“What Santa Left Under the Baby Boomer Tree” or “It’s Alright–You’ll Have Other Children”

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When I recall the “toys” of my youth, I am amazed I made it out alive—or not needing more time on a psychiatrist’s couch than I’d already been reclined to. Yes, some playthings of yesteryear left by St. Nick could have indeed been considered psyche’ damaging, maiming, or even, lethal–and, by today’s standards of choking laws, would need Heimlich Maneuver charts enclosed (in cute little cartoons…we don’t want to scare the kiddies).

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The first demon toy that lies impaled in the recesses of my memory was a little “get this party started” favorite by the name of “Lawn Darts”…also know as Jarts.

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“Hey little Johnnie…chuck this thing toward the marker and try not to hit your sister!”

The only possible worse scenario would be “Lawn Darts After Dark”…which would give way to “Naked Lawn Darts” (aka “The Sterilizer”).

I have learned that there are conventions of people that get together every year and bring their Lawn Darts for competitions. There are even underground sites that sell this banned contraband to continue to promote this American pastime of gore and death. However, they have carefully thought through the implications of making dangerous games available on the internet and have high standards and systems in place–lest this disfiguring toy makes it into the wrong hands…or foreheads…

As one of these Lawn Dart lovin’ sites (Jarts in Your Heart) states in their disclaimer—

“These Jarts are NOT toys. They should be kept out of reach from children. They should be treated as you would a bow and arrow. These have and will puncture a person. If you have the IQ of a monkey, please don’t buy lawn darts. I will not sell to anyone under 18. I do not have many sets left, so when they’re gone they’re gone. Jarts in Your Heart will not be held liable for any death or injury caused by these Jarts. By purchasing from Jarts in Your Heart, you agree to these terms. Again, I cannot stress this enough. If you’re an idiot, just don’t buy Jarts–stick to playing Horseshoes, Baggo or that ladder ball game.”

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Obviously, these Jart Peddlers have a clear conscious by making this disclaimer. Sort of like “Just say NO to drugs” and “Stay in School” and other notable statements that stop kids in their tracks from certain demise and ruin. Look at Whitney Houston’s utterance of “Crack is Whack” and how well THAT served her and the crack heads that would soon follow. I know I feel SOOOOOO much better now. Hey, JART-tards, just HOW are you checking I.D.s on the monkeys buying the Jarts? And, as a Public Relations goddess, I would suggest, in my professional opinion, to rethink the whole slogan of “Jarts in your heart”…sounds fatal to me and no fun at all.

May I also suggest that a bonus tetanus shot be included inside each package?

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Next, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Creepy Crawlers—the ones of the “Third Degree Burn” fame. Remember them? And that smell…the plasticky noxious odor of that unknown goop/toxin baking and hardening to form gelled psychedelic-colored insects (and future tumors). These were barter at my ole stompin’ grounds of St. Hugh School in Lyons, Illinois. You could tell if a boy LIKED you/liked you by the amount of Creepy Crawlers he hurled at you and ran away. Now I make that judgment call through jewelry (they ALL run away eventually…at least I now have the presence of mind to evoke pawn-able parting gifts).

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You can still purchase Creepy Crawlers, but many safety measures have been put in place. As one disappointed and bitter “baby boomer” mother writes—

The creepy crawler is no longer fun. The machine locks the hot plate inside until it is so cool that it’s barely warm to the touch making the fork thing unnecessary to remove it. This makes the whole waiting process of putting in the second plate entirely too long. We had to put the whole machine in the refrigerator to cool it quicker, but it still took 20 to 30 minutes to make one tray. Kids got bored and walked away. I’m 56 and remember the 1st generation creepy crawler. Yes I agree this is much safer, however, does it really have to be safer for a kid than making toast??? Do we really need the light bulb to be secured behind a door with 4 screws…do kids not have lamps in their rooms???”

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Obviously, no children have been singed in her home—but they have an unrealistic fear of light bulbs and give them safe berth.

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I have no reports if the old “Creepy Crawler” mating rituals are still in place in U.S. grade schools.

Super Elastic Bubble Plastic made toxic balloons to be enjoyed and possibly inhaled. You could get a real buzz and, after repeated use, craved more ballooning fun. More fun than sniffing mimeograph paper (remember THAT rush?).

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You see, you got this little straw (which would make a reappearance for me in the 70’s…but I digress) and this tube of carcinogen goo. You formed a little ball and stuck it to the end of the straw…and blew this uterine looking balloon.

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One poster on a nostalgic toy site writes—

“The fun began as you squirt out a pea-sized amount out of the leaded tube and fastened the pea to the end of the straw. You then blew into the straw to inflate the goo, pinched the bubble off the end of the straw sealing in the air and then stared at it, knocked it around for a few minutes and then slammed it between your hands resulting in a spectacular pop that sent remnants of plastic goo into the carpet. The goo was made up of polyvinyl acetate dissolved in acetone, with plastic fortifiers added. The acetone evaporated upon bubble inflation leaving behind a solid plastic film. Acetate has been known to cause cancer and can enter the skin…not a nice thing to give to kids but … what do they care, it was fun! The balloon/bubbles hardened over time and if you were lucky you could have a semi deflated scrotal-like sac of balloon that could last days. The longer they lasted the greater the popping noise when you eventually smashed it. The smell was something too. I’m pretty sure I was getting high off the stuff. The tube itself was the cause of many a cut finger. The screw top was plastic yet the actual threaded part of the tube was razor sharp. In addition the tube was soft metal that eventually was ripped open to get the last remnants of Bubbleplastic. That torn open tube was a danger as it was super-sharp metal.”

Hours of fun there, fer shizzle.

And now, saving the absolute BEST for last—I offer, for your consideration, the beat-down of my lifetime and precursor to marriage–Sea Monkeys.

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Oh, the humanity of it all!!!!

How many of us “baby boomers” waited anxiously for these little freakin’ miracles to arrive. And oh, what fun we would have when those darling little clowns were reconstituted! The comical antics the hours of enjoyment, and the hilarity that would ensue with my 500 new best friends were a reason for me to live and gave meaning and made sense of those strife-filled tender years.

And then the blessed day came and I was in awe of the whole “birthing” process…not scary like humans and MUCH less messy.

And it was after I realized that Sea Monkeys were akin to little vibrating spermatozoa, that I coined the phrase “WTF?”…but knowing nothing about copyright laws back then, I missed THAT little golden opportunity too (along with “have a nice day” and the big sardonic smiley face).

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It was the very first marketing lesson that I learned…long before the Pet Rock–there is a sucker born every minute…and they weren’t talking about the Sea Monkeys either.

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And so I tip my jaunty chapeau to you…Wham-O, Mattel, and the Sea Monkey Conspirators. You made me who I am today…a strong, resilient, and dysfunctional woman who knows how to “bob and duck” flying sharp objects, cannot blow up a balloon unless it’s dangling from a straw, and cries in the presence of brine shrimp. Impressive traits all, I agree.  But don’t write in, fellas–for I’m spoken for–by a man who played with rockets and b b guns in his youth and has led an equally fulfilling life—even with only nine fingers and a glass eye.

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