Mark J. Price|Akron Beacon Journal
It was such an innocent-looking toy. The purple plastic carjust sat there, wheels locked, until you pushed a button in the back.
Then it made a frightening buzz, transformed into a hot rod, raced across the floor and smashed into a wall.
The Willys Coupe, a gift from my grandmother, was one of my favorite toys as a kid in the 1970s. Aurora Products Co. produced The Imposters, a line of Tame Looking Cars That Change Into … Mean Racing Machines.
The wind-up toys also included a yellow Volkswagen Beetle and a blue Ford Pinto, which to the best of my recollectiondid not explode in flames if struck from behind.
Aurora heavily advertised The Imposters on the back covers of comic books.
You have to see them do their stuff, Aurora implored. Take hold of the stick shift and get ready for a shock. Suddenly a mild mannered street machine changes into nearly a foot of road gobbling race machine. Front end out. Engine up, 400 cubes. Then up pops the driver ready to cut down all comers. The Imposters. Theyre a lot more car than meets the eye.
To wind the cars, you used a plastic-knobbed key, which I soon lost, never to be found again. Fortunately, the brass key to our gas fireplace served as a handy substitute.
Ah, those toys of youth. Toss Across, Big Wheel, Lite-Brite, Etch A Sketch, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Hoppity Hop, GAF View-Master, Spirograph, Creepy Crawlers ...
Akron kids stared longingly at the colorful packaging while roaming the aisles of Clarkins, Spartan, Click, Childrens Palace, Kmart, Sears, Hobby Center Toy Store and, of course, ONeils and Polskys.
Another one of my favorite toys was Stretch Armstrong, an action figure from Kenner. He was a blond, bare-chested wrestler, and he was called an action figure so boys didnt realize they were playing with a doll.
WOW! ITS S-T-R-E-T-C-H A-R-M-S-T-R-O-N-G, Kenner advertised.
The latex doll was filled with a syrupy goop that allowed it to stretch to 4 feet and then return to its original size.
Squish him. Scrunch him. Stretch him out and tie him in a knot!
Kenner suggested such uproarious positions as the African Stranglehold, Giant Pretzel and Sitting Bull. It was fun to pull and twist and stretch and bend.
If I had bothered to read the instructions, I would have learned that Excessive abuse can hurt STRETCH, and Kenner reserves the right to refuse return of any toys subjected to such abuse.
My action figure met a ghastly end when I was playing darts and randomly aimed a steel-tipped projectile at my stretchy friend. A hole opened in his chest, and when I tried to stretch him, goop oozed out.
There was no Stretch Doctor. There was no Stretch Hospital. Stretch Armstrong bled out on my bedroom floor.
I wrapped my friendin paper towels and silently tossed him in the trash. Sorry, Stretch.
Perhaps the most disappointing toy I ever got as a kid was Illcos WOOSH, A Game of Fun and Coordination.
Two problems: It wasnt all that fun, and I wasnt all that coordinated.
After seeing it demonstrated at Rolling Acres Mall, I begged my mom for one and she gave it to me for Christmas. Basically, it was a red plastic ball that whisked back and forth on nylon cords between blue plastic handles.
According to the instructions: Hold handles joined and the ball near your body, while stretching the ropes; then suddenly open your arms and WOOSH will swiftly spring towards your opponent who will be waiting for it with his hands joined; he will then repeat the same movement and WOOSH will return to you for the next play.
This sounded suspiciously like exercise.
The winner was the one who played longer or who got the WOOSH ball to hit his opponents handles. I tried it out with friends and it was good for 10 or so whooshes before we got bored. It mostly stayed in the box until it whooshed off at a yard sale.
The best toy I ever received for Christmas as a youth was a chess computer that came in a briefcase and spoke with a robotic voice: I … am … Fidelitys … Chess … Challenger … your … computer … opponent.
Players moved game pieces at the command of the electronic brain. When it won, it announced with robotic glee: Check … and … mate. When it lost, it spit out: I … lose.
I spent endless hours playing the computer. Perhaps too many. I probably shouldve been out exercising with the WOOSH.
Remarkably, I still own the Chess Challenger, and it still works.Such a great gift.
My original Imposters car is stored with othertoys in a plastic bin, patiently waiting for me to transform it into a mean racing machine.
Maybe I should look for thekey. Just because Im older doesnt mean playtime is over.
Did you have a favorite toy as a child? One you wish you still had? Feel free to share your memory email@example.com Mark J. Price, Akron Beacon Journal, 388 S. Main St., Suite 720, Akron, OH 44311.
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