Remembering My 80’s Toys

It’s my birthday again and I’m nostalgic. There are a lot of things to remember as you step into those years well beyond the golden sparkle of post-college bliss. But for me, life is full of one thing at the moment: a playfully curious one-year-old whose toy collection (now thoroughly enlarged thanks to a first birthday party and wonderfully generous friends) spreads across the entire house. This has gotten me to thinking about some toys I grew up with that no redesign can better or some so obscure, I’m not even sure what a Google search would yield. Growing up 80’s meant some pretty rad playthings. Here are some favorites I remember. I know. It was awesome back then.

  1. Nerfuls
Photo from

An intrepid gang of Nerfuls ready for the playin’

When I talk about playing Nerfuls with Nathan, it sounds vaguely risqué, but it was just clean fun. There’s no toy on the market that closely compares. They were these interchangeable ball-headed-people-things with matchable bottoms and tops. They were goofy-looking and pretty gender neutral as a toy. They came with cars you could pop them into instead of their usual feet holders, skateboards and bikes for feet and all, and even little round houses with slides for the rolling. I wish I had saved them; goodness knows I have enough old junk lying around in my garage. Here’s a link to a glorious commercial for Nerfuls. Photo credit:

  1. Jem and the Holograms Dolls and Cassettes

    Synergy was Truly Outrageous!

    Synergy was Truly Outrageous!

Did you know there’s a movie in the works? I know, I’m really excited/terrified too. Unlike some digital download that comes with toys now, it was instant gratification (I really can’t type this word without thinking about this ) with the inclusive tape featuring songs from that particular band member. Of course I loved my Jem but I also had some black and hot yellow tapes from my Misfit dolls. You could jam out to their Glitter Rock at the same time you combed their hair or changed their clothes. Amazing. Photo credit:

  1. My Little Pony

    Surprise was a favorite.

    Surprise was a favorite.

I’m not talking Friendship is Magic, although, of all the remakes of my childhood, this one is probably the best, but the original, real deal, sweet-smelling plastic goodness. I had a duffle bag full of ponies that I would dress up with barrettes, use as mounts for my Jem dolls, colonize entire floor sections of my bedroom, and take pretty much anywhere. They were bigger than the new ones and very hollow. They originated the little insignia printed on their back haunch, which told you something about their personality, but unlike now, we basically picked our favorite by how much we liked the symbol paired with the color of the pony and their hair. Like so many of its 80’s counterparts, it was paired with a TV show and spinoff movies.  Photo credit: Flickr lazysundae

I had this one!

  1. Pound Puppies

Cuddly, cute and a bit sad, these adoptable pets were hard to resist. They had those big eyes and soft coats. I was always one to snuggle with a stufty (as Sara called them). I remember having this one dog with a gray coat, brown spots and big brown floppy ears. Yikes, they did a remake of this too? Will the HUB never leave my childhood alone?  Photo credit

  1. Mc Donald’s Happy Meal Toys

It was a treat for me to get a Happy Meal. And the real reason wasn’t the food. I’d say a good portion of my favorite toys were birthed from a plastic wrapper that smelled faintly of greasy burger and had some flecks of fry salt clinging to it. Muppet Babies, Care Bears, Disney characters, you name it; they came from a Happy Meal. And they were good toys. Sturdy, dependable, and always a likeness to the original, these toys were prized my neighborhood over. When I was sick with chicken pox, one of my friends left a box of Happy Meal play things (that I didn’t already own) that saved my bedroom-ridden self from boredom that week. It wasn’t only the toys too, it was the tie-ins. They just don’t offer glasses, stuffed animals or Christmas ornaments from the latest family blockbuster anymore. I still hang my Cinderella mice and Rescuers ornaments on my tree. Imagine if today’s McDonald’s sold Avengers tumblers or Harry Potter house goblets for $1.99. We never knew how good we had it.

Muppet Babies were pretty much the best thing ever.

Muppet Babies were pretty much the best thing ever.


I still have some of these...somewhere.

I still have some of these…somewhere.

Still hang these bad boys on my tree.

Still hang these bad boys on my tree.










Photo credits Muppet; Fraggle Cars; Jaq and Gus Ornaments









Just to prove my point, here’s a fellow blogger who agrees. This is a great list.  What do you remember?


