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PCR #455  (Vol. 9, No. 50) This edition is for the week of December 8--14, 2008.

"The Day The Earth Stood Still"  by Mike Smith
Time Warp Toy Box '08: Part 2  by ED Tucker
They Were Who We Thought They Were? .... Give That Man A Raise! .... Graham Harrell .... Arena Football: Dead Or Alive? .... Barry Melrose At It Again .... NFL Picks  by Chris Munger
Oscars .... Greedy Bastard .... Dead .... Next Year's Series .... And The Oscar For Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

Time Warp Toy Box '08: Part 2

Welcome back to our second installment of treasures from Christmas past -- Time Warp Toy Box! This week’s items are all special reader requests that did a lot of memory jogging for me when I was researching them. If these photos shake anything loose from your own childhood Christmas trees, drop me an E-mail and they can still be featured here this year.

Sure, everybody loves Star Wars toys but I guarantee you the Land Speeder above didn’t have many fans. These toys are from 1980, when the first Star Wars film was still popular and Empire Strikes Back had just been released. The Snow Speeder and Cloud Car from ESB were among the first ships available from that film. The Speeder above was a JC Penney catalog exclusive that still looks cool in the picture almost thirty years later. What kid wouldn’t want to load up the hover car and send Luke Skywalker and friends flying across the floor under remote controlled guidance, right? The problem was this toy utilized a “sonic” remote control shaped like a deformed R2D2. The number of clicks produced by the controller was supposed to determine what direction the car went in. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t, and sometimes just about any sound worked. I got one of these in trade from a friend who got sick of it after about six months. I tossed the ugly remote, taped the front wheel into a permanent forward position and made the most of a lame idea.

Next up we have another toy from around the same early '80’s time period. Best known for their board games, Milton Bradley tried to venture outside the box occasionally and the Big Trak from 1979 was one of their better results. The pad on the back that looks like a calculator allowed children to program in a long list of actions for the vehicle to perform. Once the “GO” button was pushed, this six wheeled tank would methodically carry out the user’s instructions. The transporter was the sole accessory made for the vehicle and could be programmed to dump its cargo on command (water balloons, thumb tacks, broken glass, cat litter, you name it). The Big Trak was a lot of fun but only lasted a few years in the US. The European version featured a different color scheme and outlasted its American counterpart by several years. Big Trak was fragile and easily damaged but a surprising number of working models still turn up today on the collector’s market.

Electronic football was popular with a lot of kids but I wasn’t one of them. A friend of mine who lived across the street had a set and that was more than close enough for me. It always seemed like we spent more time setting the game up than we did playing it. Once you had all the plastic figures on the metal playing field, you cranked up the juice and they vibrated around like a three year old after drinking a Red Bull. We never could figure out how to play anything approaching football with it so we just waited for the pieces to fall down and the last man standing won. The Super Bowl game at left was a Sears catalog exclusive and claims to have features I know my neighbor’s cheaper set was missing. Maybe they made the game more exciting but I doubt it.

Our last item on the store shelves this week is the Big Loader Construction Set from Tomy. Building toys have always been a staple of childhood play but this one had a special gimmick. There was only one battery-powered chassis in this set but it powered all three attachments and interchanged with them automatically when you adjusted the track. Each vehicle could perform its own construction-related tasks and you never had to worry about wildcat strikes from pesky unions! The original set seen above came out in 1977 but Tomy continued making these for many years in a variety of colors and styles. A similar version is still available today from another manufacturer and the retail price has only increased to $19.95.

"Retrorama" is ©2008 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.