Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sears Wish Book 1975

I have this record album downstairs, but don't have a turntable to play it just now. I sold one of my two at the yard sale this summer and the other expensive ass one that hooks up to the computer so you can convert albums to digital is either with Cathy or Beth, because the process of converting vinyl to digital turned out to be a giant pain in the ass, so I never even bothered converting one single file. Once again, money well spent. Beth's brother apparently wanted to buy this device but I said no, just because at some point, I'll want to listen to the vinyl I have and need SOMETHING to play them on.

But anyway, when I was a kid, the Super Heroes were constantly celebrating the holidays. They did albums like this one, and appeared on gift wrap and all kinds of merchandised items. Cathy has some co-worker who doesn't understand Hallmark (or other) ornaments that are based on Super Heroes (or Star Wars, Star Trek, Wizard of Oz, Barbie etc). "What does that have to do with Christmas?!" Um, only EVERYTHING?! Because that's what I GOT for Christmas, Super Hero toys and Star wars and all that stuff. So THERE! Plus, this hypocrite apparently collects those carousel animal ornaments... what does THAT have to do with Christmas, sir?! That is completely devoid of any holiday content, unless you celebrated every Christmas by riding a freakin' carousel, and I highly doubt that. So there, argument-with-person-I-don't-even-know won!

When I was a kid, there were basically three big stores where you bought everything, Sears, Montgomery Wards and JC Penney. None of them even remotely resembles the still-existent versions today. Back then, a Sears (etc.) was like Walmart, Target and Best Buy all rolled into one. Seriously, people bought everything from riding lawn mowers to clothes to family portraits there. And it wasn't Christmas until you received each store's "Wish Book" a 1/4 of a phone book-sized, glossy presentation of EVERYTHING you could possibly ever want for Christmas in one place. I recently discovered a website devoted to these marvelous books, This site has posted many of these books in their 600-odd page entirety, some going back as far as 1933! Astounding! I've decided to... um, borrow, some of their pages and have a little stroll down memory lane... and drag you along with me! Cheers! You may have need to click on some of the pictures to view them in enough detail to see some of the items I will be discussing.
I'm starting with the Sears 1975 volume. I would only have been a year old at the time, so obviously I never actually viewed this book, but back then a lot of toys were perennials, offered year after year after year, unlike today when things tend to come out once and never again, or if they are re-released, they are changed. So a lot of the items shown in this book later went on to appear in books that I actually did flip through. Another delight of viewing a book this old is that I get to see a lot of neat things that I JUST missed out on, that weren't available in my time. Sometimes, it's enough for me to wish I was slightly older to have experienced these things.
There appears to have been a big ventriloquists dummy craze in the 1970s. These were definitely repeated in catalogs for many many years. Some of these were based on actual famous dummies... yes, there were such things! In the middle is Lester of Willie Tyler & Lester, whom I remember seeing on TV a lot in the late '70s. Next to him is Charlie McCarthy of Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, whom I saw in a bunch of black and white movies growing up. (PS-Edgar Bergen is the father of Murphy Brown star Candice Bergen. Viva obscurity!)

Of course, you should recognize Bozo of The... Show, featuring everyone's favorite the Grand Prize Game. I was late to elementary school on many an occassion, because I HAD to see how far the contestants got in the GPG. I also remember Show Biz Pizza having an arcade version of the GPG you could play, but you didn't win the Prang Markers or the Archway Cookies, so there was really no point in playing it. Even so, I won. It was fairly simply, you just had to aim and toss slowly. I never understood why the idiots on the show never figured that out. They'd always chuck it full force and miss or the ball would bounce out... morons, I say.

Also, at the very bottom of the page is one of the creepiest toys I have ever seen, called Hugo... creepy name for a creepy toy.
Did these weird circular kitchen consoles actually exist? I've never seen one, but it looks kinda neat.
That grocery store playset is mighty ornate! All of those pieces of produce look removable, which is a fancy way of saying "they'd be lost within a week of a child getting this." But as an adult I can appreciate the detail.

Also, my brother had that Mod Hair Ken... they probably changed the name by then... in fact, I'm pretty sure Mod was out-of-date in 1975! But like I was saying, my brother wasn't born until 1978, so obviously they kept that doll in production for quite some time.
GROWING UP SKIPPER!!! I gave that to Cathy last year or the year before! You turn her arm and she goes through puberty! Her torso expands and she grows boobies! NO REALLY! This toy was protested and therefore is pretty rare these days.
Man, those matching couples outfits are HIDEOUS!
I've never heard of the Sunshine or Happy Families. I kinda dig the groovy Happy Family. They look ready for a night at the discotheque. And to get there, they could take that insanely elaborate tandem bicycle, complete with "trunk" basket and... ROOF! A bicycle with a roof?! Did those really exist? How luxurious! I kinda want one now! Also, I guess tandem bikes were kind of a seventies fad, too. I think the Double Mint Twins rode one, if memory serves.
Old Fashioned Friends... I don't quite get it, but like old timey, prairie, pastoral crap was really big in the '70s. Gingham and Calico galore.
Colonial Girls? Now that's REAL old timey! Who the hell would even want those? "Mommy, my dolly has small pox!"