An Ode to the Video Store or Why the Death of Blockbuster Has Left Me Nostalgic

Video Tape DeathWhen I think about my childhood, I can’t help but remember frequent trips to the video rental store.  Browsing through wire racks of thick plastic display cases, I would make my way to my favorite tape and grab it like the warm hand of an old friend.  The newest releases only took up a small portion of the shelves, and the classics stood sentinel in their rows, familiar in their positions from week to week.  Movies traveled at a glacial pace from the theater to the store.  Disney still made hand drawn films and Don Bluth animation was better than anything DreamWorks ever dreamt up.

I’m saddened when I think that my daughter will never know that movie rentals come from anywhere other than an outdoor kiosk or a computer system.  Can you even get movies through the mail anymore?  She will never have the pleasure of browsing the local rental shop with friends before a sleepover or spending a happy summer hour contemplating the kids section for the oldie but goody she’s rented five times or the one she’s only rented four.  Redbox doesn’t stock classics.  If it’s not new, it’s gone.  Netflix won’t offer the same homey setup every time you view it or the chatter of the in-house TV showing The Land Before Time again.

Yes, with the end of Blockbuster comes the end of an era.  Video rental stores have gone the way of full-service gas stations and the five and dime.  They will be a sad piece of nostalgia we carry from our collective past, we children of the eighties and nineties and our parents.  I think of making those trips in search of entertainment with my daughter.  What will be our bi-weekly outings?  Certainly driving to Walgreens to find the Redbox won’t hold the same romance.  Trips to the Target five dollar DVD section?  Maybe.  Heck, I can’t even take her to Borders and say “old mom used to work here.” Now that is a whole other nostalgic-angst blog post waiting to happen.  I’d better quit while I’m ahead.  Oh, and I just want to give a shout out to Barb’s Video.  Yeah.  Those were the good old days.

P.S. Here’s a repost of a movie review that may ease our sufferings.  If nothing else, you can read the intro and see how attached I am to my video store memories.

Ghostbusters Jack Black

Be Kind Rewind


Ghostbusters Will Never be the Same

A Film Review by Christie Hudon

Remember the golden age of mom and pop video rental stores?  Before the Blockbuster explosion I used to rent my tapes from Barb’s Video.  I loved walking into the familiar racks of the kids section and picking up one of my favorites-always in the same spot near the big white plastic Disney cases.  Sorry for digressing, but after seeing a video store featured on the big screen I’m kind of sentimental.  Be Kind Rewind, the latest from quirky filmmaker Michel Gondry is a nostalgia piece with an independent flair and a delightfully straightforward story.

Afterwards, I chatted with a fellow moviegoer who called the film an “off-beat comedy.”   I thought this was a perfect description. Be Kind Rewind is at times slapstick and other times sophisticated.  One moment you shake your head at the obvious plot device and the next you ponder the ambiguous ending.  It seemed crystal clear to me though that this was Gondry’s treatise on moviemaking.  You don’t need a budget worthy of a congressional bill, you need ingenuity.  We go to the movies to see creativity and heart and we appreciate those films.  I read between the lines and see the idea that the majority of what Hollywood has to offer has failed because they’ve forgotten this.

Be Kind Rewind is the story of Mr. Fletcher’s video store in Passaic, New York.  When Fletcher (played by Danny Glover) leaves town for the week and entrusts his store to his adopted son Mike (Mos Def) a disaster happens.  Mike’s bizarre friend Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized (don’t ask, just watch) and erases all the tapes in Fletcher’s store.  In a desperate attempt to keep the customers happy, Mike decides to re-shoot the movies with the help of Jerry and a very old video camera.  What follows is a store full of strangely delighted customers and abridged homemade classics like The Lion King done with life-size paper cutouts and safari bed sheets.

One of several interesting aspects about Be Kind Rewind is the way the audience becomes involved in the making of the movie.  We see the remakes come to life with bad camera tricks, no sets or effects and minimal professional resources.  When we watch the creative process, the film becomes something more; a work that is compelling because of the efforts of those involved.

Along with all the camera gags, we also get a feel good story; in the middle of a poor neighborhood, people work together to make these films and save the store from being condemned and demolished.  Be Kind is a refreshingly enjoyable movie.  It makes you feel as if you could go out and shoot a film in your own garage and I think that’s just what Gondry intended. Be Kind Rewind Poster