You may have heard me say “Fap!” now and then, and probably asked yourselves, “Did he say ‘fap’? What’s fap?”
I grew up with Sunday color comics in the newspaper, and one of my favorites was “Our Boarding House,” featuring Major Amos B. Hoople, a lovable pompous windbag whose wife, Martha, controlled him by making him go outside to beat the rugs. I wonder if anybody still beats rugs.
Anyhow, when the major’s at a loss for words, he often resorts to his customary exclamations, “Fap!” Usually followed by “Hak-kaff” or “Harrumph!” This sort of eloquence is seldom met with nowadays.
I am unable to confirm a report that Major Hoople left home to become a Diversity Reponse Team People’s Investigator at Fimbo University.
Before the advent of video games featuring blood and guts flying all over the screen, children had to be content with benign, peaceful, harmless games–like this one.
Remco put out “Melvin the Moon Man” in 1959, and it was a hit. My parents got it for us for Christmas, and it was simple enough for all three of us to play: my sister, age 4, my brother, 7, and me, 10. If we had had a cat, he probably could’ve played, too.
You spin the handle of the unique Tumblebum dice glass (that, and the colorful graphics, were the game’s big selling points), and your plastic Spaceman traveled around the United Craters of the Moon collecting Moonbucks. The one with the most Moonbucks wins. No tactics or strategy involved. Just follow the map according to the roll of the dice.
I don’t know what Melvin cost in 1959, but it’s selling on eBay today for up to $150. In 1959 anything over $5 was a major expenditure for my father which my mother would have to weigh carefully. They really must have loved us to buy us silly stuff like this.
And that’s what makes this memory so sweet.
My grandma had an original turn of mind.
I stayed at her house a lot–she was always available to baby-sit–and one thing she didn’t want me to do, when I was very little, was to climb the stairs. In case I fell. So she kept me from doing that by telling me that the Mick-Mock lived up there, but was never there if a grownup went upstairs. Not ever.
Here’s the cool part: she never told me what the Mick-Mock was. She left it all to my imagination, which was fully up to the challenge of terrifying me. I imagined the Mick-Mock as a ferocious collie, probably because one of the neighbors had a collie dog that used to go into a berserk rage if you walked past on the sidewalk. I was very afraid of that dog; but I knew the Mick-Mock would be worse. Much worse.
But because I was told the Mick-Mock was scared of adults, I was just fine with the upstairs if one of my aunts took me there. That’s where their own rooms were, and I could even sleep peacefully up there at night because they were there, too, and so the Mick-Mock wouldn’t dare show itself.
Later on, Grandma worked the same–I don’t want to call it a scam: let me call it “psychology”–on my brother. He, three years younger than me, imagined the Mick-Mock as a malevolent stick figure. I’ve got to hand it to him: that was cooler than my imaginary killer collie.
We grew out of our fear of the Mick-Mock. Grandma set it up in a way that allowed you to grow out of it. I guess raising six daughters taught her a few tricks over the years.
I was so pleased when I came upon this picture! You see, I actually had this model, way back when Neanderthal Men were but a recent memory. In fact, I had it twice: got it once for Christmas from my folks, and then again for my birthday, from my uncle.
And that was a good thing: although the finished model looks easy enough, I made a real hash of it, the first time. The guy with the club was no problem, but the skeleton gave me fits. Pieces of it just kept falling off. I understand now that my big mistake was attempting to assemble him from the feet up, thus running afoul of gravity. I should have put the skeleton together piece by piece, leaving plenty of time for the glue to dry before going on to the next piece, and keeping the poor guy lying on his back until the job was finished. But that much insight was unavailable to me as a 12-year-old.
Second time out, I speeded up the process instead of slowing down, and in practically no time at all, I had a whole skeleton standing there. Proudly displaying it to Uncle Bernie, I continue to salute him for not guffawing when the skeleton suddenly fell apart. Just like that. Like suddenly the glue just didn’t work. Fanabla.
Well, I sort of gave up after that, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the plastic skull. I used it as a decoration on the floor of my lizard cage, where it remains to this day.
And the moral of the story is… Successful model assembly requires patience. Something not always easy to come by in your early teens.
Before I venture into the murky waters of the news today, let’s look back on something a bit more pleasant.
