This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Toys R Not What They Were

21st April 2005

I went to my Mam’s house the other day, and ended up in the attic trying to find some old tat she needed. In a corner of the roof I rediscovered, packaged carefully under dust sheets, all my old toys. Lots of Matchbox cars, a Big Trak, stupid cuddly toys and (yawn) board games.

Behind these bits and pieces I was delighted to discover my real toys, many of which were boxed and in mint condition. Returning downstairs for a cup of tea and a biscuit, I became all nostalgic, and wondered whether Google could help me track down a bit more detail about these little treasures. So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the 80s.

Weebles

image

Weebles wobbled, but they didn’t fall down. The basic weeble was kind of like a Stepford egg, being ever-so-slightly scary looking with a spherical arse. Upon these bizarre frames, Hasbro’s finest toymakers would add sailor costumes, fireman uniforms, air force goggles and so on. The spookiest were the non-achieving weebles, simple village folk who looked like eliptical extras from a Toys R Us-funded League Of Gentlemen episode. In short, Weebles were superb anti-gravity toys that remained forever upright, like some kind of anti-drunk plastic future-flash of a better world.

Action Force

image

SAS. Z Force, Q Force, Space Force, and the evil Cobra. Action Force figures began as mini versions of Action Man figures, but gradually grew into a group of crack units based loosely in reality (hence the SAS range). The quality of Action Force figures, accessories, jeeps, tanks and supporting comic strips were excellent, and a worthy if somewhat destined-to-fail rival to the Star Wars merchandising monster (otherwise known as George). I was particularly proud of my SAS jeep with manually-operated yellow guns, my battery-powered tank and my set of complete figures (I had them all). Someone has even scanned in all the Battle Action Force comics for your pleasure. Note that one of the characters was called Snow Job.

Star Wars

image

Palitoy’s original Star Wars merchandise was - to put it bluntly - fucking incredible (I think Kenner had the US licence). I’m sure I’m preaching to the perverted, but man, this stuff was good. We all had the figures, we all had some of the ships or other weird craft. My ATAT, Millenium Falcon and Scout Walker are boxed in the attic, and most of the original figures are in a bag up there somewhere. All offers not welcome, all will be refused. These aren’t the toys you’re looking for.

Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle

image

Former bank robber and safecracker Evel was a big celebrity when I was a kid. He would appear on the telly on Saturday night jumping tanks of sharks, innumerable buses, the Atlantic Ocean and so on, before privately spending the rest of the night with lots of alcohol, drugs, and chicks. He’s dying of liver disease now, but thank heavens his life inspired the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle. Basically, our Evel sat on a superbly made, suspension-enabled scaled replica of his own bike, propped up on some kind of rack and pinion system. As a small boy I would wind and wind the wheel faster and faster and then stop, setting mini Evel and his motorbike racing off down the drive, across the main road, and into Missis O’Neill’s house at No. 32. Sheer class.

Lego

Yeah, we all had Lego. Well done the Danes for inventing a way of turning kids on to the construction industry. I was never bothered with the Technic stuff - bit too complicated. I loved Lego Space, and my Police Station was really good. Like all good toys, the power was in the detail. Who can forget the little wigs, the moon craters and the cylindrical rocket bricks. Just don’t mention Duplo. And what’s with all this Lego Star Wars stuff?

Micro Machines

image

They came in collections of five. They were very, very small. I could never find them, though my Dad often used to slip over on them. There were a lot of quality car toys about in the 80s, but Micro Machines topped my chart.

Playdoh Barber Shop

image

Not for girls! Not at all. Playdoh is missing from the Periodic Table for some reason, but it’s the element it’s OK to like. The barber shop folks had lots of pin holes in their scalps, and basically all you had to do was shove a load of dough up their arses, through their heads and then style the resulting multi-coloured folicles into stupid punk haircuts. Genius.

Six Million Dollar Man

Ah, Steve Austin in the TV series, brought to life in this 12” action figure that had a magnifying eye, lots of cutaway robotic bits in his limbs, and a bright-red jump suit. This was a serious toy that could whupp Action Man’s sorry arse in any fight. You could even roll back the skin on his arm to reveal the circuitry. Legendary.

What about you?

That’s my selection of highlights. What about you? What’s in your attic? Sold it all on Ebay?! What’s with the terrible modern versions of Weebles, Star Wars and all the crap they make kids want these days?

Was your first computer a ZX Spectrum? Tell everyone about your Rancor Monster or the times you’d hook your Action Man up with your sister’s Barbie Doll. Alternatively, if you can find any decent resources for any of these old toys (especially a decent Star Wars toys site) let me know. Play safe, kids.

Responses

# evan responded on 21st April 2005 with...

holy crap, i had that Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle when i was little. man, i haven’t seen that in a long long time. i think i got it from my grandfather, and my brother got a plastic Pele that kicked a soccer ball or something.

good times.

