Saturday, May 29, 2010

Toying With Our Past




If you are over the age of 40 (or preferably 50), and grew up watching Saturday morning TV, then you were barraged with thousands of commercials for toys. 


Expensive toys, sometimes . . .and sometimes toys that could be had for just a boxtop from a cereal package and a dime.  


For kids who have grown up in world dominated by MP3 players, computers, and video games . . . the toys the older generation grew up with must seem both simplistic and, at times, even barbaric.


Toy guns were a huge part of the toy market in the 1950s and 1960s, with cowboy cap pistols and rifles eventually giving way to James Bond/Man From UNCLE spy gear (I desperately coveted the Secret Sam Spy Briefcase, but never got one). 


The space race made futuristic rocket ships, moon bases, and orbiting space stations a huge draw as well.  


My brother and I were both so enthralled by the commercials for the X-500 Rocket Base that our parents realized our Christmas would be a huge disappointment without it.  




Unfortunately, we quickly learned that it’s ability to shoot down incoming missiles (as shown in the TV ads) was decidedly less than advertised.   A valuable lesson for a pair of 6 year-olds.


My folks bought a Great Garloo, although they used it mostly to serve drinks at parties. 


And in a bit of infamous family history, my parents bought us a Marx-a-Copter one Christmas in the 1960’s – a toy helicopter that was tethered to a base and would fly in circles, hover, and reverse.   With some practice, you could pick up an object using a hook.




(A 1970s version of the Marx-a-copter)


It was, however – in my Dad’s opinion – a bit  underpowered. 


On Christmas morning he decided to replace the battery pack with a train transformer (providing variable voltage).  The copter flew like mad!

For about 20 seconds . . . .


Then the motor burned up.    So much for the `big’ Christmas gift that year.   Another valuable Christmas lesson learned.  


Don’t let Dad play with your toys. . . .


Today’s offering is a terrific hour long compilation of toy commercials from the 1950s and 1960s entitled  Batteries Not Included put together and uploaded to the Internet Archive by Jon Behrens.




Batteries not Included "a Collection of Vintage Toy Commercials (2009)


You may also recognize some budding child actors and actresses in these vintage commercials, including Billy Mummy who starred in Lost In Space, and numerous TV shows (and even a few movies) in the 1960s.

1 comment:

George Wilkens said...

I was hired in 1960 to make the Marx-a-Copter TV commercial that would air the following year, and in '62 in Canada. It was filmed on the front lawn of a Miami Beach estate selected only cuz of its lush lawn. The "dad" in he ad was a Pan Am pilot. Neither of us (not even a real pilot) COULD MASTER PICKING UP THE SMALL SOLDIER WITH THE COPTER'S FRONT HOOK. We broke for lunch and The crew burned up 90 minutes and a lot of batteries mastering the trick. In the ad they show my hands on the controls, but the maneuver was performed by one of the crew. I got paid $100/day for 3 days (not all filming, a lotta sitting around, and the residuals brought in another $1000 or more in the coming years. Ironically, I was a huge copter fan before being hired at age 11, and always asked my birthday present be a short $10 ride on SunLine Helicopters (Bell 47G) on Miami's Watson Island, next to the Goodyear Blimp base.