The real appeal of this page are the Mego Wizard of Oz dolls. I was unaware of these as a child, but I would have loved to have had them. And The Witch's Castle playset is INCREDIBLY rare. I think it was only available through this catalog!
I must say, The Love Notes are actually pretty cute. And Raggedy Ann and Andy were all over the place back then... not sure why, but they were really huge. And look, another appearance by Bozo.
DYNOMITE! Yep, there was a doll based on JJ Evans from the ghetto-based sitcom Good Times! Isn't that... something.

Also, Holly Hobby appears. As a kid, I saw girls with Holly Hobby lunchboxes and such, but I never knew what Holly Hobby actually was. I'd never seen the dolls. I still don't know if she was originally a doll or if she was from a book or something.

The Little Urchins dolls are awesomely '70s cute, but SERIOUSLY?! Dolls based on homeless children?! Whose idea was that?!
The dog in the middle of the lower row looks like Sam Elliott in The Big Lebowski.

Also at the bottom, more prairie goodness.
I SO had that Mickey Mouse phone! I had another one too, either Sesame Street or Loony Tunes, don't remember which. What was kind of odd about the Disney one was you could call Mickey and all his friends, like Minnie, Donald and Goofy, but you could also call Snow White. I know she's a Disney character, but you didn't often see the "fairy tale" characters mingling with the mascots like that.
It's not Christmas without A Charlie Brown Christmas or without licensed Peanuts memorabilia. I am impressed with the Schroeder piano, because it's one of those instances where the licensed item actually makes sense. usually, they just slap a character's image or logo on any old thing, but Schroeder played the piano and thus... Also, I notice Peppermint Patty is included in this set, making this one of the earliest kids' playthings to feature a lesbian.
Weebles wobble but the won't fall down! I didn't know they made Winnie The Pooh Weebles, but I had Disney ones, Mickey and Minnie, etc. I think I had that airplane too!
And the train! Not the badass pirate ship though! I didn't even know that existed. I'm tempted to check eBay.
You may have to click to enlarge this, but at the very bottom is THE TINY TOT'S TREE HOUSE! I LOVED that! It had an elevator in the trunk, a dog house/shrub and even a little car! I LOVED this playset, but eventually the mechanism that allowed the top part of the tree to lift up to expose the "living area" broke and... then it was just a tree. Boo.
I've never heard of Escape The Casbah, but how glamorous and exciting does that sound! Like a Sean Connery Bond flick! Also, to the day, it irritates me that a Ouija board is considered a "game." Lame.
Cat In The Bag?! Since when is animal cruelty fun for kids of all ages?! On the next page is a listing for the "make your own cosmetics animal testing kit."
The McDonald's Game... first coronary wins!
Oh my gawd, how AWESOME is that ghost pirate ship?! I want one now!
MEGOS!!! Best toys EV-ER!!! They recently reissued the Star Trek series, complete with the Bridge playset and even filled in the characters like Sulu and Chekov that weren't in the original Mego collection!

But that Batcave is stunning! I never even knew they made playsets and vehicles for Megos as a kid, until my best friend Dave McIntosh showed me his Batmobile. Sooooo awesome! I love them! And the best part, is they are starting to reissue the Super Heroes like they did the Star Trek characters (and Planet of the Apes)... maybe they'll make that sweet Batcave with real light up Bat Signal! One can dream!
Of course, as a kid, I had those little solid plastic army men, cowboys and Indians, etc. but NEVER did I have such elaborate playsets for them! Wouldja look at that desert canyon with cliffs and caves and such?! How amazing! And that Planet of the Apes set with a rope bridge?! Gah! Why didn't some genius just create generic play environments like these for bigger action figures?! Can you imagine?! If only I could go back in time!

The closest I cam was my fiend Dave's backyard that had a clay pit that worked nicely andmy next-door neighbor Skip's, where his father was building on an addition to their house, which for whatever reason required a giant bound of sand, which doubled nicely as Ice Planet Hoth. Sigh!
And on the flip side, who the hell wanted to play Farm with figurines? "Let's load Bessie up to take to the slaughter house, kids."
While I hated toy cars and trucks, look how detailed these are. There's even an injured victim on the gurney! In honesty, I was okay with vehicle toys if they had working doors and such and figures to play with. These are just so detailed and nice. You really don't see that, these days.
Once again, vehicle playsets, but so detailed and elaborate! I mean look at that parking garage at the top... then again, why the hell would you want to play "Parking Garage?" It may be fun if you had a Jason action figure to wander up and down the ramp grumbling, "Where the fuck did I leave my car?!" and then once "he" finds it, he drives too close to a cement column and leaves a giant yellow streaked dent in the side, and maybe knocks off a mirror. Just sayin'.

Oh and look, a gas station playset! I don't understand why so many play things are based on drudgery. Why not a Dry Cleaner Drive-Thru or a "Escape From The PTA Meeting" board game? Yay. Or not.

That's it for this time. I will leave you with the all-time best toy commercial of all time. And I SWEAR, this is 100% REAL!!!

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