Ira “Bob” Born, the inventor of Marshmallow Peeps, has died at 98. He also invented the machine that makes the famous Easter candies. They mustn’t have been very easy to make by hand.
They came out in 1953, and I have loved Peeps all my life. Today they stir up fond memories of my family, and little pink and yellow chicks nestled in the green plastic “grass” in my Easter basket. I know it has nothing to do with the true joy and meaning of Easter–except that everything we know as wholesome, benign, and good comes to us as the gift of God.
So I couldn’t let this go without thanking Mr. Born for something sweet and pleasant in my life. I have a couple of packs of Peeps sitting on my table as we speak. And memories. I won’t let go of those.
Maybe it really is a metaphor for life.
A friend of mine, back in the 1970s, got a grant from the university to publish a magazine called “Popular Culture.” The first thing we did was to hold an organizational meeting, open to all. Forty or fifty people showed up for it.
The next thing was to create an editorial staff. “We don’t know any of you,” we told our audience, “so what we’ll do is this: Anyone who wants to be an editor can be an editor.” Six or seven people took us up on that.
My friend was troubled. “We don’t have enough black people on our editorial board,” he said.
“But we offered editorial positions to anyone who wanted one,” I said. “We rejected no one! What could be fairer than that?”
But he was still unhappy with it. “If you’re going to turn this into some kind of affirmative action exercise, you can count me out,” I said. So we went with what we had and managed to generate two issues before my friend, now a publisher, lost interest and let the whole thing fold.
I thought it was a pretty cool magazine. We had articles on professional wrestling as a metaphor for life (my article), Carlos Castaneda (remember him?), Kojak, game shows, etc. The editors did their best, and it was pretty good.
Nowadays I suppose we’d be branded White Supremacists and the self-appointed people’s tribunal would come gunning for us.
Lesson: You just can’t please some people; and it’s a waste of time to try.
This lifelike, life-size doll came onto the market in 1959. Not long afterward, my sister got one as a Christmas present. She and the doll were about the same size.
I soon learned that if you left Patty Play Pal sitting or standing in a dimly-lit room where she wasn’t expected to be, you could really give someone the willies if they suddenly encountered it. I mean, an extra person in the house, just staring at you… If the doll could have broken into a grin, it would’ve put my mother in orbit.
I’ll have to ask my sister if she still has her Patty Play Pal. Betcha you could sell it on eBay for a tidy sum.
Hey, boys ‘n’ girls! How would you like to build your own V-8 engine that really runs?
This was a hot toy in 1960–the Visible V-8. A lot of the parts were transparent so you could see how the engine worked. My father got my brother one for Christmas that year. Mark was pretty handy, but this model was too advanced for him; and I don’t get machines, so I was no help. Dad wound up having to assemble it.
I had to admit this was pretty cool. Push rods and pistons and rocker arms, and the fan propeller! Just hook it up to a couple of flashlight batteries, and you were off to the races. Lots of transparent parts so you could see what was going on inside. Even I learned a thing or two about engines from this. (“If them parts don’t move like so, it’s to the garage you go…”)
We had a lot of those “visible” models–the Visible Man (skeleton with guts–horrific), Visible Frog, Visible Cricket (yes, really)… and the coup fourre: the Visible Head. Crickey, you could open up a doctor’s office with this stuff. Just add a fake diploma.
Since 1960 there’ve been any number of “visible” engine model kits; I’m afraid to ask what they cost.
You could have a field day with leftover parts!
My brother and I built a lot of models, especially in the weeks after Christmas. Nothing like pretending to be sick (I doubt my mother was actually fooled) and spending the day in bed, putting together car and airplane models.
Many of these kits gave you spare parts galore, and after a while your inventory builds up. But that was an opportunity to build weird contraptions that didn’t actually exist! Extra car bodies, airplane wings, and battleships’ gun turrets–you could put them together into any crazy thing you pleased!
My favorite creation had a jalopy body, long legs made of oversized exhaust pipes (think War of the Worlds), a swiveling gun turret, a smokestack, and a number of attachments whose function was purely conjectural. It stood on a shelf on our bedroom wall, defying analysis. I wish I had a picture of it!
Do kids still build plastic models? Do they still scavenge the unused parts for imaginative creations? It certainly gave the imagination a workout, and was light-years more fun than anything we had in school.
