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Before yesterdayAllison's Written Words

Hello Hunks!: Did You Dial-A-Date with “Electronic Dream Phone”?

Who who who’s got a crush on you?

You’ll have to dial your giant hot pink phone to find out!

The world of kiddie board games is a strange and trippy one. We sunk Battleships, operated on a cardboard surgical patient, shopped at “the mall with it all!” with our fake credit cards, tried to figure out who committed the murder in what room, while figuring out what object they used to commit the murder, developed anxiety at a young age because the game board popped up loudly and projectiled plastic shapes in our faces, and tried to guess an identity based on their facial features, type of hair, clothing they were wearing. I devoted an entire month to board games we played as kids (see the associated links above), but even that isn’t scratching the surface of what was available to us in the game aisle. Likewise, there were plenty of games I didn’t mention that month.

I’m sure my ulterior motive was content for future articles.

Let’s run with that!

Dialing A Date…

Anyway, when I was thinking about something to write about today, I recalled seeing a photo in a nostalgia Facebook post of today’s subject. This is definitely something I remembered immediately, and not just for the commercial, which is super catchy.

We’re dialing for dates on our giant pink plastic phone, securing our hunk and playing Electronic Dream Phone!

Image: Board Game Geek

And speaking of commercials, in keeping with Flashback Friday, how about a commercial from the archives?

Upload via Tyler Sorensen

Thank you for your upload, Tyler! This will now be stuck in my head all day. Admittedly, not the worst way to conquer Friday, but now every time the phone at work rings today, I’ll be all…

It’s for YOU!

Anyway…

Who Who Who’s Got A Crush On You?

Hello hunks!

The game is Dream Phone – excuse me, Electronic Dream Phone – and it was made by Milton Bradley (of course!) beginning in 1992. Using the aforementioned giant hot pink phone, very on trend with 1990s teenage girls, players (play solo, or up to four lovestruck girls) had to figure out which of 24 incredible guys like them, by calling his friends and getting clues.

Clue gathering involved clothing, favorite foods, places he likes to hangout, or what he doesn’t wear, eat, or hangout. The calls are private, unless someone plays a speakerphone card. And if a friend plays a Share A Secret card, the player and another player of choice could listen in together. Dialing the phone number for the correct guy, based on the clues gathered got you a “You’re right! I really like you!” response!

Was Dan your man? Or was it Bruce, Mike, Jason, Paul, Carlos, Dave, Spencer, John, Steve, Alan, Tyler, Wayne, Tony, Matt, Bob, James, or Dale? Your “Dream Phone Crush” will change every time you play, which means your crush can be any one of this incredible bevy of 1990s guys.

Of, course, winning the game meant uncovering your secret admirer and making the call that confirms it!

The original concept was designed by Michael Gray, a manager at Milton Bradley. His team was given the arduous task of creating a game centered around a phone, but no one had any ideas. Gray, who had also designed “Mall Madness” came up with the game’s concept – wade through clues to find out which boy liked the player, an idea that came down pretty much at the last minute. (source: Hello Giggles)

The original print of the game was released in 1992 by Milton Bradley (of course!), with re-releases in 1996 and 2009. The 2009 release has a phone that actually gets texts during gameplay! That version was released by Fundex games, with a box shaped like a purse!

Image: Board Game Geek

There was also an online version of the game, and a United Kingdom version of the board game made for a 2019 world. The phones in the updated versions look less like a modern smart phone, and more like that first Nokia phone I carried in 2001.

Of course, the original phone looks like a pink version of Zach Morris’ phone on Saved by the Bell.

Image: Board Game Geek

Availability

Sadly, “Electronic Dream Phone” is no longer on the market (trust me, I tried to find it!), but runs rampant on the secondhand market, with eBay listings ranging from $2 for replacement parts, all the way up to a brand new (open box) copy for $249. The versions listed on eBay look pretty good, and if you’re interested in a copy, and willing to pay a little more for a complete used version, then by all means, order up and call your crush!

And of course, there’s always the famous question about everything that has a tinge of personal nostalgia around it…

Did Allison Find Out Who Had A Crush On Her?

Why, yes…twice!

I did not own “Electronic Dream Phone,” but like “Mall Madness” before it, I have played the game! One of my cousins had it growing up, and we played it twice together – once as kids (I think we were about 9 or 10), and another time as adults. One of her friends from college came to her house when we were up visiting, and my cousin (Same age as me, two days younger) actually pulled this one out “for nostalgia sake.” I was in my early 20s at the time, and I was excited to play this. I didn’t even have to initiate nostalgia, it just happened! I’m not sure if I discovered my crush either time (way too long ago!), but this was a great game, if you like 1990s board games with over-the-top girlie appeal and pink phones that cannot be used with any phone network.

Thanks for crushing my dreams of using a giant pink phone, Milton Bradley!

Is he one of the potential crushes?

I would love to be able to attempt fate and discover my crush again. Perhaps that destiny will happen, and I’ll find a copy of the game out there.

But until then…

Who who who had a crush on you, when you played “Electronic Dream Phone”?

Tell me your story of the time (Insert Guy’s Name) declared

“You’re right! I really like you!”

Have a great weekend!

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Imagine Yourself In A #ThrowbackThursday…

…where the advertised product has its own television network!

Moreover, the product is the central focus of the network’s ENTIRE program offerings!

In 1998, this was actually a thing!

Today’s trip back into the archives of the aforementioned 1998 jogged my memory of a whole series of advertisements, where an entire network focused on marketing Mercury vehicles via its programming, which parodied the standard programs you’d find on television in 1997 and 1998. The parodies were always campy and over-the-top, but all of it had a commonality – sell Mercury vehicles to the television-watching public, be they the person changing the channel in the commercial, or you, the viewer watching the commercial alongside the guy in the commercial!

Try not to think too hard about that sentence, lest it hurt your brain!

Anyway, this is…

…and these are today’s programming offerings!

A gritty police procedural reality show, the weather (not so gritty), and a gritty courtroom drama.

So, imagine yourself watching any of these shows, and click play!

The looks on their faces is hilarious, and all because of a CAR!

And how about that Mercury Grand Marquis?

The Mercury Grand Marquis, the focus of cops pulling unsuspecting drivers over just so they can drive the car, weather forecasts featuring the Mercury emblem as a weather map icon, and possible affairs with married older suitors, was introduced in 1975, sold by the Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company. Functionally an identical twin of the Ford Crown Victoria, the Grand Marquis was enjoyed three generations of existence, before its discontinuation in 2011, as Ford’s Mercury division was being retired after 72 years.

The slogan “Imagine Yourself In a Mercury” was introduced in the mid-1990s, with “Imagine TV” series of ads introduced in late 1997 to promote Mercury’s 1998 offerings. The parodies featured fake Muppets, Casablanca, James Bond, fake Bob Ross (who looked more like Danny DeVito depicting Bob Ross), Spaghetti Westerns, actual Westerns, buddy sitcoms, martial arts movies, doctor procedurals, the news, and The Dating Game, and Dragnet. While most of the commercials featured just the television network parodies, a few commercials actually promoted the car separately, before going back to Imagine TV’s programming. The commercials ran through the end of 1998. I watched all of them in preparation of this article, and they’re all pretty funny in a quirky way.

Till next time, imagine yourself in a discontinued car brand, and have a great Throwback Thursday!