# Joseph Lindsay responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Anything Dukes of Hazard was cool.  Also the Raleigh Grifter, the almost ubiquitous lump of steel with the 3-speed grip shift that you could pretend was the throttle of your motorbike.

# Jesse responded on 21st April 2005 with...

I miss my Star Wars toys… my AT-AT often was used to fend off the siblings. As did my GI-Joe’s. Oh when the Empire met Cobra it was a team of evil brilliance. I did manage to break just about everything I owned, an early lesson in what not taking care of things gets me.

Toys were much more violence based back then. Now a cap gun or plastic ninja sword draws frowns from others. The quality was much better as well. Today’s todays (beside those made by Tod McFarlene’s toy shop) just lack something…. like a good tv series ;)

Oh but lego’s - they are still cool.

# Scott responded on 21st April 2005 with...

“These arenĂt the toys youĂre looking for.”

That’s priceless, just like those toys.

# John Oxton responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Ha! Such memories!

Some favs of mine:

- Etch-a-sketch: Almost certainly in preperation for illustrator, which is much easier to use.

- Spirograph: Or at least I think that’s what it was called! Crazy maths driven patterns with a felt tip!

- Eagle Eyes Action Man: With underpants.

- BCC micro: Ł400 worth of hard core Chuckie Egg playin’ machine.

- Mousetrap: I never actually played the game, just set the ball rolling to watch the action.

- Kerplunk: How I lost my marbles.

# Kate responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Original boxes?  Wow!

I had a Han Solo that someone took a knife and “resculpted” the back of his head.  We repainted it to look vaguely like hair, but it just wasn’t the same…

Of course, when I gave my Barbies all hair cuts, it was art, not abuse.  Naturally.

# Matthew Pennell responded on 21st April 2005 with...

My brother and I had about a million little green plastic soldiers, who lived in one of those enormous 5-litre ice-cream tubs (when they weren’t getting embedded in the bottom of unprotected feet). They often took on the combined might of our Star Wars figures and MASK (remember them?), with a couple of Transformers thrown in to even the mix a little.

What else? Zoids, Lego Technic (ooh, hydraulics!), and a computer room featuring not only a ZX Spectrumm+ but also a Spectrum QL and a ZX81!

# Matthew Pennell responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Eagle Eyes Action Man: With underpants.

Heh - we had an extremely rare Action Man; bearded, and NO UNDERPANTS.

For obvious reasons he was named “Bare Bottomy”.

# Karl responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Evan, that football toy was called “Johnny Hotshot” if it’s the same thing that I had - I crazed mum bad for it, I always remember that day along with the day mum refused to buy me Thunderbird 2 (the blue dinky toy) in Woolies. I still remind her how heartless she was hehe. Anyway, Johnny Hotshot was this 12 inch high footballer where you placed the ball at his foot and then you banged his head down to shoot the ball at the supplied goal. Your friend or little brother had a flat plastic cutout of a goalie, who for some reason I imagine(d) was Gordon Banks(!). Too much ribena maybe…

# Anthony Casey responded on 21st April 2005 with...

My first computer was the Commodore Vic20, It was a bit pants really, but when you’re 5 it was the bestest thing ever. It sparked an interest though, and for that I’m very grateful to my parents!

I later got a Spectrum 128k +2a, which I managed to fry by ‘plugging in’ the bare PCB of a tiny electronic piano thing.

As for toys, there were a few:

He-Man was the first major one I remember. With my Castle Grayskull, and my best mates Snake Mountain (with voice changer!) - oh the battles!

Then there was Dukes of Hazzard. The A-Team van, Knight Rider, and of course Transformers.

Oooh oh oh MASK! Mask was brilliant, with the Gas Sation that turned into a battle fortress, and loads of cool cars, and lime green motorbikes that turned into helicopters.

I had Action Force too, I remember getting the massive F-16 Sweep Wing plane with retractable undercarriage for my birthday. Which was also the day that massive hurricane hit in 1986 - it was great flying it through that…

And Subbuteo.

And I am going to force Lego on to all my kids, because of its sheer brilliance - a great tool to fuel kids imaginations.

I’ll shut up now.

# Jon Hicks responded on 21st April 2005 with...

The only sad thing about my Star Wars toy collection is that they’ve lost that ‘fresh out of the pack’ smell. That was great part of opening a new figure!

# Rob Waring responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Mask!!!

I had the lead guys red flying car and the flat fronted tractor unit that turned into a half track. and one of the videos

It was great!!! Dunno where its gone now tho :’(

# Matthew Pennell responded on 21st April 2005 with...

All about MASK; Matt Trakker has to be the coolest name…

# Simon Collison responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Jesse: Ah, I remember having Star Wars versus Action Force battles. Great cross-brand fun that I’m sure Lucas wouldn’t approve of. I agree about the strength of the TV series and films that spawned most of our best toys. Hooray for Glen A. Larson, eh?

Joseph: My parents bought me a Raleigh Boxer instead. It was too small for me, but a great knock-about pre-BMX bike.