In 1972 I insisted on defending a friend at a “hearing” (LOL–no official status whatsoever!) before the Michigan State People’s Revolutionary Tribunal (self-appointed, self-defined). A former bottle-throwing radical, he’d Betrayed The Revolution by starting a small business. Everybody knows true radicals never sink so low as to earn a living! No! Until some stupid college hires them, they live off daddy and mommy.
Now I was myself only a year out of college, and it would take me decades to outgrow it. But this Marxist play-acting was just too much.
“Where I come from, out East in New Jersey, people like you just get laughed at,” I told them. (How I wish that were true! But I didn’t know any better.) “We gave up tribunals years ago. We don’t talk like you do anymore, either. You’re just college kids who’ll never stop being college kids.”
They were not used to anybody standing up to them. I said to my friend, “Come on, up you go, we’re getting out of here. This is just a lot of crap. You don’t want to spend any more time with these idiots.” They couldn’t believe their ears.
I wonder if they’ve gotten any better at it. They’ve had, like, 50 years to refine their technique. I’d certainly say the looniversities are way Farther Left than they were in 1972–and they were bad enough, then.
If they only had the power, they’d be carting us off to the guillotine.
Are you still okay with having Democrats in charge?
When the first issue of the Sergeant Rock comic book came out in 1959, World War II was a vivid memory for millions of Americans. Most of us had fathers who’d fought in it. War movies–you could see a different one every day. War-themed TV shows, from Combat to McHale’s Navy. Toy soldiers everywhere.
And Sgt. Rock, the comic book. How many of you remember it?
I never really got into this comic, although I did raise an eyebrow when the Sarge and Easy Company wound up on Dinosaur Island. But mostly they fought the Germans: hardly a fair fight, given Rock’s superhuman powers. You wonder why the war took as long as it did. He practically ate German troops for breakfast.
The series petered out in 1988. There was going to be a Sgt. Rock movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, but nothing came of it.
My father was in the Navy, serving on an ammunition supply ship–a vessel which the Navy took pains to keep well out of the reach of enemy submarines. He never saw the enemy, and they certainly didn’t allow the ammo ship to get anywhere near combat. Dad’s brother was a Marine serving in Puerto Rico–no Sgt. Rock-type war stories from him, either.
Easy Company just never caught on with anybody in my family. I much preferred Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge.
The Marx Toy Co. Brontosaurus. Looks like he might have a touch of indigestion.
I don’t have it today, just don’t have it. Today’s nooze isn’t even worth satirizing. Maybe I need a longer Christmas week.
But at least I can report that Science is reconsidering its not-so-long-ago decision to toss the Brontosaurus into the dumpster of “never really was.” So I don’t have to discard the toy Brontosaurs I acquired in the 1950s and early 60s. Calloo, callay, o frabjous day! Brontosaurus is back!
For a while there they were saying there was no such thing, it’s really just an Apatosaurus with the wrong head stuck onto the rest of the skeleton. But now they are increasingly okay with Brontosaurus–it was real, after all. Well, probably.
You might ask, “So who cares?” Well, I do. I kind of hoped I’d see some of these awesome creatures when I got to Heaven. (That goes for the Baluchitherium, too–another one they’re trying to drum out of the corps.) Maybe even touch one. As world-famous paleontologist Bob Bakker once said to me, “God must have really had a blast, creating these!” They just about swept him off the stage for saying things like that. But I say “God bless you, Bob, wherever you are.”
This was a great toy, the Remco Bulldog Tank. Hours of fun, making it crawl over formidable stacks of books!
Memory Lane: The Remco Bulldog Tank
Are kids still allowed to play with toy tanks, or do the schools keep them too busy dithering about their “gender” for anything else?
As for turning sweet little kids into Genghis Khan–
War is born of Original Sin; but it’s better to be good at it than bad.
I think our order wasn’t quite this ambitious…
Today is the 46th anniversary of our first date, Patty and me… the day my own life changed altogether for the better. Thank you for that, O God!
I was the managing editor of The Bayshore Independent. She was the bookkeeper. On Dec. 26, 1976, we went to dinner at The Islanders Restaurant in Matawan (they advertised with us–and really, it was a great restaurant: Steve Wong really made it into something special)–followed by a movie (The Voyage of the Damned, bit of a downer)… and then lots and lots more dates. “Don’t you let this one get away!” my mother chode me. Well, I had no intention to.
The Bayshore Independent is gone, The Islanders is gone, most of the movie theaters are gone… but we’re still here. Praise the Lord.