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Do You Remember That Night We Made That Little…#FlashbackFriday?

Yeah?

May you never have to return Flashback Friday, for any reason!

And hopefully, a whole group of people aren’t gathered around watching any embarrassing awkwardness.

We’re wrapping up the week with another block of commercials, following up on yesterday’s jaunt into early 1999. Today, we’re watching a different Fox station, WTXF (Fox Philadelphia), during the season seven premiere of The X-Files on November 7, 1999 (after an all-new episode of Futurama).

Included in this rather scandalous commercial block:

The Fox Sunday Night Lineup of many a 1990s kid, musical cars, matching Nokia phones for the entire family, Betty White, Steve Sanders, dangerous domesticated animals, the scandalous videocassette you dropped off at the video store (!!!), 1999 websites that tried to be like Amazon, the old guys who loved those websites, and deadly SUVs.

Fox was always good as those suspenseful teasers!

We’ve got promos, movie previews, Steve Sanders (forget Brandon Walsh and Dylan McKay – when I was a kid, I was a Steve Sanders girl!), sexy videos accidentally returned to the video store, Betty White, hopefully no sexy videos accidentally returned to the video store with Betty White in them (scandalous!), dot-coms, and David Duchovny.

Go on, click play! The commercials are waiting for you!

The 1990s were a magical time!

I hope you enjoyed this end-of-the-week stroll back into the late 1990s. It was fun for me, and hey, we got to watch good commercials.

Nothing scandalous or sexy happened, either.

We hope.

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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Life On Land Is #ThrowbackThursday…

…and it involves crab leg feasts, Pepsi One, and Flutie Flakes!

We also have Diet Dr. Pepper and Sprite here, if Pepsi One is not your thing!

Back by popular viewership, I have dug up yet another commercial block, this time dating to Sunday, January 17, 1999? How do I know the date? Well…the recording was of The X-Files, which was a mainstay of Fox’s Sunday night lineup, the Golden Globes are mentioned briefly, and I checked the episode guide against the one on the recording.

Honestly, all I did was check the episode guide.

My brother used to record episodes of The X-Files faithfully, especially during the 1998-1999 and 1999-2000 seasons, and I found some of those videocassettes in a box long after he moved out. So I grabbed them and added them to my giant box of videocassettes. When I started doing digital dubbing last fall, I remembered his videocassettes.

I’m not disappointed in what I found.

Included in this commercial block:

Youth Smoking Prevention PSAs (Do they really work?), Doug Flutie hocking Flutie Flakes and 10-10 dialing prefixes, the then-new Disney Cruise Line, phone plans that save on weekends, the aforementioned crab legs, a commercial that’s about a “Love Triangle,” but not the kind you’re thinking, Billy Bob Thornton, a then-new one calorie Pepsi, one of those “cat dances for food” commercials, a commercial for a time when airlines actually loved to fly (and it showed!), and a company you keep…for life insurance!

We’ve got product placements, movie promos, Fox programming promos from the earliest part of 1999, all right here! You can thank my brother for recording The X-Files faithfully back in 1999!

Whenever you’re ready, go on and click play! The commercials await you!

Tomorrow, we’ll dig into more commercials from the last year of the previous century, from the archives of my brother’s old X-Files recordings.

Hey, some of us have way too many Saturday Night Live recordings, others have too many X-Files recordings. We all have our weaknesses!

Have a great Throwback Thursday!

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Taste and #FlashbackFriday!

…and while you’re at it, “Eat FRESH!”

I had promised a follow up to my jaunt into the retro toy vault a few weeks ago, when I embraced the idea of Wrinkles (the cuddly kind). I mean, Bea Arthur wants them, and Punky Brewster’s snobby friend Margaux Kramer relied on their live action puppet-driven help in one of those dime-a-dozen direct-to-video toy marketing tie-ins. In fact, that’s what I planned on for my next article.

And well, it got away from me.

I need to tie myself to a chair long enough to actually watch the video, take some screenshots, and you know, write the actual article. But I figured, why not have a good old-fashioned Flashback Friday commercial block as a placeholder? We love Flashback Friday, and we love commercials, right?

Right?!

It depends. How do you feel about…2006?

My rules be damned, I’m pushing a little further forward in time, dipping my toes into the pool of 2006 commercials. Today’s swim comes from April 29, 2006, and a recording of Saturday Night Live: “The Best of Saturday TV Funhouse,” which was a compilation of the finest moments of the first ten years of that Robert Smigel-produced animated segment that usually fell somewhere in the first 45 minutes of Saturday Night Live pretty much every week. From parodies of popular children’s shows to animated depictions of real audio clips, to X-Presidents to Darlene Love singing of Christmas Day and how those of the Jewish faith celebrate (a la Rankin-Bass), Saturday TV Funhouse always had something funny, interesting, and well, animated. When I was still watching the show (I stopped in early 2017), the segment was always one of my favorites, especially in the early seasons of the segment’s life.

Hosted by Ace and Gary, the heroes of the OG Saturday TV Funhouse segment The Ambiguously Gay Duo, this one left no stone unturned when finding some of the very best the segment had to offer.

But between those specially-cultivated clips, there were products, services, and movie studios – heck, even NBC itself – vying for your time, attention, and money.

Commercials like:

We’ve got grapes for Yoga balls, things you don’t want to do with the Burger King, hair as the literal bird’s nest you always feared, cars with high side impact ratings, and the rare and elusive teenage smile, courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruiseline. We’ve also got candy that claims it is “The Greatest Candy Bar Ever” (just ask its website!), music on your cell phone (!!!!), Master Thespian hocking Subway sandwiches (my how the mighty have fallen. I wonder what Baudelaire would say?), and mid-2000s cell phones, coupled with early 2000s wireless revolution-era wireless carriers that are now part of another carrier, but were at once the second-largest in the market.

They raised the bar, only to slip short of it and fall into the competition’s pit of wireless coverage.

Such sadness on this Friday!

But no worries! We have movie promos, television promos, mid-2000s technology, and we even have some of the greatest SNL bumpers ever!

One can NEVER say I don’t give them anything nice! Though Sexy Olive Oyl will haunt my dreams. That’s not a gift my friends, that’s a terrible curse.

Onward, friends! The commercials await you!

So, while intended to be a placeholder, this is not the worst way to wrap up the week.

Perhaps I will finally get to watching that Wrinkles video.

But until then, and next time, have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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Did You Ever Cuddle Wrinkles…The Lovable Kind?

Because you know, wrinkles are often associated with sadness.

Hear me out, this isn’t some kind of fetish-esque article asking if you have ever embraced age-related skin conditions in an intimate way.

Because ewww!

The Wrinkles I’m actually referring to were for children to cuddle, the “wrinkles” belonging to the subject of a 1980s toyline where cuddly dog puppets were the stars.

You know what Wrinkles are, but you have no idea who Wrinkles are?

I mean, Bea Arthur does…shouldn’t you? (Starts at 2:32)

I’m convinced that on a more minor scale, the declaration of “I WANT WRINKLES!” is right up there with the infamous “Condoms, Rose! CONDOMS CONDOMS CONDOMS!” line from The Golden Girls.

God bless you, Bea, you are a National Treasure. Don’t let Nicolas Cage searching for the Declaration of Independence say otherwise!

