Toy stories

I got to thinking about toys from my childhood.

My all-time favorite toy was the cap gun.  This is how far we've come in a generation.  Nowadays, you can't find a toy gun in a toy store anywhere.  But when I was a kid, the problem with toy guns was, they weren't convincing enough.  So a worker at the toy factory scratched his head and said, "You know, putting fake guns in the hands of children so they can recreate armed robberies, warfare and reenactments of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre is just swell.  The problem is, it's just not real enough.  Gunplay is noisy.  We need our guns to make a bullet-popping sound.  A little gun powder ought to do the trick." 

And so the toy factory began manufacturing caps -- little packets of TNT to prepare junior for the real thing once he hit puberty.  I remember riding my bike to the drug store for my Colombine Starter Kit -- a mock .38 snub-nose and 5 rolls of caps – all for $1.98.  I considered opening the package before I got to the register and jacking the drug store with my new toy gun: "Gimme all your jaw breakers, old man.  And throw in a roll of caps."  But self control got the better of me.  It was that clerk's lucky day.

They also made a cap hand grenade for kids.  I'm not making this up.  The hand grenade was a cast-iron ball with metal fins.  It looked like a miniature smart bomb.  You'd load the breech with a few caps.  Then, you flung it in the air toward a friend.  When the iron ball impacted on the ground, the breech would crush the caps.  Boom!  The only time it failed to detonate was when the iron ball struck kid flesh on account of it couldn't compress with enough impulse.  It did, however, leave a nice bruise and a sub-dural hematoma.

Remember the Speak-n-Spell?  They should have named it "Speak-n-Swear."  This toy could talk (revolutionary toy technology in the 1970s).  First it would ask you to spell a word.  Then it would speak what you typed, and tell you whether it was right or wrong.  For example: "I'm sorry.  F-U-C-K is not the correct spelling of ‘Graveyard.'  Please try again.  I'm sorry.  D-O-U-C-H-E is not the correct spelling of ‘Exercise.'  Please have your mother wash your mouth out with battery acid."  Whoa, watch the attitude, Speak-n-Spell.  I've got a cap grenade that just might have your name on it.

When I wasn't simulating gunplay or spelling curse words, I was usually playing catch with my Pitch-Back.  The Pitch-Back was an ingenious toy that would throw a baseball back at you.  It consisted of an upright aluminum frame and a net with three gradations.  Depending where you hit the Pitch-Back, it would ricochet the ball back at you in a line-drive, pop-fly or grounder. At least that was the theory. In reality, no matter where you hit the Pitch-Back, the evil SOB would whip the thing at your beanbag. Steeeeeeee-rike!

Later designs included the "Bowl-Back." You'd roll a bowling ball at the net.  It would return the ball in the form of a 16-lb. pop-fly-of-death.  This one was real popular with the 37 kids who lived to tell about it.


Ashley Rose said...

Man, they had some great toys when we were kids, didn't they?! Now I go toy shopping for my son and everything is made out of foam and soft rubber. What does a parent have to do to find a potentially life-threatening toy these days?

Christopher said...

People are too worried nowadays. I would walk around with my cap gun, my candy cigarettes and root beer made to look like real beer and I turned out OK. I even have my own compound in Montana!

Shawn said...

Gone are the days of playing Gangstah! No knives, guns, beer or cigarettes can be brought to the the play yard anymore. Can you say D-A-M-N-F-U-N-S-U-C-K-E-R -S Speak-n-Spell?

Roxrocks said...

What about lawn darts?! Dude, we had more fun with lawn darts! And those frigging pool balls on string that you'd clack together? I can't remember what they're called. Probably because I'd been hit in the head one too many times with them.

They don't make toys like they used to!

thoughtsappear said...

I remember the caps but not the hand grenade. Yikes!

Have you seen the Barbie that you take off her tummy and there's a baby inside? I'm hoping real childbirth is that easy.

Heff said...

My fav was Stretch Armstrong, until I pulled his f'in arm off.

By the way, the "Stick Him in the Freezer to repair tears" method NEVER WORKED.

I still want my money back from Kenner.

Jeannie said...

We were able to buy firecrackers.
And lawn darts!

My parents would be arrested now - I took the canoe by myself at the age of 5 - without wearing the life jacket (way too hard to paddle with that sucker on) and would disappear for the day.

