Monday, November 14, 2011

Ah Christmas!! Catalogue Time!

Well, Halloween is over and, as every right-thinking monster kid knows, traditionally this was the time we started our serious planning for Christmas. Of course by planning, I mean we poured over Christmas catalogues with the intensity of little Howard Carters uncovering the tomb of King Tut. I know that I, personally, never employed as much scrutiny on any of my homework assignments as I did over the toy section of the old Eaton's, then later Sears catalogues. And Why not? The Christmas catalogues always arrived wrapped in a brown paper sleeve, hinting discreetly that the contents were sure to blow your mind, and were not safe to risk allowing them to casually flip open in front of, say, expectant mothers or people taking nitrates for heart conditions.

Toy sections were usually somewhere in the middle of the catalogue, after ladies undergarments and orthopedic shoes, but before pole lamps and canned fruits and nuts. The toy section was usually arranged by age and gender, with nondescript infant and toddler toys taking up the first few pages. No need to waste time here! The next few pages were often board games. Pause for a bit...there could be something interesting! Games like Battleship and Risk always looked cool, and the old stand-bys like Clue or Trouble would always have been a pleasant surprise. Some games appeared in the catalogue for decades, despite the fact I never knew a kid who ever owned one. A prime example was a game with a little suction-cup dart pistol, where the goal was apparently to shoot a chicken to cause it to lay a plastic egg. I never had the chance to try this one, but I'm sure it caused no end of havoc with boys who were raised on chicken farms who were desperate to re-create the effect in real life.

Moving on, there was usually a large section of girls toys. Very gender-role specific girls toys, which I'm sure would cause upset in some circles today. The Easy-Bake Oven, toy stoves and baby carriages and dolls galore. I have to admit, curiosity caused me to pause here every now and then, usually to try to get some glimpse into the workings of the unfathomable alien mind of the 8 year old girl.

Finally, patience ans sweaty palms pushed to the limit, I reached the boy's section. Glorious! Here, insulated from the true spirit of Christmas, was a treasure trove of action, adventure and mayhem. My personal-favorite pages involved either that 12 inch arsenal of democracy known as G.I. Joe, or his slightly smaller and bendier space explorer counterpart, Major Matt Mason! It would have been, not only inaccurate, but an outrage to refer to these figures as "dolls", especially in front of the young consumer drooling over their potentialites. These, my friend, were action figures, a name denoting thrills, adventure and possible future interactions with fire crackers or family pets.

Almost as good as the action toys were the toy gun pages! Yeah, I've heard the arguements about not wanting to instill violence in young minds, but for most of us, that violence was already there! We've survived endless playground games, schoolyard hazings and sibling abuses to know the world was full of conflict, and if you weren't prepared to deal with it you might as well just turn to the Bridge table section of the catalogue and just stop being a kid altogether! Luckily, toy manufacturers knew that, and were prepared to supply us with the ultimate in clever and devastating weapons of mass mischef!

After thoroughly scoping out the section several times, it came time to put together "the proposal", wherein I priced out assorted permutations and combinations of pricing schemes to present to my parents. These usually were in the vein of "if you plan to spend $20.00 on me you could get me this and this, but if you were going to spend $25.00 on me, you could get me this, this this and this"! World economics wouldn't be in such a poor state if they just let some kids with toy catalogues work it out.

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