And now that I’ve gotten that “way longer than it should have been” introduction out of the way…what the heck are Wrinkles, and why does Bea Arthur want “Nicky” to get some for stocking stuffers?

So…What The Heck Are “Wrinkles,” And Why Does Bea Arthur Want Them?

Allow the commercials (as always, in honor of Flashback Friday) introduce them, and then I’ll tell you all about Wrinkles, and why you want them!

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Wrinkles were a litter (get it?) of anthropomorphic plush dogs, first on the market in 1981 by Canadian toy company Ganz Bros. as well as Lakeside, a subsidiary of Coleco.

Wrinkles were identified by the bone-shaped mark on the inside of their ear (it is part of their slogan in later advertising) and characteristic wrinkled face, and is based on the hound breed of dog. The concept of Wrinkles was originally created by Catherine Senitt of Senitt Puppets (based in Carnarvon, Ontario), who made and sold handmade puppets across the United States and Canada for over 20 years.

There were three sizes of “Wrinkles” – a medium 18-inch version that had an opening in the back to be operated as a hand puppet and dressed in overalls, t-shirts, dresses, and jogging suits, a smaller 9-inch version that were dressed in booties and bonnets, and a larger version that were over two feet tall (approximately 28 inches). In addition to the hand puppet version, there was also an electronic talking hand puppet that took batteries and responded to you speaking to them. All versions of Wrinkles came with a fabric bone.

Two other animal “Wrinkles” existed during their lifespan – Moogums “Moogy” Moose and an elephant named Trunkit.

Trunkit (Image: eBay)
Moogums “Moogy” Moose (Image: eBay)

Awww, Moogy is sooooo cute!

The 1980s was never short on cute and cuddly friends. But, like all the cute and cuddly friends Wrinkles were sold alongside, there came a day that they would see their end.

It’s the natural order of life in the toy world.

The Day The Cuddling Stopped…

This qualifies as the most depressing headline ever, which sounds like a documentary about the end of 1980s toylines.

While Wrinkles were initially discontinued in the 1980s (they were still around in 1987, but I’m not sure beyond that), they were brought back as part of Ganz Bros.’ “Heritage Collection,” but were eventually discontinued again. However, I’m happy to report that they’re easy to find on eBay, and even Etsy (searches verified as of Friday, August 5, 2022), and they look amazing in the hands of the secondhand toy market!

Of course, Wrinkles didn’t get away with existing only as cute and cuddly plushies during their lifespan. Their merchandise line also included metal dinner trays, posable dolls, PVC figures (the kind Bea Arthur dreams of at Christmastime!), and even their own live action direct-to-video special starring that blonde girl who played Punky Brewster’s snobby friend Margaux Kramer.

(Her is name is Ami Foster, and she definitely wasn’t playing Margaux here.)

Yeah, everything had a direct-to-video association in the 1980s. Blame the other natural order of things, the natural order of the evolving 1980s home video market.

Did Allison Cuddle Wrinkles?

In short…no. I did not cuddle Wrinkles. I’m also 100% certain I will never stand in the middle of a store saying I want them.

I vaguely remember seeing commercials for Wrinkles, but this wouldn’t have really been appealing for me until the mid-1980s, as I wasn’t old enough to really be interested in a hand puppet, especially one so big! The talking Wrinkles, however, would have absolutely been appealing to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for talking dolls.

Looking back through this nostalgia, Wrinkles are actually pretty stinkin’ cute. I absolutely love the clothing and their faces. The ones I’ve seen in the wilds of eBay and Etsy are adorable, and have the cutest clothes. The commercials are fun too, seeing so many different kinds is like watching the 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids commercial, which always showed so many different kinds of CPK dolls, perfect for every kid…provided you could get one.

But of course, the most important question remains…did you cuddle Wrinkles, and did they talk back to you like a bad Wrinkles? Tell me your Wrinkles memories!

But Wait, There’s More Wrinkles To Cuddle!

Remember that little direct-to-video merchandising tie-in starring Punky Brewster’s snobby friend Margaux Kramer I briefly mentioned? Yeah, there will be a part two to this article. I just didn’t want this article to be 10,000 words longer than it needed to be.

That’s my kindness kicking in. I like to spread out my long-windedness as much as I can!

So while Bea Arthur and “Nicky” won’t return, Ami Foster and talking dog puppets will grace Allison’s Written Words one more time.

Until then, have a great day, and a fantastic weekend!

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“So Cool!” Retro Tech: Watchimal

…and they’re also watches with serious fashion cred!

Color me inspired!

I love the instances that something nostalgic – and possibly, obscure – comes to me in the creative process of another article. For instance, semi-recently, I wrote about a series of watches by Armitron that were part toy, part watch, part serious fashion.

And all 1980s dance moves!

During the course of that article, I made mention of a very tiny part of my childhood that sat in the deepest recesses until it I shake it loose and write about it. Having taken the better part of a year off from writing, I haven’t tapped into those recesses as much as I did in previous years, and it is amazing what I wind up shaking loose.

So on that note, did you have a Watchimal?

What’cha Call It?

A Watchimal? And why do you call it that?

Because it’s an animal with a watch inside! And no, the animal didn’t eat the watch.

Watchimal(s) were a furry wristband with a digital watch inside the mouth of a plushie animal head, first marketed in 1985 by Hasbro Softies. Two series of watches were produced in 1985 and 1986, with the first wave of time-keeping animals being an elephant, bear, toucan, peacock, mouse, and butterfly. The 1986 wave expanded to include a unicorn, snail, dragonfly, dog, goldfish, and moose.

The primary target market was young girls, though there were boys in the original commercial. And as always, in the tradition of Flashback Friday, we need to have a word from our “sponsor.”

While the original series of Watchimals seemed to be only marketed to the young kiddie crowd (based on the commercial and corresponding jingle), the second wave’s commercials featured slightly older kids praising the amazingness of Watchimals. These kids seemed old enough for something decidedly cooler than the plush toy watches their younger siblings liked.

“What’s A Girl To Wear?”: Accessorizing with Watchimals’ Cousin, Wearimals!

Peacock hair clips (Image: Pinterest)

From Watchimals also came Wearimals, animals made in the same style, but sold in pairs and including a clip to attach to hair, clothing and backpacks. The snail, butterfly, goldfish, peacock were included in this line, as well as a pig and cat.

I found a high quality version of the commercial, on YouTube, and queued it to the exact start time (0:35 seconds in, if the queue doesn’t work), but man, if you like independent network nostalgia, this is a great commercial block!

Such a tough decision – gotta nail that outfit/Watchimal/Wearimal combination. Just say “I’m so cool!”, no matter where you wear your Wearimal.

The addition of the Wearimals proved to be the end of the wearable plushie trend that was Watchimal/Wearimal. While the line was only produced from 1985 until 1986, they were obviously still on the market in 1987 (based on the Wearimals commercial), but beyond that, I’m not sure.

Was Allison “So Cool!” In Her Watchimals (or Wearimals)?

Yes I was!

I actually did own a Watchimal, but not Wearimals, which I’d never heard of until I was writing this article. My Watchimal was from the original 1985 line, a Purple Elephant, and my brother had the Bear. I remember LOVING this Watchimal, and I’m sure it had everything to do with my love for watches much later in life. I can guarantee you I didn’t know how to tell time, but I wore a giant stuffed animal on my wrist with excitement. Time is irrelevant when you can take a plushie with you!

