Christmas is just a few days away, so what better time to take a look at some of the toys we played with in the 1970s and early 1980s?
See ‘n Say – Strangulation Hazard? Or powerful learning tool?
With a Mattel “See ‘n Say,” a child could hear a variety of sounds on demand simply by pointing a dial and pulling a string. Why, you could learn the sounds of ALL of the barnyard animals this way! What did the cow say? Moo! What did the pig say? “Oink!” This toy followed in the footsteps of the popular “Chatty Cathy” doll, in which kids could pull a string and hear random phrases that the doll would “say.” And did you know Mattel trademarked the word “chatty?” Like with many toys, advancements in technology would cause this popular toy to “evolve,” and eventually include digitized sounds.
I’m on the right with a “See ‘n Say” toy in 1973. Also pictured is another toy, which I’ll get to in a minute!
The Chatter Phone (or Talk Back Phone) – Perfect for teaching kids how to take the telephone for a walk
This Fisher-Price toy, introduced in 1962, allowed users to pull the phone by the string, which would cause the toy’s eyes to move and chatter noises to be made. It also helped teach tots age 12-36 months old how to dial a rotary phone, which was an absolute ESSENTIAL 1970s skill! There was no redial, no speed dial…you really had to let your fingers do the walking! And if you dialed a wrong number, there was no way for the recipient to know who the f— was calling!
Star Wars Action Figures – tiny little dolls for boys
A few of my husband’s “Star Wars” action figures…he has LOTS more than this!
Kenner’s “Star Wars” action figures sold more than 300 million units between the years 1978 and 1985. When that guy from The Graduate said plastics was the future, he wasn’t kidding! My husband said he and his friends would engage in some role-playing with their action figures, and the Gamorrean Guards almost always ended becoming pork brisket. The characters would end up in some pickle where they were starving, and those poor Gamorrean Guards would end up looking like delicious pork roasts to the starving heroes! The only action figure I owned was Yoda, who was the tiniest of all of them.
I honestly don’t recall my Yoda figure having a snake draped around his neck. But I do remember losing the little cane, until my mom emptied the vacuum cleaner bag. Boy did that thing blend in TOO well with the brown carpeting in our living room!
Dataman – A Calculator on Steroids
My older brother looking very joyful to get this calculator, circa 1978-1979?…Honestly I never saw the appeal. But then, this is a person who would eventually go to “math camp,” lol…
Texas Instruments’ “Dataman” calculator was designed to look like a robot. You could play games on this thing! Some of the games included “Electro Flash” (for practicing mathematical tables), “Wipe Out” (for competing at solving arithmetic problems rapidly), Number Guesser (for guessing a number selected by the calculator), Force Out (for subtracting numbers – to avoid being the one who arrives at zero), and Missing Numbers (to enter unknowns in equations). I’m betting this was my brother’s diabolical scheme to have a toy his little sister would NEVER want to play with! I enjoyed playing with his Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars, his Legos, his Tinker Toys (he built a working elevator out of Tinker Toys)..he was really onto something with Dataman! I NEVER wanted to play with this thing! But then, Merlin was another story…
Creepy photo! Almost looks like this kid is scared of Merlin!
Merlin – the handheld toy that annoyed the f— out of your parents
The “Merlin” Parker Brothers toy was first introduced in 1978. I can’t remember exactly what year I received a “Merlin” toy, but I LOVED it! Wikipedia says it’s one of the earliest – and most popular – hand-held games. When I got sick of playing Magic Square, I could switch to Music Machine, and when I got sick of that, I could play Tic Tac Toe. I was never really into the other games, which included Blackjack 13. I’m unsure how many hours I wasted playing with that thing! But it was so cool that you could take it on road trips, too!
Baby Crissy – the doll with hair that could “grow”
Me with my Baby Crissy doll in 1977. She came in “white” and “black.”
