Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Of Sea Monkeys and Mousetraps


I've been reading a lot of Bill Bryson books lately and find myself laughing out loud a lot. He has made a name as a travel writer but one in particular I would like to recommend is an autobiography called "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". There are plenty of recommendations for this book that tell you that you will laugh out loud, and I did. That surprised me because I haven't done that before when reading a book. So if you haven't picked up any of this blokes work and enjoy a laugh then I would urge you to grab a copy of this book as a starting point. And no, this is not a paid announcement.

There's a part in the book where he talks about comic advertisements and how his brother tried for years to learn how to throw his voice as instructed by the booklet he'd ordered, without much success I must say, and it got me thinking about how we did get sucked into the glamour and excitement of some of the ads we used to see for products on TV when we were kids.

I particularly remember being really disappointed with my first pair of Bata Scouts shoes because unlike the TV ad, no one trailing me ever thought for a minute that they were actually tracking a tiger or a fox. And what was even worse was that the treads on the sole of the shoes had such a low profile that instead of having the sure footed leap of a wolf from boulder to boulder, it was more like skating on ice with socks on. The shoes also had a compass on the heel, or maybe inside it, which meant that if you actually got lost and had a need to consult it, because the sun wasn't shining or you couldn't find any moss on the trees, that you had to take your shoes off. And that got a bit annoying if you had to do it every 10 meters or so.

Another disappointment was the game Mouse Trap which looked so exciting in the TV ads. I had the game bought for me and no matter how carefully you lined up the pieces when you built it the boot would never kick the bucket, the ball bearing always fell off the stairway and the diver never landed in the barrel. I lost interest pretty quickly in that one when I found I had to keep using my fingers to operate the separate sections of the game. I mean what sort of mouse would just sit there and let a trap fall down on top of them anyway. It became one of those dust gatherers in the wardrobe along with the Chemistry set I wasn't allowed to use after I found I could make rotten egg gas, and the microscope that didn't focus properly.

I remember one Christmas I was given a GI Joe. This wasn't a doll. You have to understand that, no self-respecting boy would be caught dead playing with a doll, although my sister did sometimes co-opt him into being a boyfriend for one of her Barbies much to my disgust. Again the TV ads showed the dozens of GI Joes crawling through the jungle, driving jeeps over sand dunes and battling the Krauts. I had great visions of large scale battles in the front yard of home, but I only ever had one figure so like a lot of other things he spent most of the time in a box under the bed. By the way I would never call a German a "Kraut" these days. I learnt not to mention the war from that episode of "Fawlty Towers."

And as for sea monkeys....I was shattered when I learnt they were really brine shrimp. No smiling faces or clever underwater antics there and certainly not a pet that had arms and legs and prehensile tails like the ad said they had.

So what long lost buried memories from your childhoods have surfaced and reminded you about the truth in advertising?

12 comments:

Gypsy said...

I LOVED Mouse Trap when I was a kid but my memory is not as sharp as yours. I daresay ours didn't do what it claimed to do either but I still enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is so funny. You know I just put an original MouseTrap Game in the shop to sell last week. LOL.
I know most of the games were pretty lame, but it's just the feelings and memories they evoke. I love the advertising, the artwork.
Don't know why I get so nostalgic about stuff like this but I do.
I still have all my Archie Comics -just can't let those go yet. And of course they have all those ads you talk about. And I used to be so in awe of those Sea Monkeys. lol. Always did wonder about them.
I still have my original Barbie, including the box and original clothes. She won't go to the shop either, even though she is worth big money these days.
I so enjoy things from the past, and get great pleasure with them still in my life.
Is this why I have become a dealer in vintage items?
Even plan to have a vintage theme for my 50th coming up. lol.
Enjoyed this post Laurie.
Jen

V-Grrrl said...

My kids loved Mouse Trap, and we only recently gave it away. They also adore Archie comics, and as we're in the middle of a trans-Atlantic move, those had to go too.

I'm a fan of Bill Bryson as well. I liked his book on the UK and read it before I visited there last year.

Mike@disfordad.com said...

X-ray specs and the hypno coin. You couldn't really see through dresses,(ahem!) I mean "objects" and could never make anyone swoon over you. What a gyp. ;)

As an adult, my wife got me a "Spud Gun". You poke the barrel of the gun into a potato and break off a little chunk in the gun barrel. You squeeze the gun grip and a blast of air rockets the chunk of potato across the room accompanied by little popping sound. It actually works pretty well.

Ah nostalgia.

Seine said...

Operation - that game where you get to play doctor and take bones out of the patient's body ... I always thought it'd be real bones and stuff, and you can take any bone out you'd like

i was super disappointed when there were pre-cut holes and preformed plastic bones.

oh, and i was equally disappointed with sea monkeys! especially when they all died.

Loz said...

Hi Gypsy - it's interesting that the same games we played are still being recycled

Loz said...

Jenny - My sisters had Archie comics; I've still got all of my Marvel and DC comics from those days - several thousand and I hate to think what they are worth now

Loz said...

V-grrrl - Hope you don't regret getting rid of those comics one day. Bill Bryson's UK book is next on my list.

Loz said...

Mike - I tried the x-ray specs too - very disappointing ;)

Loz said...

Seine - dem bones was bad.

Blur Ting said...

haha, for some reason I always knew they were krill. So I guess that killed your thrill in rearing exotic monkeys?

Brenda said...

This post brought back memories! After much begging and pleading, my younger sister FINALLY was allowed to order Sea Monkeys through the mail. Having seen their ads at the back of comics for years, neither of us could wait for them to arrive. What a disappointment! Brochures sent with the tiny creatures indicated that, for an additional cost, one could order a special magnifying "fish bowl" to see them better, but we could already tell that there was nothing really to see ... before our teens we'd already become disillusioned!