Image: eBay

I actually do have a photo of me wearing the watch, explaining (presumably in the way any little kid would) it to a preschool aide while dressed like a cheerleader for Halloween. I’ll have to dig that photo out next time I’m at my parents’ house.

Can You Still Be “So Cool!” In A Watchimal (Or Wearimal)?

While the stuffed animal on your wrist, hair, shoes, or anywhere trend may be long gone, the nostalgia can still live on. I roved eBay for the plushie watches and fashion accessories, and I was not disappointed in the last. If you’re looking for one to fall in love with all over again, or find a new Watchimal to love, plan to shell out a pretty penny for that nostalgic love. There are listings for “New in Box” ones between $49 and $72 (verified as of this writing, Friday, July 29, 2022), with pre-owned Watchimals priced at $12 to $20. As for Wearimals, $29.99 can net you a set on the low end, with others going for $50, $55, and $44.99 (again, verified as of this writing).

I even found my beloved Purple Elephant in an unopened box. No, I’m not looking to reconnect with her (yes, her), but I love seeing that she (yes, she!) still exists!

Of course, that search also turned up what I believe are Hatchimals (erroneously ID’d as Watchimals), as well as an actual “inspired by Watchimal” creation.

The “Other” Watchimal…

Interestingly enough, there was a “Watchimal”-esque toy/watch hybrid with the same concept (searchable under Watchimal and their actual name), called “Kennel Kuddlee Watchdog.” They look like a Pound Puppy-Watchimal Hybrid in concept, and were made by a company called Tara Toy Corp. in 1986. There were even plush dogs a la Pound Puppies, so I guess there were filling a demand in the market when Pound Puppies were hard to come by.

Image: eBay

Based on their going prices on eBay, these seem to be rare, but nonetheless, they’re stinkin’ cute!

Tara Toy Corp. , like Hasbro, is still around today, and produces toys based on popular licensed characters and properties. Their products include activities, storage cases, toys, and arts and crafts. They’ve been around since 1977, and are located in Hauppauge, NY.

And Now, You!

Did you ever tell time with a Watchimal, accessorize with a Wearimal, or just wear either because they were “so cool”? I would love to know which one you had, or if you’re even remotely familiar with these watches, plushies, or whatever they market themselves as.

Have a fantastic day, and, you know, continue to be “so cool!”

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Turn Out the Lights, It’s Lights Alive!

A light up toy with no pegs to lose, but plenty of ways to create artwork with incredible colorful light?

What is this witchcraft?!

Previously, on Allison’s Written Words…

A toy that creates beautiful pictures with light, smiling friends shining bright, and “Here’s Suzy!” was the topic of last week’s article mired in the archives. That toy was Hasbro’s Lite Brite, and it was everything and a catchy commercial.

As I was wrapping up the Lite Brite article last week, I mentioned how I didn’t have Lite Brite, but not to weep for my Lite Brite-less life. I actually had something similar, yet different and equally special. It was similar in the sense that you could create artwork, but different in the sense that you had to actually be creative to create that artwork, and special because, well, it wasn’t messy…?

That counts as being special, right?

I’ll explain the different but similar aspect, trust me.

But first, in the true spirit of Flashback Friday, a word from the “sponsor,” and the focus of today’s article!

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I admit, not as catchy as Lite Brite’s jingle, but the imagery is just as fascinating!

The Light Box Toy With No Pegs To Clean Up

That’s quite a boast for a commercial, don’t you think. It’s almost like saying “hey, our toy has easy cleanup! No pegs to lose and wind up in mom’s vacuum cleaner! CLEANEST LIGHT PLAY EVER!”

It’s Lights Alive (Lights Alive)!

Lights Alive is a lightbox-style toy, unleashed on the world by Tomy in (I believe) 1983.

Image: Reddit

Lights Alive boasts the concept of creating artwork through the beauty of colorful light, but with a difference: the aforementioned pegs are not part of the creative process. Rather, the toy comes with six different tools to stamp shapes (circle, diamond, triangle, and square) and two rotary-blade type toys to create lines. The colors were created by a tiny bulb-shaped bit of plastic, and different-colored mirror pieces within the lightbox gave those colors the rainbow effect of the artwork created on Lights alive. And of course, I don’t remember this, but those colors could be changed with the spinning of a wheel on the side of the box. The packaging boasted that the item needed no electricity, ink, or paper in addition to not needing pegs. It operated on 3 “D” batteries. Your imagination, and the integrity of the tools, were your limits to what you could create.

Now that is cool!

Tomy was the original manufacturer of Lights Alive, but eventually, Playskool took over the production of Lights Alive. I can’t find any information as to when that switch happened, but there are sets by Playskool in the wilds of eBay from 1990 and 1992. So, I’m assuming late 1980s, early 1990s? And incredibly, there is even a modern-day version of Lights Alive that allows children to draw on the board with special markers, and with the press of a button, the images come to life through flashing, strobing, bouncing to the center and back, and moving left to right. And like the original, the artwork can be erased, and the fun can start again.

Image: QVC

Sadly, this was unavailable/out of stock on QVC’s website, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere else. Likewise, I don’t really know when the original version was discontinued.

Talk about a lost art form.

In the Wilds of eBay: Availability

Both the Tomy and Playskool versions are easy to find of eBay, ranging in price from $15 to $125 (in varying states of completeness and condition), with listings for replacement tools starting at $10.

Allison’s Experience With Lights Alive

As I said, I owned the original Tomy Lights Alive. It was a Christmas gift in 1984, according to some pictures I found in an album. I couldn’t see the actual name of the item on the packaging, but I did see the item on the package, so that was all I had to go on. I started searching for it in the mid-2000s or so, and it eluded me for a few years until I finally came across it in a Google search. So while I didn’t remember the actual toy’s name, I remembered the concept and the fun I had with it. I was two years old when I got it, but this was obviously something I was able to grow into, as I remember playing with it as I got older. I don’t really remember what happened to it, or when we no longer owned our Lights Alive lightboxes (my brother and I each had one), but I do remember the satisfaction of using the tools on the board, and how a simple slide of the board meant a nice new canvas, and a fresh start to make something pretty all over again.

Simply put: make it, erase it, no evidence.

And Now, You!

Did you ever own a Lights Alive, be it Tomy or Playskool? Do you remember making anything particularly interesting aside from houses and flowers?

Did you just write “Bob” because you could?

I’d love to know your Lights Alive stories, even if you only remember the somewhat unremarkable commercial.

Until next time, have a great weekend, and try not to lose any pegs!

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Turn On The Magic of Shining Light!: The Story of Lite Brite

You couldn’t escape the 1980s without hearing that at least once. Did you really think you were going to escape my blog that easily?

I mean, you could click away, but why would you want to do that?

There’s the promise of glowing light peg art, and you know you love your artwork by glowing peg light, right?

What’s old is new again, nothing ever goes out of style, and “you played with that? You must be old!” are the lifeblood phrases of Allison’s Written Words. And while we’re never old (we play with toys, after all!), we love when something old becomes new again, while maintaining the charm of the original.

And nothing could be more in line with maintaining the charm of its predecessor than this week’s toy, a beloved staple of more than a few decades’ worth of play and creativity whose basic concept has not needed (nor warranted) major changes to its purpose: to create fun, colorful pictures with the beautiful glow of colorful light.