Baby Crissy was marketed by Ideal Toys, which no longer exists. I was not able to find a whole lot of online information about this toy, other than that it was marketed beginning in the late 1970s through the early 1980s. This doll had other predecessors, also with “growing” hair. Unlike Baby Alive, which could eat and shit, this doll was a one-trick pony – you could stretch a cord to make her hair “grow” up to 24 inches long! Apparently this was a doll that was about the same size as a 9-month-old human baby, so it could wear real doll clothes! My mom actually made quite a lot of doll clothes for me. The Barbie clothes were a challenge – she sewed those by hand!
Rub a Dub Dolly – The doll who took baths with little girls
I had this contraption that went along with my Rub a Dub Dolly. Please note that the doll is NOT included!
Another doll I had from the Ideal company was “Rub a Dub Dolly.” She was designed for taking into the tub, and as you can imagine, if you took that doll with you into the tub enough times, her hair became a very matted mess! My parents bought me the “black” version of the doll, which didn’t faze me a bit! I’m pretty sure it was just because the “white” ones were sold out – or maybe they were just trying to be progressive? Wouldn’t surprise me, considering my parents’ sensibilities!
Run Yourself Ragged – Like a giant fidget spinner – with a ball bearing
Unsure how old I was when I got the “Run Yourself Ragged” game (totally a single-player game), but I played with this one quite a bit…and mastered the f— out of it! I have little doubt that if I had this toy again, it wouldn’t take long for my “muscle memory” to kick in and become a virtuoso. If I had to guess, I was probably about 11 or so when I got this toy. Why, oh why did I get rid of it? This does not look exactly like the one I had since the colors are different, but the features are all the same! Except I’m not sure mine had the clown mouth thingie…
Trivial Pursuit – What better way to weed out the idiots?
I spent countless hours beginning in the mid ’80s playing this game with my brother, my brother’s girlfriend, my Mom and anyone else who felt like joining in. But, if you played the game enough, you would eventually start memorizing the answers on the back of the cards – even if you didn’t actually try doing so. I was busted when I blurted out the answer “cyclamates” a little TOO quickly when a question about artificial sweeteners was asked! No, I didn’t spend time reading the cards in between games…honest! OK, maybe a LITTLE! 🙂 From time to time in my pub trivia games, those Trivial Pursuit answers still lodged in my brain will rear their heads. I think this is the only reason I know the names of the horse races involved in the “Triple Crown.”
Micronauts – Projectiles, Projectiles, Projectiles
My brother was really into the Micronaut toy line, manufactured and marketed by Mego between 1976 and 1980. These action figures could shoot various projectiles! What better way to enjoy quality time with those pesky siblings? Numerous missiles could be shot from these things, and as my husband described, “You could shoot those things across the room!”
Biotron the Micronaut.
Speaking of missiles, people weren’t as freaked out about dangerous toys back then. In fact, I received a toy gun from some relative (I can’t recall which one) that had projectiles with suction cups on the end. My brother played with that thing more than I did, and quickly discovered that the projectiles were FAR more efficient if the suction cups were removed. And guess whose eye took the brunt of one of those things? Yup, yours truly! It didn’t take our dad too long to whup his ass good! But back to Micronauts! I didn’t really play with those at all, but I knew that they always had that “Rosebud” appeal to my brother. Several years ago, his daughter, my husband and I were perusing items at a “junk” sale in the U.P., and we stumbled upon an “Acroyear” Micronaut action figure – still in the box! The listed price was $1, and we gave a dollar to our niece to buy it for her dad. He still proudly displays his Acroyear – in the box – on one of the bookshelves in his home. His speechlessness when his daughter gave him this toy was priceless! He’s not a guy who’s terribly easy to impress, and he tends to buy most of the “toys” and gadgets he wants.
The “Acroyear” micronaut.
That’s about it for this “toy” blog! What kind of toys will your kids unwrap this Christmas? This may be the first part in a series, I’d love to hear suggestions of other toys from this era to write about. If you have suggestions, please indicate in the comments, if you follow this blog; or find some other way to send a smoke signal to me. Happy holidays and all of that jazz!