONED HER JUST SO AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS!!! HAHAHAHA!
Aww, Rub-A-Dub Doggie. So simple and sweet but truly an iconic 80's bathtime toy. I once had the pleasure of bathing with Rub-A-Dub at a relative's house that had him and I must say, he did make my bath time more enjoyable. He could shake his head and he came with his very own bone shaped sponge, that was not meant for human skin let me tell you. I also thought I would share the Royal Couple. I find it funny that it says "Save $5 on Royal Couple." And priced at only $25 think of the value today!
Who remembers Glamour Gals! They were a small, cheaply made version of Barbie. Since my sister had these and I played with them some, I thought I would include them here. What?! I love my sister dearly and she had no one to play with and I felt bad that she had no other outlet for her creativity ... I'm not too insecure in my masculinity that I can't admit that yes, I helped organize a fashion show or two. By the way, their hair was fabulous!!
Glamour Gals certainly worked the small size thing to their advantage. How else could you affordably sell an entire cruise ship complete with working elevator, three decks and heart shaped pool?! The Glamour Gals Showplace is the one commercial I remember for these dolls. Essentially it was just a carrying case but it had this revolving door and you could put a naked doll on one side of it and with the twist of a wrist (I'm trying not to lisp) a gaudy Eighties bride would appear! The Glamour Gals had one thing over Barbie, their clothes were very modern and daring. A little bit of useless trivia for you: The dresses that come with these dolls fit your G.I. Joes perfectly. Compliements of my sister who had access to my toy shelf.
The Glamour Gals also had a few misfires. This is like the worst Eighties wedding you ever went to. It'll never last! I give 'em about a year. She should have suspected something when he was responsible for picking out the dove themed stanchions for the aisle. Sheesh.
Barbie must be feeling the crowded fashion doll market closing in around her. Why else would she be depressed enough to sit down to a Big Mac, hot Apple Pie and McDonald's fries before they changed over to the healtheir grease. God, I miss those old fries! This has to be the coolest playset around. You probably can't tell from the picture but it comes complete with the old environmentaly unfriendly styrofoam burger containters, detailed picture menu and check out the burnt orange and brown motif they used to use!
Look! It's a real live John Schneider geetar! This was most likely past it's prime already since Bo and Luke and already been replaced briefly with those imposter cousins of theirs on the show. Probably not very musical but at least sound-emitting is the Mickey Mouse Talking Toothbrush. He actually says " You should brush at least twice a day, up and down, so the food goes away." Ewwww! If you're teeth are so bad that there is that much food still in them, consider adjusting your eating habits a little and chew your food a little more thoroughly. A great example of why Disney is so strict with their licensing is the Snoopy Brusha Brusha toothbrush. What better visual image than Snoopy with a blood red toothbrush head rammed into his skull. Press your finger into his chest cavity and he'll vibrate violently inside your mouth! Pleasant dreams!
This one is for you Christy. The Big Mouth Singers. "Gasp" "Mwaaaaa" "Gasp" "Gasp" "Meeeee" "Click" "Click" "Mooooo". Also because I just can't suppress my inner infant, the Fisher Price Chime Ball that I had as a baby. There was not a more soothing sound than those chimes clinging. For the observant, the sculpt of those rocking animals may look familiar because they are a part of another of my Retrobsessions, the Little People family.
Denial Twist! Here's a recently uncovered photo of Meg and Jack White practicing their Solid Gold sound. Little is known of their khaki and white phase.
Fun and Games
Simon and Tomyvision games. I remember that you could buy one of three colors representing one of three different games but the hook was that they were 3-D. My friend had one of these and I'm here to say that they weren't so much 3-D as good foreced perspective. Also, the buttons to control your ship or whatever were on top of the device which made it incredibly hard so that when you were staring into it like a pair of binoculars, you would wipe out in like 1.3 seconds flat. Alphie II was just the bomb! In a time before Leapster and V-Smile, this was the at-home learning tool. Sure, Speak N Spell was fun to type naughty words into but Alphie brought it home with colorful educational games. You could slide one of several sheets into his stomach but I can't tell you now what games there were. I just remember liking the sounds he made.
I don't know what this guy was doing so far back in the catalogue but I couldn't forget the Fall Guy. How cool would it be to have yet another Lee Majors action figure. And this one does his own stunts, as he should given the title of the show and nature of his job. Sadly, due to this obvious fact, finding a Fall Guy still in one piece or free of a high up tree limb is next to impossible. R.I.P. Fall Guy action figure and pick-up truck.
Superfection! Gah! This game scared the shit out of me! I hated it because even though you knew it was coming, as soon as the dial wound down .... WHAM!!! puzzle pieces went everywhere. It was like getting static shock, it was just innevitable but you had to do it. I don't think even the most analytical minds could get this game completed in time and even if you did, your pieces would pop out and you'd have nothing to show for it. Maybe they designed this game to be a life lesson in that you can get something just the way you want it but it will never stay that way. It also ruined college for me. I was so afraid of deadlines after playing this game that I was perpetually rushing through all of my Graphic Design projects.
Here is a selection of some pretty interesting board games. You all know my embarassing history with my Pac-Man game. I am assuming that Ms. Pac-Man is more of the same marble madness but with a bow and a vagina. Krull the game. Ooooh, now there's an obscure board game based off of an equally obscure film. The cool part is that you are Prince Colwyn trying to rescue Princess Lyssa (now tell me that is not an 80's princess name for ya). What makes this neat is that you get collectible 3-D figures of Prince Colwyn and The Beast, who had a mouth like a vagina but with teeth. I sense a theme going here. I have no idea nor care to know anything about this Shadowlord game. If I have alienated you Shadowland fans, hit me up later. Moving on to E.T. I think I had this game which was similar to the Atari game where you had to build the transmitter device so that he could "Phone Home." I recall having this small flesh colored E.T. figure in my toys that I couldn't recall where it came from. That's the problem with these type of board games, they lived under your coffee table with the coloring books and crayons and never saw the light of day after you played one round and found it to be utterly a waste of time. I can't gather much from the Knight Rider game except for the description of "The adventures of Michael Knight and his computerized car." No K.I.T.T., just talking car. No matter, I'm BOARED with this topic already!
Whoa! How did this guy make it on here?! Who in the hell was this Blackstone guy anyway? For years they have been hocking his worthless magic kit in these catalogues and I have yet to ever lay eyes on this chain smoking dandy on TV! I don't profess to know that Blackstone smokes, but he just looks that way to me. Whatever happened to great magicians that entranced me as a kid like Doug Henning? Now there's a magicican's kit that I would buy. This stuff looks satanistic! If I have alienated any Blackstone fans, please send me an illusion telling me so. I wonder if he ever wound up performing in Branson?
I'm going to spare you the long tour of the soft lines this time around but those are some spiffy pajama sets. I would love to comment on this ad for Montgomery Ward's, lets say "elegant" jewelry but all I can think about is how awesome this lady would be in a brass knuckles fight. It looks as if she is all decked out for Thunderdome.
I think that this picture speaks volumes without me having to say much at all. How many of these things did I see at the Weezer show! Although, I think I would like to be edgy enough to go ahead and wear the sans-a-belt slack with them.
"I just called to say ... I can't find the numbers ..." This phone also should be on display in the Pop Culture History Museum in the Icons wing. I think Sara and Jackie had this phone in their apartment on Too Close For Comfort. Man, those oranges and browns were really working it back then weren't they.