And like last week, since it is Friday and we’re in full Flashback Friday mode, a word from the focus of today’s article:

If you lived in the mid-1980s, you remember this commercial. It dominated your Saturday mornings, your weekday afternoons, and is held in many an archival completionist’s kitty. You know, because you’ve watched in many an uploaded commercial block. And if it wasn’t this exact version, it was one of the 1980s versions. There are several, of course.

There was also this 90s version, with a few sets 10-year-old me would have LOVED!

Smiling Friends, Shining Bright…

Lite Brite is a light box-styled toy with colorful plastic pegs. One could create a pre-designed image using the pegs, or create their own images with the pegs.

As licensed characters became an important part of popular culture, Lite Brite was there with design sets featuring different characters.

Among the pictures of clowns, ballet dancers, and “Here’s Suzy!”, there’s My Little Pony, Mickey Mouse, and Transformers to light up the day and night!

Image: Pinterest
Image: eBay

These sets would have been popular in our house!

The original Lite Brite was introduced to the toy market in 1967, the invention of Burt Meyer and Joseph M. Burck of Marvin Glass and Associates, a Chicago-based toy and game design company. The concept was then licensed to Hasbro (and at one point, Milton Bradley, which was under the Hasbro banner), an association that continues to this very day.

The original concept used a lightbulb inside the light box, with the concept simple in execution – punch the pegs through the holes on a design sheet printed on opaque black paper, the light blocked by the paper unless the holes are punched out. Due to this, the designs could only be used once.

Many Ways To Light Up the Day and Night!

Image: eBay

Not content to be idle, Hasbro has re-invented the wheel, giving the convention Lite Brite more ways to play, while keeping the original in the public consciousness.

One such variation is a 3D cube (called the “Four Share”) with four sides and ample opportunities to design with others, or create four different designs.

Lite Brite Four Share Cube, 2003

Another variation, created in 2005, FX version that spins and plays music, while breaking from the tradition of pegs, instead utilizing paint to create art.

Lite Brite FX, 2005

The current version utilizes an LED light, has a flat screen, and runs on batteries, thus giving it more portability.

Image: Target
Image: Target

I even found this AWESOME My Little Pony version that five-year-old me would have LOVED!

Image: Amazon

It Never Went Away

The Lite Brite, simple in concept as it is, has been a mainstay toy throughout the years, improving its look as toys and technology advanced. And that’s all it needed to do, nothing more. It managed to stay a toy built for classic fun, teaching colors, creating artwork, and shining like the light it was meant to be!

Lite Brite is an easy find on eBay, along with refill pegs, classic character sets, and even the Lite Brite FX! Unless you’re super nostalgic and really need one of those classic character sets to go with you 1986 Lite Brite, you can easily get a brand new, LED-lit version in stores.

And, if you truly love nostalgia and are always looking for unusual toys, I found some cool Lite Brite goodies online.

There’s the Lite Brite Funko Pop, under their “Classic Toys” collection:

Image: Funko

Isn’t he cute?!

And this super adorable My Little Pony Mashup, which I’m proud to say I own, still in box, of course!

Image: Amazon

Isn’t SHE cute too?!

But, with all of the cool versions and super adorable tie-in merchandise, the all-important question remains…

Did Allison Own A Lite Brite?

I did not.

But man, I was one of those little kids in the mid-1980s who thought writing “Happy Birthday,” “Good Night,” and “Here’s Suzy!” out in pegs, or creating the ultimate My Little Pony picture with pegs and light was EVERYTHING. I see the current version in stores, and I’m filled with the nostalgic feels of that commercial jingle that brought so much joy to creating pictures with light. I remember the My Little Pony designs being super appealing, and seeing it as an adult makes me so happy that toys like this still exist and evoke creativity in their own very special way.

But don’t weep for me, I actually did have something similar to Lite Brite, yet different and incredible in its own magical way around the same time that Lite Brite’s commercials were all over the place. While not as iconic as Hasbro’s version, it still had some incredible playability. And, well, it will be the subject of next week’s article.

It’s no “HERE’S SUZY!”, but for me, it is memorable!

But until then, turn on the magic of colored light, and have a great weekend!

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Supermarket Sweep for Kids: The History of the Nickelodeon Super (Great Big) Toy Run

Just you, a shopping cart, and a store full of toys. What will YOU do?

I mean, didn’t we all ask ourselves this question at least once in our Nickelodeon-watching lives?

I know I did!

Last week, when I took the week off from writing with the promise of a total goody of a weekly article, I did not lie. This one is not only a goodie, it is a history lesson and a gem all rolled into one. Part Flashback Friday, part “Do You Remember?”-style article like the ones I wrote in 2019 and 2020. Instead of retail stores, board games, toys, video games, and production companies, we’re talking about shopping carts full of toys and races through the store that was just for kids, sponsored by the network just for kids, where only kids could win. And the best part of the magic behind this incredible yearly treat was that it lasted far longer than I believed it did, and probably only ended because one of those “just for kids” operations ceased.

Friends, we’re digging into the wonderful world of the Nickelodeon Super/Great Big Toy Run.

But first, in the true spirit of Flashback Friday, a word from the sponsor back in 1989, and a reminder of what the Super/Great Big Toy Run was…

My aspirations to compete in the Toy Run were not the kind that woke me up in the middle of the night, trust me! I wanted to keep those going in my beautiful, crazy dreams.

I’m sure it goes without saying that everyone wanted to do the Nickelodeon Toy Run at some point in their lives. The idea of having five minutes to grab everything your little heart desires, as long as it fit in your shopping cart, was the ultimate fantasy.

The Story of The Contest Only For Kids, By the Network Only For Kids…

Nickelodeon began their Super Toy Run (as it was originally called) in 1984. The premise was simple – enter your name into the contest by mail or at your local Toys R Us store (Kay-Bee Toys handled the festivities in the late 1980s and early 1990s), get chosen, get five minutes (three minutes for the First Place Winner) to Supermarket Sweep your giant (well, giant for you!) shopping cart around the store, collecting as many toys as five/three minutes, your hands, and your knowledge of the store layout allowed.

What you grab is what you keep! Not so lucky to win one of the two Grand Prizes? Don’t worry! Runners up received gift certificates for Toys R Us. While that lacked the thrill of five minutes of instant gratification, it still allowed you to pick out something cool with your mad shopping skills and knowledge of the store layout.

As a kid, seeing the annual advertising for the Super Toy Run always filled me with excitement. The concept reminded me of that recurring dream I had for years where I was locked in Toys R Us overnight, getting to play with everything. The toys always changed as I grew up, but the actual plot of the dream was always incredible.

And Toys R Us marketing clearly knew about that dream, because they made it into a commercial when I was in high school:

Oh yes, always all for them. Always good to know Toys R Us recognized this!

The annual event had a bevy of kid-focused sponsors in Toys R Us, Kay-Bee Toys, Burger King, General Mills, McDonald’s, KFC, Hasbro, SEGA, and Friendly’s, and of course, The OG Kid’s Network, Nickelodeon (this is not an exhaustive list). Even staple Nickelodeon host Mike O’Malley took time off from gameshow hosting duties to host the Toy Run in the ’90s! The dream is even more complete if you can get him to say “do you have it?”

Upload via Firesights (this is him in the video!)