Matthew: I’m concerned about your commando-style pantless Action Man. I have to ask, was he “sculpted” in any way. Actually, don’t tell me.

Oxton: Ha-ha! Etch-A-Sketch was a bitch to use, but much easier than Freehand.

Kate: Shame about your Han Solo. Guess you can’t make the jump to lightspeed in fifteen parsecs with bad hair.

Jon: Yes, the fresh out-of-the-pack smell was great. It was a big event getting a new character. Obviously now I wish I’d bought two of each and kept one packaged for Ebay.

Anthony: I’m jealous of your F-16. Eas that part of the later, bendy-elbows range? I n ever collected any of that. I think I was into girls by that point. Oh, and Subbuteo was great - melting the goalkeepers back onto their levers when they’d snapped off. He-he.

I don’t remember Mask toys, or the footballer thing. Still, I’m very much enjoying this nostalgic waltz down memory lane. Keep ‘em coming…

# Emma Sax responded on 21st April 2005 with...

I think I need to even things up here with a ‘girl’ toy.

My favourite when I was little were My Little Pony, I even had a big castle that they used to live in.

# Anthony Casey responded on 21st April 2005 with...

Eas that part of the later, bendy-elbows range?

Yeah, there was more of an American influence then I think. If I remeber rightly, they were the ones that had a sort of elastic band between the torso and the legs. You could twist them round, and then let them go in a sort of spinning tornado punch.

This was an unofficial feature, so it also led to a lot of wounded soldiers with no legs…

My cousin had the Apache helicopter and the oil rig HQ of Cobra. Top stuff.

I’ve just had sneaky peak at Ebay for Mask stuff. I’m very tempted to waste a few quid on the Rhino rig with Matt Tracker.

# Karl responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

I must have missed the Action Force / MASK boat, other than the Star Wars figures it was Action Man and Six Million Dollar Man battling it out in my garden. I can’t believe I sold it all in a jumble sale :(

My mate had a ZX81 and we got the Spectrum when it came out but no-one’s mentioned the most-excellent Atari 2600 yet! I managed to get the score counter to roll over on Defender one afternoon :o

# Zen responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

I am officially jealous!

I wanted and Evil Kneivel Stunt Cycle my entire childhood and never got one - parents too poor :-(

I carry it now as a deep emotional scar! ;-)

# Simon Collison responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

Emma: My Little Pony?! You’ve ruined it now. That’s it. Girls aren’t allowed to play anymore. I’m telling me Mam!

Anthony: Ooh, you sound as excited as me at all this reminiscing. Still not keen on the updated elasticated AF figures, but still way cooler than anything kids have these days.

Karl: Ha-ha! Congrats on what is obviously a very special moment in your life.

Zen: Your jealousy is well placed. That Knievel bike was incredible. It was made so well that if it were available now it would probably retail at 100 quid!

# Jesse responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

My Little Pony vs GI Joe… now that was a battle to remember. My poor sister.

I totally forgot about He-Man though… That was awesome. He-Man use to smack My Little Pony all over the house ;)

# Veerle Pieters responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

How about Barbie and Ken :-D But I must say for a girl I wasn’t very fond of playing with dolls, I was quickly tired of them… I had much more fun with Lego or PlayMobil or racing with matchboxes with my older brother… creating collisions and heavy accidents, I loved that!

# d responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

anyone remeber the Stylophone? the thing rolf harris used to play, they where great. you can still get them for about Ł40 on ebay..

# Anthony Casey responded on 22nd April 2005 with...

Yeah, I am partial to this sort of meander down memory lane.

I just missed the original generation of Action Force I think. But I enjoyed mine all the same!

One of the beauties of Lego is the fact that it does explode quite beautifully. You could spend hours painstakingly constructing The Most Awesome Battle Cruiser In The Known Univserse…

Just to watch it explode against the far wall of your bedroom, showering 4ers and 6ers all over the place.

Having ramming contests to see who could build the strongest vechicle was a good game too. Pretty hard on the knuckles though.

Ahhh, the memories

I totally agree, you don’t seem to see toys of the same calibre these days. I suppose computers are to blame for a lot of that.

# Steve Keyworth responded on 27th April 2005 with...

Bugger the retro toys fetishism, what about the “when I were lad” reminiscences of sunny summer evenings spent getting your head bitten to buggery by midges up an apple tree, with a good, stout stick and sticky mud for flicking. That was better than toys.

Fucking hell, the memories flood back.

Responses are now disabled Your ability to respond is disabled automatically some 30 days after articles are published, or manually much sooner if spamming guttersnipes target a particular article.

Prev 411 Next

Superfluous Aside

Archived in Culture, Observations, Personal

There are 24 responses

External References

Copyright © Mr. Simon Collison 2003-2017. Protected and licensed under a Creative Commons License. Grab the RSS feed

Engineered in Nottingham, scaffolded by ExpressionEngine, steam-pumped by United & kept alive with tea and hugs.