Sometimes I see a new toy on the market and lament, “Where were these when I was a child?” Then I realize there were many wonderful things I had while growing up that this generation will never have. So, here is a list of my five favorite items as a kid that they do not make anymore.
The original Mickey Mouse Talking Telephone, manufactured by Hasbro Preschool, was an absolute must-have for any toddler in the 1980’s. It was a simple white and red box, with a baby blue receiver. On the right side, we could scroll through Disney characters, including Mickey, Donald, and Snow White. Each picture had a three-digit number we could dial on the oversized keypad, and we would hear that character answer the phone. We did most of the talking, but that did not seem to matter. We could chat with our favorite characters for hours.
Bonkers were a fruity, rectangular candy marketed in the mid 1980s by Nabisco. The center was stronger than the outer shell, giving the consumer a second rush of flavor, more intense than the first taste. My favorite flavor was watermelon, though most people preferred grape.
Sylvanian Families were posable animal figurines manufactured by Japanese company Epoch, and distributed in the U.S. by Tomy between 1985 and 1993, when Tomy lost the contract. They are still available in other countries, but no longer marketed in the U.S. Collectors strove to collect entire families of bears, beavers, squirrels, and other forest creatures. I had the entire gray rabbit family, which included grandparents and twin babies, a boy and girl who came with bottles and cradles.
The Talking Jigsaw Puzzle was a series of puzzles manufactured by Buffalo Games in the early 1990s. Unlike most puzzles, where kids simply match the picture on the front of the box, the picture on the box of Talking Jigsaw Puzzles warns the user that the picture is assembled incorrectly. Each square has a piece of a conversation to be completed, or a clue that helps the puzzler determine where it goes. I had the High School, the Office, and the Fitness Center, and was heartbroken when I discovered the manufacturer discontinued this entertaining style of puzzle.
My first computer was the Commodore VIC-20 computer, available between 1980 and 1985, when it was replaced by the Commodore 64. Primitive by today’s standards, the VIC-20 looked like a QWERTY keyboard with a fat base, and used my television as a monitor. It had limited memory, and saving on the datasette recorder was slow. The appeal of the VIC-20 was not its computing ability, but its selection of text-based educational and arcade games. Large game cartridges fit into a slot on the top, which the VIC-20 automatically loaded and ran. I would wake early, eager to select amongst games including Cosmic Cruncher, The Count, Avenger, and my favorite, Radar Rat Race.
Sadly, most of my favorite things growing up have become collectibles. I wish today’s kids could see the real value they held, as entertainment. Perhaps someday my favorite items will make a comeback. After all, Sock Monkeys came back.