If I Got To Do The Toy Run…

Obviously, getting to do the Toy Run was a big deal for a kid, and I’m sure all of us who didn’t enter the contest (I never did) still had our method of attack plotted should we ever have decided to take a chance and enter. Honestly, I’m not sure why my brother and I never took the chance and entered the contest growing up. We watched Nickelodeon through the mid-1990s – it was pretty much on constant rotation during the weekdays after school, all day during the summer, and all weekend long. Having watched the network until the summer before ninth grade (by that point, just on the weekends and only for the game shows), we weren’t blind to its existence. Heck, if I won it, I would have grabbed something he liked.

I’m nice like that.

Honestly, if I got to do it, and this is coming from 39-year-old me, the wish list would have evolved over the years. At 5-6 years old, I would have wanted cassettes/clothing for my Cricket doll, My Little Pony playsets, Sweet Secrets, Jem dolls, and I’m sure whatever girlie stuff was hot at the time. By the time I was 7-10 years old, I would have been grabbing video games, videos, Polly Pocket toys (especially that coveted water slide one!), audiocassettes, and I’m sure even a doll or two.

I mean, I already had my pink boombox, and you know in the 1980s, that was EVERYTHING!

But I would have grabbed some of those awesome Pocket Rockers, especially one of those Memphis Milano-style players. I’m not above having multiple sources of music enjoyment!

The End of The Run

The Super Toy Run, like all good things, came to an end in 2000. But, like all good things, couldn’t be kept down forever. Re-christened in 2010 as the Great Big Toy Run, the excitement picked up again, allowing a whole new generation of aspiring Supermarket Sweep-esque kids to live out their toy-grabbing dreams once again. But sadly, that ended in 2018, and probably for the most obvious reason…no more Toys R Us.

Unfortunately, I can’t really find anything from those later years, on YouTube, but I did find this great international commercial from Nickelodeon South Africa, from the 2016 contest. Viewers could vote for the kid they wanted to send to New York City for the ultimate competition, based on what they accomplished in their sixty-second runs!

I don’t know if getting to run the aisles at Wal-Mart or Target has the same appeal as Toys R Us, to be honest.

But of course, we can relive the incredible life of the Toy Run’s Golden Years through commercial, right?

And Now, You!

Did you ever dream of running the aisles in the name of getting all the toys? Did you ever enter the contest, or know someone who did? Did you win? Did they win?

I would love to hear your stories of what you would have grabbed, if you had the chance. And if you know someone who actually did get the chance (or that someone was you!), I would love to hear about what you DID grab! My biggest aim is to not only share my personal nostalgia and dreams, but to read about your experiences about the topics I put forth. That, my friends, contributes to the lifeblood of Allison’s Written Words.

Have a great day, a great weekend, and crush those boys like the bugs that they are.

Hey, everyone had a strategy for how they would conquer the entry process, it wasn’t just about how you would conquer the actual Toy Run.

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Get Real…Get #FlashbackFriday!

It doesn’t get any more real than Friday…or Flashback Friday!

Especially when you don’t play with anything else!

Welcome to 1990, and the time where play involved foam weaponry and athletic equipment. We blasted each other with water and foam pellets propelled from plastic guns, and we enjoyed every minute of our innocent play. And the two subjects of this two-part commercial feel the same way about their foam play.

Why don’t we meet them?

Meet sons of professional athletes Jay Erving (son of Julius “Dr. J” Erving) and Stephane Auriol (son of Notre Dame Fencing Coach Yves Auriol). Their sports of choice? Basketball and fencing, of course! Their method of play? Why, Nerf…and nothing else!

See them in action, when you click play!

Wait a minute, Nerf had swords?!

Nerf was established in 1969 by Parker Brothers, beginning with a four-inch polyurethane foam ball. The original concept of Nerf came from Minnesota-based games inventor Reyn Guyer, who created a football game that was safe for indoor play. Parker Brothers reviewed the concept, and eliminated everything except for the ball. The company’s ownership eventually went to Kenner Products (which was bought by Tonka in 1987), and eventually Larami before Hasbro assumed control of the brand.

Products produced over the years are N-Sports (foam versions of sports balls), Nerf Blasters (plastic guns that shoot foam darts) and the associated Blaster types – N-Strike Elite, Dart Tag, Vortex, Rebelle (targeting a female demographic), Zombie Strike, Doomlands 2169 (a subseries of N-Strike Elite), Modulus, Rival, Nitro, Alpha Strike, Ultra, and Hyper, as well as Nerf N-Force, which has swords. Other products under the Nerf banner are Super Soaker, Lazer Tag, and Nerf Dog, a lineup of cool Nerf toys for your dog.

Nerf is, as you’re probably very much aware, still around today.

Nerf Fencing seems to have been discontinued sometime in the 1990s, but Nerf Basketball – er, the Nerfoop – is still marketed today. I did find a complete fencing set from 1988 on eBay that is listed for $200, so if you’re in the mood to go all Stephane Auriol on your sibling (because let’s face it, that’s who we took our Nerf Rage out on, right?), and you have $200, then by all means.

Get Real, Get Nerf, have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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C’Mon Baby! Do the #FlashbackFiday With Me!

Why?

Because FRIDAY!

I think you’ve probably already figured out, based on title alone, that today’s commercial features a take on a once-popular song, much like Colgate attempted in a commercial that not only aired here and in the United Kingdom, and was a staple of Saturday morning television in the mid-1980s.

Today, we’re in 1990, and Crest’s Sparkly Blue Toothpaste Mascots are pedaling their Cool, Minty Wares and getting you to brush your teeth!

This time, we’re not waking all the sleepyheads, we’re doing the Crest Sparkle-Motion!

So what is the Crest Sparkle-Motion, you ask?

Allow today’s commercial to explain it, to the tune of “The Locomotion!”

And that’s how you do the Crest Sparkle-Motion.

It doesn’t involve jumping up, jumping back, but you’ll get the knack – and a decrease in cavities – because you brushed with the stuff the blue singers are made of!

Ew, that’s weird.

Sparkle Crest, now known as Kid’s Crest, was introduced in the 1980s, featuring these pompadour-sporting, sunglasses-wearing, blue versions of the Ghostbusters logo singing about the glory of Sparkly Blue toothpaste.

Crest itself was introduced as “Fluoristan” in 1954, but became “Crest with Fluoristan” in 1955. It is currently owned by Procter and Gamble, and comes in eight product lines: Gum Health, 3D White, Kid’s Crest, Pro-Health, Sensitivity, Enamel, Clean + Fresh, and Future-Proof.

As for the song “Crest Spark-Motion,” this is actually a very inspired take on Little Eva’s 1962 song “The Loco-Motion,” penned by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, later remade by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974, Carole King in 1980, Kylie Minogue in 1987 (my favorite version), which I’m sure helped to inspire this advertising campaign.

The flavor of Sparkle Crest was described as “Bubblemint,” a hybrid of mint and bubblegum flavors. It was around at least through the 1990s, but I can’t even confirm that, which makes this nice and mysterious. And for me, that’s better than the disappointment that something is discontinued completely.

Which it wasn’t.

Not even the blue color has been discontinued!

While the name itself – and the mascots – are long discontinued, the actual concept is still alive as Kids’ Crest. “Crest Sparkle-Motion” isn’t getting kids rushing to brush in 2022, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was effective advertising.

And if that doesn’t work, the tube is clear!

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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Contrary To Its Name, #FlashbackFriday Is A Serious Fashion Statement!

