Sunday, September 25, 2011
For me, as a kid, the enjoyment of reading comics was in perusing the ads at the back of the book. I never sent away for anything, and I certainly never new what "Grit" was or how on Earth anyone could sell it. What they did teach me was a healthy consumer skepticism that still serves me to this day. I should send away for my own submarine that fires a polaris missile! But wait, something in that picture doesn't look right....that's too small to be a real polaris missile!! Buy 500 toy soldiers in their own foot locker? Waitaminit... what would I do with a foot locker??? here's some of my faves (pictured)
Look Fellows!! The clarion call of of the "Grit kid", urging young entrepeneurs to win cool prizes like baseball gloves and polaris missiles if only, oh Lord if only, they could sell something called "Grit". I've never seena a copy of "Grit", though I have to admit I was occasionally tempted by the picture of the obviously prosperous and contemporary-looking chap in the photo. Unfortunately, my appetite to win pocket knives and bicyle lamps that looked like half-asleep eyes wasn't enough for me to send the coupon.
48" Talking Monster from Outer Space. I have to admit, the pricey $1.00 fee was certainly an obsticle to the purchase of this beast, but what really turned me off was the fact he had a prominant navel, which I felt no self-respecting space monster would ever display. That, plus what I later learned were called it's "jazz hands", soured the deal for me big time.
X-Ray Specs. Certainly the greatest invention of all time! I never bought these through the comics, but i did eventualy get a pair in a novelty shop years later. Who cares if their effective range was from your face to your hand (if you held your hand up to a high-intensity lamp), those hypno-spiral paper "lenses" makes wearing these the fashion coup of any social event or church function!
Monster-size monsters. For a buck a piece, another expensive prospect. These didn't talk, but their glow-in-the-dark feature was an almost irresistable hook. The Frankenstein monster looked intriguing, but that skeleton kept on truckin'! I always pictured him, strutting through my room like Mick Jagger, eyes glowing and "altertness lines" radiating from his skull, as if to say "I know what's going on...and I'm a skeleton!" Luckily for me, I never had the dollar to send away for skellie or his friends, or I would have learned he was only a poster, and unable to display the funkiness his ad promised. Sometimes consumer lessons are best learned from a distance.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Yesterday I was visiting the second-hand shop at the top of my street (the "Helping Hand") when I found this super-fun old Halloween mask/ costume kit. This one's a tiger, but I remember they had a huge variety of monsters, superheroes animals and princesses to choose from. This was before 95% of all Halloween costumes sported images of either liscenced TV characters or Kim Kardashian. You can't see the price tag, but it was originally $ 2.79 at K-mart (or maybe SS Kresge, which was either K-Mart's precursor or the name of the store's amphibious assult vehicle).
I always loved pawing through these costumes as a kid. As you can see, the "costume" was a rather cheaply-produced body suit made primarily of that plasticy tarpaulin material, which the makers reassured us was "fire retardant". I'm guessing this was third place behind "fire proof" (no way this sucka is going to burn) and "fire resistant" (we'll hold out as long as we can...remember the Alamo!). "Fire retardant" probably meant you had just enough time to wave your arms around and set some other kid on fire before disaster struck. Like I said, these costumes were fun!
On the front of ths costume there was a cool image reminding the home-owner what person or creature you were supposed to be, so they could exclaim "how cute!" or "oooh, scary" while you waited paintently for them to get over it and shell out some chocolate, man. I love this image-the tiger, though somewhat malformed, looks suitably ferocious with extra-long fangs, although he also looks like he painted his toe-nails for the occasion, making the costume suitable for either little boys or girls (this was in the time before gender roles were re-evaluated, folks).
The mask is typical of the time; really colorful plastic, with little eye- and mouth-holes to allow just enough air inside to avoid asphixiation, but not enough to avoid the inside of the mask heating up like a personal face-sauna. As a kid, you tried to avoid "de-masking" as long as you could, but inevitably, you needed to either wipe down or risk having sweat running into your shoes. I usually liked wearing my mask around the house for several days before Halloween, just to get into the character properly.
As a kid, it was always a toss-up whether I enjoyed Halloween or Christmas better. I eventually settled for Christmas, but in terms of defining what "dressing up" meant for a kid, Halloween had Christmas beat, hands-down. Then again, Christmas dinner wouldn't fit through that mask very well.