Friday, November 23, 2012

Rack Toys Memories Contest Results

I am elated  to be posting the results from the Rack Toys memories contest.
Let me begin by saying, you people rock. I was floored by the amount of entries and the fact that so many of you took the time to craft such well written ones. It also gave me a renewed sense of purpose with regards to printing this book because the subject is so relatable. Pharmacy toys are our common bond it seems.

Also, we all seemed to lose our AHI parachute figures, seriously they were the #1 cause of childhood heartbreak here. We should form a support group.

Anyway, on to the winners after the jump:

 So the big news is, if you sent me a story, you’re getting a set of postcards  from me. So instead of ten runners up, I've got....well...a lot. I can’t not reward you for the entertainment you brought me, so everybody wins here. I wish I could show all of your entries but it’s a really long list. Here are some faves:

The Runners up (some of these are edited for length, it's nothing personal):

Bill tells a relatable tale revolving around Spider-Man's neatest accessories:

 That moment that shines so brightly in my childhood should, in reality, be completely clouded by the much, much more typical time spent with the Funstuf Spider-man Webshooter.  The idea of the toy was rather simple- A spring-loaded dart you part around your wrist with a string attached.  Push the button, the dart shoots out, sticks on your target leaving your string/web stretched back to you.  Somehow, in my memory, the gloriously yellow card was even back lit the first time I saw it hanging on its metal peg.  Spidey was even shooting a web directly at me. Directly at me for pete’s sake!   I needed this toy. 

So I convinced my mom that $1.29 was more than a fair price.  The dart launched perfectly the first few times, but it did not manage to stick to the outside of the car, the vinyl seats or even the car window.  I would've tried more, but I was subsequently warned about the dangers to my and siblings eyes.  That didn't keep me from shooting into the palm of my other hand and enjoying the scrunching sound of the spring being pushed back into the ready position.  And that was my fatal mistake.  I didn't realize these things have a set number of times you can use them before they jam.  It was broken by the time I got home.  I argued for weeks that it wasn't a piece of junk that breaks right after you take it off the cardboard, prevailed and got a replacement. 

It broke the moment I took it off the card.

Bobby and Batman were separated by a breeze and sibling rivalry:

I was about 10, my mom had just bought me a batman parachuting figure, we got home I helped bring in the groceries and then went outside with Batman and right in front of the house threw him up in the air. The breeze took him east and kept him in the air. I ran along under him for about a hundred yards to the edge of some trees seperating my dad’s house and his brother’s who didn’t get along with my dad. bats kept going getting higher and heading east toward my uncles pond,I kept it in sight all the way out over the middle of the pond another 200 yards away.there it made a nice little splash down.

Never to be seen again. 1 throw in the air and gone.

Larry wrote a more graphic tale of AHI Parachute woe:

 Potentially my favorites were the AHI parachutists who all met the same untimely demise, because I seemingly never got the hint that a.) if you throw them up in the air in a heavily wooded area (such as the street I lived on) there's a good chance it's going to get stuck and never come down, and b.) throwing them up in the air from the middle of the street (so as to hopefully avoid the aforementioned trees) would likely result in the brittle plastic figurine shattering into pieces upon contact with the concrete.

 In a short amount of time, my front yard looked like a grizzy scene from some war-torn battleground, where the now weather-beaten Capt. America and Superman figurines hung helplessly from the top branches of our tree, to the shattered remains of Spidey, Hulk, and Batman lying near the curb.  For no villainous maniac they ever met in the comics of my youth could ever wreak the kind of havoc upon them like that of an overzealous 6 year old boy who clearly had problems with learning his lesson when taking care of his new toys.

Mike describes how his Thanksgiving was improved when it became World War 2:

One in particular caught my eye: The Sgt. Fury Armored Attack set (thankfully, you've featured it on your site to help remind me of it's name). I got my mom to buy it for me, and for the rest of that night, and the whole long Thanksgiving weekend, that thing was THE source of recreation for me. Why, though?? I was a big GI Joe fan, and had about 30 figures and a dozen vehicles. I had tons of Star Wars, Adventure People, and He-Man stuff, too. With that collection available in my room, why would 4 cheap, plain little non-moving green army men and their out-of-scale tank captured my attention so much? Maybe it was it's plain-ness that allowed me to make up whatever scenario I wanted, who knows. It's crazy how something so simple generated so much fun.