…and so is the product in today’s commercial.

Well, it was in 1986.

I guess?

So, as the commercial states, today’s product is a serious fashion statement.

But what it doesn’t tell you is that it is only part fashion statement, part timepiece, part entertaining toy.

The kiddos of 1986 had their Watchimals, and the fashion-forward teenagers and adults had…Slinky Watches from Armitron!

Oh yes, I said Slinky Watches! These 80s chicks got a Slinky on their wrists, you should see the way it fits! It makes them feel so Slinky!

Makes them want to dance…and backflip!

80s dance costumes and routines, backflips, and keeping accurate time annihilate your senses in today’s commercial!

Oh my goodness, it went from “look at my stylish watch!” to MTV music video in the blink of an eye, or the movement of a second hand.

I still don’t get how this makes any sense, but run with me, friends. This stuff never makes sense!

Slinky Watches were part of a rising trend that began when Swatch (in 1983) introduced an inexpensive fashion watch that rivaled that of Japanese imports. Watches quickly became a fashion accessory, that only continued to thrive in 1986.

The Slinky watch seemed to be something of the time, but I don’t remember them, and certainly have never seen one in the wild. These days, your best chance of finding a Slinky Watch in said wilds would be the secondhand market, with both eBay and Etsy having listings. And even then, this was one of the listings.

Images: eBay

I mean, if you can’t have the watches the dancing girls have, you can have one that plays the Slinky jingle!

Go Slinky Go!

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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Get Yourself Some #FlashbackFriday, and You’ll Feel Better Fast!

Because it’s Friday, after all!

So has his ever happened to you? You have to eat and run, but you’d rather take it slow. But that’s just not possible, you gotta get your food and go. And then, before you know it, these actions catch up with you?

Has that ever happened? Has a commercial jingle described your life?

Today’s commercial from 1992 may just be a little too relatable.

People need to eat, and sometimes, they need to do it quickly. And when you combine the stressors of life (sometimes the very stressors that caused one to eat and run), it can catch up to you. So if you’re dealing with an upset stomach, or heartburn and headache, there is one over-the-counter medication guaranteed to get you feeling better quickly.

Because the jingle alone won’t help. But it tries!

So click play, and you’ll feel the relief!

And now this will be stuck in your head the rest of the weekend.

You’re welcome!

Alka-Seltzer, previously a product of Miles Laboratories, and Bayer since 1976, was introduced in 1931. It is marketed as relief for aches, pains, headaches, fever, stomachaches, indigestion, acid reflux, and hangovers, while neutralizing stomach acid. A sister product, Alka-Seltzer Plus, tackles cold and flu symptoms, and contains acetaminophen in some of its varieties, rather than aspirin. At one time, Alka-Seltzer was marketed to cure “the blahs,” but was changed based on not every individual can tolerate aspirin.

Alka-Seltzer has always had catchy jingles that rank up there with the best – “plop plop, fizz fizz. Oh what a relief it is!” and the “Spicy Meatball” commercial are among their classic advertising. Mascot “Speedy” was introduced in 1951, and is considered an advertising icon. And while I’ve seen these commercials, this is the one from my childhood that stands out. I can never unhear this jingle and unsee the disgruntled faces of stress and agita!

But with the two fizzy tablets, they’re right as rain and ready to conquer the world…or the rest of the day.

May you have the ability to conquer the rest of your day, whether you need Alka-Seltzer or not.

Hopefully, you don’t need it!

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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Wear the Music, Feel the Beat: The Story of Pocket Rockers

Part of the Retro Technology/Watch/Rewatch/Replay/Listen series of articles originating in 2020.

Down on the corner, out in the street, clipped to your clothes, and emitting sweet of-the-time tunes, Fisher-Price was all about getting the interest of the music-loving kid set. The way to get their attention? Small cassette players and endless loop mini cassettes featuring the one (sometimes two) song(s) we all knew by then-current artists.

The player, and those tapes were called Pocket Rockers, and their short-lived fascination made them the Tamagatchi of their time, sans cleaning up digital poop.

Down On The Corner…

Pocket Rockers were the creation of Fisher-Price, first reaching the market in 1988.

Meant to be a functioning fashion accessory disguised as a personal stereo, Pocket Rockers were geared at the elementary school crowd, with its colorful mini cassette players and even more mini audio cassettes, recorded in mono and containing at a minimum, one song, with some cassettes featuring two songs. Classics as well as contemporary hits were part of the Pocket Rockers catalog, with the likes of Bon Jovi and Taylor Dayne standing beside The Beach Boys (who were on a bit of a resurgence in the late 1980s) and Bill Haley and His Comets in the Pocket Rockers section of Toys R Us.

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The players were similar in size to the traditional Walkman, but the cassettes they played were much smaller than your standard cassette tape, a proprietary sort of size with a similar look of an 8-track cassette. The players were available in black/blue, pink/blue, and three styles of Memphis Milano, which was a popular style design at the time. There were accessories, such as a bandana, cases, frames, clips to store the cassettes, carrying case, headphones, a purse, bracelets, and a deluxe set that included a display stand with amplifier and speakers. The cassettes were mostly meant to be a fashion accessory, based on the commercial showing them clipped to clothing, and were even banned in some schools during their brief time as a trend.

The mini cassettes utilized the same tape as a standard audio cassette (0.150 inch in length), running at the same speed of 1 7/8 inches per second. The upper two tracks on the cassette tape contain one mono recording each, with a switch on the player to go back and forth between the two songs, with the two lower tracks not being utilized.

This video has a quick demonstration of several cassettes:

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YouTube channel Techmoan did a great video that explains the technology, such as it is.

Upload via Techmoan

Play ‘Em Here, Wear Them Anywhere!

And what about the hits?

If our voiceover is overenthusiastic, it will sell more Pocket Rockers and cassettes, right?

But seriously, these were the songs you could choose from!

Bananarama – “I Heard a Rumour”

The Bangles – “Walk Like an Egyptian” / “Manic Monday”

The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ Safari” / “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

Beastie Boys – “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”

Chuck Berry – “Johnny B. Goode” / “Rock and Roll Music”

Bon Jovi – Cassette 1: “Livin’ on a Prayer” / “Runaway” Cassette 2: “Wanted Dead or Alive” / “You Give Love a Bad Name”

Boston – “Amanda” / “Can’tcha Say/Still In Love”

Breakfast Club – ” Right on Track” / “Kiss and Tell”

Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” / “I Get Weak”

The Champs – “Tequila”

Phil Collins – “Sussudio” / “Don’t Lose My Number”

Cutting Crew – “(I Just) Died In Your Arms” / “I’ve Been In Love Before”

Danny & the Juniors – “At the Hop” / “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Here To Stay”

Taylor Dayne – “Prove Your Love” / “Tell It to My Heart”

Exposé – “Let Me Be the One” / “Seasons Change”

The Fat Boys – “Wipe Out” / “Rock Ruling”

Genesis – “The Last Domino” / “Invisible Touch”

Debbie Gibson – “Shake Your Love” / “Only in My Dreams”

Bill Haley & His Comets – “Rock Around the Clock” / “Shake, Rattle and Roll”

Jan Hammer + Glenn Frey – “Miami Vice Theme” / “The Heat Is On”

Whitney Houston – Cassette 1: “How Will I Know” / “The Greatest Love of All” Cassette 2: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” / “So Emotional”