We also camped alone a mile from home in the country - building fires and cooking - we had knives to cut sticks to roast hotdogs. At 7 or 8 yrs old - for days at a time.

C... said...

My son has pop cap gun we found at a Dollar Tree. This one is not in rolls but plastic little rounds shaped to fit like a small circle in the barrell. It sparks and snaps very loudly. We were using it in his bedroom while digging through his toy bins. I used to love playing with beebee guns as a kid.

Baloney said...

Oh boy. I loved cap guns. It so doesn't fit my personality, but I really really loved them. If I'd known about the grenade I would have needed one of those.
I never tried dirty words on Speak-n-Spell but they used to let me use them on Words With Friends. ;)
Throw in a pack of candy cigarettes and I thank you for the memories.

Jennifer Fabulous said...

Was it seriously called Colombine Starter Kit?!?!

And this is a great post. On one hand, things were really better when we were kids, right? The toys were so awesome. I was an only child who only played with girl toys, so I was not exposed to everything you mentioned, but I appreciate it.

On the other hand, I'm really glad these toys don't exist now because if so, I would fear having a son. I would be a nervous wreck any time he wanted to play! LOL!

XLMIC said...

Clackers! The balls on the string that 'clacked' together. I had a set in beautiful clear blue…for 3 days when my mom found out they allegedly could shatter while clacking. I remember my tantrum vividly.

They still make realistic Colt .45 revolvers…cowboy style and with caps…but they're hard to find. My boys have two pairs for dueling with friends. My husband bought my older daughter (who was 6 at the time) her own pink and silver one so she could defend herself against those outlaws ;-)

And the cap grenades…still availabe…online, baby!

Anonymous said...

I remember the hand grenade object- looked straight out of a 1950's movie. Plus, I can still remember the scent of the burned caps. Glad my little brother and I weren't the only kids using the Speak-n-Spell in such a bad way!!


Penny Lane said...

So I watched Toy Story 3 the other day and I cried a little. And then, and now, I felt/feel like a really bad person for neglecting my toys.

I feel the need to climb up to the attic and search for my toys and play with them.

My favorite toy was a doll house my parents bought me. I fucking love Fischer-Price.

PorkStar said...

When I was a kid, I had a toy gun once and my dad took it away and hid it. Ever since then I've never been a fan of guns, so that's a good thing.

Not So Simply Single said...

I like grown up toys better... especially B.O.B. my battery operated boyfriend...

Just saying

Kelley said...

I didn't have a cap gun but I did have the Speak-n-Swear. I didn't know about the Pitch-Back. If they made it now, I might buy it for my sons, but only if the manufacturer could guarantee their jewels wouldn't be permanently damaged. I want grandchildren someday.

tornwordo said...

Loved the cap guns. Then from the greatest company on earth, The Johnson Smith Catalog, I got a canon. We loaded it with gun powder and blew fireballs with it. It was the coolest toy ever. I can't believe my parents let me play with it.

Trooper Thorn said...

I loved Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, but being an only child really took away from the fun.

Deborah said...

I remember candy cigarettes. For real! They were made out of this horrible white candy-ick and you could blow threw them and 'smoke' (aka powdered candy-ack) would shoot out.

We played softball right in the street, hoards of us girls would have sleep overs and we would roam around in the dark wearing our shorty jammies. Our parents NEVER knew where we were, but if you heard your momma hollering for you, you'd better hi-tail it home or you'd get your arse beat good.

Good times.

Delightful yet...? said...

Am I THAT young? I only remember the cap gun... :-\

MommyMatter said...

I came to read your blog through Gucci's and wow, I am glad I did! I see why she reads you. Hysterical. I remember so many crazy toys we had when we were kids. Just awesome.

Heather said...

Thanks for giving me a laugh this morning.
Rest assured you can still find authentic looking cap guns and caps in ANY store in Texas. They are right next to the real guns and shells at wal-mart.
BUT - I haven't seen the grenade lately. My kids would have hours of fun with that. (Of course I am going to look for one now on the internets!)
I LOVED Speak and Spell. Maybe I found the voice eerily sexy.
My nephews have a pitch back right now and I love it. My 21 month old will play with it by herself for a whole ten minutes!!