Manny had a super cool mom who used vengeance spirits to get him to eat his vegetables:

When I was growing up I desperately hated eating dinner. OH man, did I hate eating dinner. My mother was Cuban and on any given night I could be confronted with a pile of black beans and rock hard rice, chicken parts or stew that looked like it was made out of roadkill. As I got older I learned to like some of these meals but you can imagine how traumatizing it would be to a 6 year old to have meal on his plate that would sometimes be staring back at him.

Anyway, my mother quickly figured out an incentive plan to get me to finish all the food on my plate and quickly stocked our pantry with an array of rack toys, or as we used to call them "bodega" toys, and would reward me with them after I'd finish a particularly disturbing meal.   

My all time favorite was this figure of a man on a motorcycle who's head you could replace with a flaming skull! Of course I now know this character to be GHOST RIDER but at the time no one in my neighborhood knew who this character was so it was just the "Cool skeleton man on the motorcycle" to the lot of us.  Every kid in the neighborhood wanted one but they ever found one. I seemed to have the only one in existence.  It ended up being one of my favorite toys of all time. 

Stan had a different kind of Rack Toy memory but none the less a cool one. Also, who wouldn't want to work in a store called "Gee Bee"?

I guess my biggest memories of Rack Toys came in the early 1980s, when I was employed as a toy department manager for a local dept store chain called GEE BEE. Starting on Black Friday, toys were lined up and down all the traffic aisles of the store. Across the front of the store they would line up tables of candy, and I would be given six to ten 5’x5’ tables to load up with $.88 stocking stuffers of assorted rack toys, bubbles, coloring books, crayons, etc. 

Around Halloween, my district manager would drive a few of us over to Pittsburgh where the main warehouse was. There we were handed a clipboard of blank order sheets and let go in the warehouse to order the stocking stuffers. There was a long wall that had one of every rack item displayed on it with the item number underneath. Now remember we had to order enough items to cover all those tables for the entire shopping season. So you would order thousands of pieces. Literally, a full truck would arrive in about a week- full of nothing but the stocking stuffer pallets, hundreds of cases of cheap toys!. I remember ordering mini pool tables, tons of blow-molded dolls, tootsie-toy cars, Christmas coloring books, para-troopers, bubbles, police sets, fire truck sets, bags of army men, make-up sets, jewelry, yo-yos, plastic dinosaurs, etc. And believe me it was never enough, I had to order more every week and we sold out of almost all of it come Christmas.

Chris had a kind of "Charlie Brownesque" adventure with a balsa glider eating building:

Most of my rack toys were bought at a local drugstore called Eastside Pharmacy, which was just up the street from my house. Me and my friends would go there when we had cash to burn and buy comics, candy bars and rack toys. One year when I was 9 or 10 or so, the drugstore got in a several display boxes full of different balsa wood airplanes. From simple gliders to more advanced rubber-band engine models, they had a ton of them. That summer we bought out the whole stock of those planes. Every day we’d go over to the playground in between my house and the pharmacy, and we’d fly those planes. The playground set up on a hill, so if you got those things launched just right, they’d soar for a good half-a-mile. 

Unfortunately, the playground also sat above the town Health Department building, and nearly every one of our planes eventually crashed into that flat, unforgiving roof. It looked like a plane graveyard in WWII. When one crashed, it was off to the store for another.
I think by the end of the summer, we counted something like 17 planes up on that roof. 

Michelle was also confused by the term "5 and dime" like I was as a kid and happily recollects some Flinstones merch:

When I was little we had a 5 and dime store uptown.  I remember being confused as to why it was called a five and dime since nothing in there seemed to cost that cheap.  Anyway, it was one of my favorite stores though I can barely remember it today.  I do remember, though, getting the best ever rack toy set there.  It was a set of Flintstones licensed turtles.  There were 3 or 5 of them, ranging in size from sort of big (a couple of inches across) to small (maybe 3/4 of an inch...I remember the big ones the best).  They were hard green plastic shells attached by a single plastic post to a flat, black or dark green  rubbery body that had head, tail, and legs.  You could fold the body and look up into the hollowness of the shells.  I loved those turtles and played with them all the time.  I would take them with me everywhere, which is probably how they ended up lost.  It's been probably close to 35 years and I still miss those little guys.  Actually one was a girl.  They were a family in my mind.  