Colorforms got started in 1951 and has sold over a billion sets since then.
Do you remember the original Colorforms from the 1950s? I woke in the middle of the night last night, from a dream of falling down the stairs, and for some reason “Colorforms” popped into my head.
What you got was a lot of pieces of thin, soft plastic in assorted shapes, sizes, and bright colors, and a black background that they’d stick to: and you’d arrange them to create pictures. I don’t know if you can still get this old basic Colorforms set, that relies so much on the user’s imagination. Colorforms stays in business by dint of tie-ins with hit TV shows, movies, and other aspects of the wider culture: so you can buy vintage Colorforms sets tied in with old TV shows like Welcome Back, Kotter or The Dukes of Hazzard. I think I prefer the little squares and circles.
Colorforms also tried to get into the paper dolls business, but the problem there was you had to take the designs they gave you. It seems there’s a good reason for paper dolls to be made of paper.
As I rode my bike today, I passed two people, standing five feet apart, texting each other.
Yeah, it’s little squares and circles for me.
No, not a diamondback rattlesnake! A diamondback terrapin–one of the best little turtles in the world. Tame, friendly, lots of personality: well, sure, all turtles are wonderful. But these are kind of hard to get, and that makes them special.
In my turtle tank, as a boy, I had my diamondback (very similar to the one in the video), a painted turtle, a small snapping turtle, and a tiny musk turtle the size of a nickel. I always fed them all by hand, and they liked that.
One night I left their tank outside and it overflowed during an unexpected rainstorm–and all my turtles were gone.
Would you believe it? Every single one of them made its way back. Snappers are pretty good on land, and it took mine two weeks to come home: he must have wandered very far afield. But they all came home. Who would’ve thought it?
Stop! I can’t stand any more news. The Smartest People in the World want to bring back communism, thus proving that they’re really The Dumbest People in the World. And I just can’t stomach any more today.
So let’s flee back to 1961, when Great Garloo by Marx was one of the top toys. You could sort of have your own monster movie right there in your bedroom, if you felt like setting up toy buildings and railroads for Garloo to destroy. Or he could carry your kid sister’s doll. Whatever.
Garloo’s remote control wasn’t wireless, as you can see. And he cost $17.98, which was rather a prodigious price for a toy in 1961. You’d have to put a gun to my mother’s head to get her to spend that kind of loot.
But the ad is endearing, isn’t it? In less than a minute, Great Garloo transforms from a rampaging monster to a meek domestic servant. If only you could’ve gotten him to do your homework for you…
Well, I got Newswithviews done, my head is hot, and this is my second attempt to publish this post. *Sigh*
Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans was the No. 1 hit song in 1959. Remember? I heard a snatch of a rap “song” today, “Silent, Violent, livin’ it up in the city,” and the cultural contrast was downright painful. Imagine a song about our country’s history being No. 1 today. If it ever got published at all, Democrats would be apologizing for winning the battle.
Meanwhile, in 5th grade, my friend Craig (who, years later, had a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds) and I used this song as the basis of a classroom puppet show: we had all been assigned to make papier-mache hand puppets and put on little shows with them. My puppet was named Cheeko, on account of a certain asymmetry in his features. Our two puppets sang this song. It was already so popular, a couple of misshapen puppets couldn’t do much damage to it.
It was a wonderful year in which to be 10 years old.
(Gee, I hope this post works, this time!)
When I was 11 years old, I was crazy about these toys–the Dr. Seuss Zoo from the model company, Revell. This ad is from Life Magazine in 1959.
The great thing about these was, once you owned several different models, you could mix up the parts any way you pleased and create all sorts of new critters. The parts were interchangeable from kit to kit–a great way to sell lots of kits. The downside was that the little knobs that snapped into holes had a regrettable tendency to snap off.
These toys exercised your imagination–and your hands. Nowadays they’d probably be too advanced even for college students, but kids in 1959 had a lot of fun with them. Oh–you did need the ability to sit quietly in one place for a few minutes while you made what you imagined take shape.
Much better for kids than zombie video games.
Yeah, this is another little piece of life around here that got erased by the orcs. Gone as if it had never been. As if I’d only dreamed it.
Let it be so. At least in my dreams it’s safe from the Developers.