Each year while reviewing the hundreds of letters to Santa we receive, I am amazed at how many of the standards from my youth are still popular. Girls are still very much into Barbie and even the Easy Bake Oven. Boys still want BB guns and Legos still have a large following.There is even a Lego-Land attraction somewhere or so I am told.I actually started thinking about old items from Santa’s sack when I covered the execution of Robert Wayne Holsey.His victim’s name was Will Robinson which flashed me back to the ‘˜Lost in Space’ television show.One fine Christmas morning, we awoke to a toy version of the show’s B9 robot that kept the Robinson family straight under the tree. It would spout out B9’s standard line ‘˜Danger, Will Robinson’ when you punched the ominous red button on his metal chest.Today’s kids seek out – and Santa supplies – vast arrays of electronics. We had those, too.Transistor radios were a big hit. I kept mine under my pillow to listen to late Braves games from the West Coast when I was supposed to be asleep.We graduated from those to 8-track tape decks and cassette players. Designed to replace records which were prone to scratching, tapes also had their problems. For years, one could ride down the highway and see reams of tape alongside the road where frustrated music lovers had thrown Jimi Hendrix or The Doors out the window when the player ate the tape.Of course, there was always at least one bike under the tree.We preferred those with high handlebars and banana seats.We coveted the kit that would let one outfit such a bike with a small gas motor and transform it into a minibike. Alas, our parents’ safety concerns won out. We were into cars, too. We had countless Matchbox cars and eventually graduated to a slot car racing system.We also loved guns, starting with Roy Rogers cap pistols, moving to the Daisy rifle with the cork ball on a string and, finally, to real BB guns.With those we fought vast battles in a large ditch that ran through the neighborhood that we called Snake Canyon.It was a wild place where many an adventure played out in our minds.When we couldn’t go outside, we would stage those battles on the carpet and furniture in the living room with vast armies of tiny rubber army men. We also had an Alamo set complete with the fort. In our world, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett always triumphed over the Mexican hordes.When we tired of modern day combat, we would turn to pugilism, banging away for hours with our Rock ‘˜em Sock ‘˜em robots. This toy provided the young warrior with instant visual gratification in that the opposing robot’s head would come off when you hit it just right with an uppercut. Of course, parents always tried to bring out the budding artist in boys in an attempt to get our minds off the violence at the front lines and inside the boxing ring. We got the Etch a Sketch and Spirograph.I wasn’t very good with either and pitched them aside soon enough.Santa brought us an array of sporting equipment. We had bats, gloves, footballs, kicking tees, basketballs and basketball goals but never a soccer ball.We also had the jerseys of our favorite players.Mine were Unitas and Meredith. One year, we got a Pitchback net that let you play catch with yourself. I think it endured about two weeks of fastballs from three would-be major leaguers before we tore it up.It lived out the remainder its life as a Frisbee target.Perhaps the most anticipated gift of all was the coveted Tudor Electric Football game. It had a metal base painted up as a field and cardboard grandstands to attach to one side. You lined up the players which sat on bases then flipped a switch, the field vibrated and the players would move.The problem was the players never moved where you wanted them to. And, the triple threat action player who could pass, kick and punt a little foam football was very hard to master and his receivers never got open. They congregated, frustratingly, in one corner with all the other vibrating players in something that resembled a rugby scrum and not a football play that Meredith or Unitas would draw up in the dirt.The B9 robot may have been the coolest, longest used toy we had. He finally died vibrating atop the electric football field from a hail of BBs through his main transformer.Danger, Will Robinson, indeed.A personal note: Reflect upon your own Christmas memories this holiday season and work to create lasting new ones. Reflect also upon the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ our Savior.Merry Christmas to you and your families from all of us here at The Herald Gazette. And, thanks for reading. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.
Christmas toys and memories from days gone by
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