David plans with his AHI Mummy became unravelled:

In the fall of 1974, when i was 7, my mom took me to a S.S. Kresge  store in downtown Mt. Clemens, Michigan. I walked up and down the  isles, until i came across the AHI monster section, right near the  carded Mego figures. Being a lover of monster movies (as a kid), I  instantly fell in love. There it was-- a Mummy with his arm bandaged  to his chest. Even my mom thought the Mummy was neat, so she bought  it for me. When i got it home, i was in awe when i opened it --the  bright white gauze type wraps, the really cool blood droplets on the  wraps, the big white shoes, and even the hard head, i remember. I  remember playing with it for a few minutes, when all of a sudden it  began to fall apart; the wraps unravelled, it got dirty, ect.. That  was all i could remember about  having it -- I am sure it got lost or  thrown way.  It was such a delicate piece --i really wish i would  have kept him in the package. Luckily this fond memory led me to be a  collector of these fun, old monster figures.

Matt and I share an obsession with AHI Helicopters:

But my personal favorites were the AHI helicopters. Even after the launchers had long broke, these lasted on and on for me. The Batcopter, Spider-copter, Hulk-copter and so on, were used in countless battles with Megos and Corgi toys. They were the perfect size and those little, painted figures in the cockpits were such a nice added detail. Loved 'em.

John fondly remembers the Tomland Famous Monsters of Legend Morlock:

The first thing I recall doing after opening him up was ditching the Morlock's lime green ascot. He may have kept his green sportcoat for a while, but the last time I saw him (I think he's hibernating deep in a box in storage somewhere) my Morlock was running around topless (and whipless, although the plastic handle doubled well for a deadly spike/stake).

Second Prize: Winner of a Odeon Toys Brick Mantooth Action Figure goes to Tim for a tale of adult shame that sadly I can relate to...

 I am a big fan of Josie and the Pussycats and ordered some Josie and the Pussycats rack toys from a guy through [Toy Shop]magazine.  When it didn't arrive, I contact him and he told me that his mother had mailed me the package and had accidentally sent it via US mail and that it never came back which means it was delivered to the wrong address down the residential street behind my work. Keep in mind that at this time I was in my 30s and you can imagine my embarrassment as I went down the street from house to house knocking on doors asking if they received a package that was addressed to me that and the Pussycat toys. Needless to say, I never found them but I did manage to thoroughly embarrass myself in the quest to find them.

The Winner: The first copy of Rack Toys: Cheap, Crazed Playthings goes to Scott Fensterer for this awesome tale of reuniting with an friend:

I was a huge monster kid as a child! I owned most of the AHI monster figures and preferred them over the Mego monsters because of their likenesses. When I found the Bend Ems, I had to have them too! The Wolfman and the Creature were my favorites! I played with them until they fell apart and then begged mom to get me more! I'd bury Frankenstein in a landslide, sink the Creature deep in my backyard swamp (with the aid of a hose, even suburbia could become the Amazon!) and flood my favorite lycanthrope  just like at the end of Frankenstein meets the Wolfman! 
Well, eventually the supply ran out and you just couldn't find them anymore. Mine were all played to death! I loved those bendable rubber rack toys an can still see them on the counter of my local Toy King! I had almost forgotten how much fun I had with them. But that's where the real story begins!
Recently, we moved back to Florida where I was raised. My Mom still lives in my childhood home, though she is unable to take care of it anymore. I went over there one Saturday recently to do some much-needed property maintenance. While ripping out some underbrush, a familiar dirt-caked silhouette rolled out of the roots. It was my old AHI Wolfie Bend 'Em! It was showing the signs of the nearly 4 decades it spent buried in the earth, but after a little cleaning, he looked a little more lie his old self! The earth had made him hard to bend and a little rough in places, but he was back home!

I wanted to restore him, but didn't want to lose the nostalgia  of his backstory. I wound up remolding him and casting a duplicate that I could paint just as garishly as the originals I loved so much. Below are photos of the before and the after. Though old, the memories of those AHI monsters, the parachuting superheroes and spacemen, motorcycling Spidermen, and spring-powered planes still give me joy! 

How awesome is that? A mundane chore made better by finding a beloved childhood play thing.  All I ever find is rocks and cigarette butts.

Congratulations to all of you and again, I can’t thank you enough for this.


MaGnUs said...

Awe, not even a runner up for my entry. :(

Plaidstallions said...

That's not true, everybody got runner up prizes. I just couldn't feature them all.

Darryl Heine said...

So my entry on a Yogi Bear camera rack toy I wrote about got a runner up prize as well though it wasn't shown with some of the runner up entries?

Plaidstallions said...

I'm not sure what the disconnect is but as I stated, even if your runner up story isn't seen here and again, I do apologize but I could not feature every one, you still get a prize.

Anonymous said...

Congrats, Scott! Thanks also to you, Brian, for having such a fun contest!

Dave S.

Jody said...

Thanks for the postcards. These were some fun entries. I was neat to bring back the memory of my most awesome stamp set.



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