Michael Jackson – Cassette 1: “Bad” / “Beat It” Cassette 2: “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” / “Another Part of Me”

The Jets – “Cross My Broken Heart” / “You Got It All” “Make It Real” / “I Do You”

LeVert – “Casanova” / “My Forever Love”

Huey Lewis and the News – Cassette 1: “Doing It All for My Baby” / “The Power of Love” Cassette 2: “Hip to Be Square” / “The Heart of Rock & Roll”

Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam – “Head to Toe” / “Lost in Emotion”

Kenny Loggins – “Footloose” / “Danger Zone”

Los Lobos – “La Bamba” / “Tequila”

Madonna – “Who’s That Girl?” / “Material Girl”

Mike + The Mechanics – “All I Need Is a Miracle” / ” You Are the One”

Ray Parker, Jr. + The Monkees – “Ghostbusters” / “(Theme From) The Monkees”

Tom Petty – “Don’t Come Around Here No More” / “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”

Pretty Poison – “Catch Me (I’m Falling)” / “Nighttime”

David Lee Roth – “California Girls”

Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.” / “Pink Cadillac”

Tears for Fears – “Shout” / “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”

Tiffany – Cassette 1: “All This Time” / “Radio Romance”, Cassette 2: “I Saw Him Standing There” / “Feelings of Forever”, Cassette 3: “I Think We’re Alone Now” / “Could’ve Been”

T’Pau – “Heart and Soul” / “China in Your Hand”

Wham! – “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”

Kim Wilde – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” / “Say You Really Want Me”

Image: eBay

That’s a pretty impressive (by late 1980s standards) – if not at times eclectic – catalog. It just felt like music-loving kids would be all over tiny cassettes that only played the one or two songs from their favorite artists that they like, while discovering songs their parents liked when they were their age.

Well…

Out In The Street…The Downfall of Pocket Rockers Is Heard

Pretty sure we believed cassettes would never go out of style!

When I was a cassette tape-collecting kid (I got my first CD player the summer between 7th and 8th grades), sometimes I didn’t want the whole album of a specific artist. Sometimes, I only liked one song. Something like Pocket Rockers would have been great for me when I was little (I would have been about 6 years old when they were first introduced), but at the same time, I had cassettes I would want to hear from start to finish. As my music tastes grew with my age, cassette singles were a waste. The kids in the commercials look to be the age I was when I was more interested in listening to whole albums, not the little kid who only liked one or two songs that got frequent radio airplay.

For a brief time, Pocket Rockers were trendy, and as mentioned, enough so to be deemed a distraction in schools. But like any great trend, the cassettes and players saw a sharp decline in sales in 1991, resulting in their discontinuation and removal from Fisher-Price’s toy catalog in 1992. But for the time they were trendy (heck, Memphis Milano wasn’t even trendy anymore during the height of Pocket Rockers’ popularity), they looked like a fun item to have, even if it was far more practical to get a Walkman/portable cassette player equivalent and ALL of these cassettes in standard format.

Did Allison Have Pocket Rockers?

Ah yes, the age-old summation-of-the-article question.

I did not.

I actually don’t remember Pocket Rockers, strangely enough. I was six years old in 1988, definitely in the age bracket Fisher-Price marketed to (although the Pocket Rockers commercial begs to differ), but I had an actual cassette player, one of those incredible pink ones with the gray shoulder strap.

Christmas 1990, sans Pocket Rockers, but complete with equally trendy pink cassette player. And no, I’m not missing a leg, I’m balancing that box with my knee. There’s nothing strange about that, right?

I have always loved music, and had a nice little cassette collection that eventually turned into a giant CD collection during my teens. While Pocket Rockers would have been fun during their earliest days, the novelty would have worn off by the time they were discontinued.

Though I will admit, that pink and black player would have been right up my music-loving alley!

I actually have better memories (if only because I saw them in stores) of HitClips than I do of Pocket Rockers. I remember those being around much longer, but were seemingly ridiculous in their purpose – a one-minute (later two) sampler cartridge you could play in proprietary players. These lasted far longer than they seemingly had any right to, when Pocket Rockers actually played the whole song.

Can You Still Rock Out “Down On The Corner, Out in the Street?”

Image: ebay

While it has been thirty years since Pocket Rockers disappeared into the abyss of once-trendy toys, Pocket Rockers are not hard to find…as long as you want to put out a pretty penny for one!

I did an eBay search while I was putting the finishing touches on this article, so as of Wednesday evening (approximately 10:45 pm EDT), June 1, 2022, there are 38 listings for “Pocket Rockers Fisher-Price.”

Listings for cassettes, accessories, players, and even bundles with players and cassettes will run you $25 on the low end, and – prepare thyself – $299.99. Obviously, the higher price tags are for working models with tapes bundled in. Also noted is that the Memphis Milano style is easy to find, which seems strange, considering that this style trend was actually outdated by the time Pocket Rockers reached the consumer market.

But hey, given the choice, that style really is the cooler-looking player.

And Now, You!

Did YOU have Pocket Rockers growing up, or in the very least, do you remember them? Honestly, I didn’t even know these existed until maybe a few years ago, and I think it was because I saw a commercial in one of those commercial blocks I’m fond of watching. I have a pretty good memory beyond secondhand nostalgia, but I guess these weren’t popular with the Kindergarten crowd.

Maybe your memory is better?

It has been great starting the blog up again, and slowly working my way back toward what it was. I hope you’re enjoying this slow but steady restart as well. Sometimes, we all need some good nostalgia to kick it in gear again.

Until next time, have a great day!

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Has #FlashbackFriday Ever Happened To You?

I mean, it must have. You’re here, after all.

Don’t you just love those products that promise to remove the worst, toughest stains from ANYTHING, including your hands? There is a whole market for items that make lives easier, cleaner, and less injury-inducing. We’re in the world of “As Seen On TV,” and today’s commercial is one that remained basically unaltered throughout its early existence.

The name was strange, but before Oxy Clean, it was your laundry’s best friend…and a stain’s worst nightmare.

Get those shirts messy, but don’t throw them out just yet!

Today’s commercial has origins in 1987-1988, but this version is from 1990. I introduce to you the wonders of Didi Seven!

No, that’s not the name for a commercial robot, it is the name for a cream-based cleaner that could tackle the worst “As Seen on TV” stains from all types of “As Seen on TV” fabrics!

Heck it even works on your HANDS!

This amazing product is the cream-based cleaner Didi Seven, and when you see what it does, you’ll be mindblown!

Didi Seven was first marketed in 1967 after spending years in development by German inventor Walter Willmann. The name was a combination of Willmann’s childhood friend Edith “Didi” Koster, and the number seven, which he considered his “lucky number,” as his birthday (July 16, 1925) added up to seven in various combinations.

Willmann sold the product through consumer show demonstrations and retail venues throughout Europe. It was in England in 1987 that the power of Didi Seven caught the attention of Interwood associate Tim Devlin, who saw a demonstration of the product at department store Selfridges in London. Devlin was so impressed that he purchased a tube to take back to Canada. Devlin first sold the product through live demonstrations at Canada National Exhibition, Canada’s largest consumer show, in the summer of 1987. A two-minute Direct Response Television (DRTV) commercial was produced at a local television station in Barrie, Ontario, 60 miles north of Toronto. Shortly after, it was marketed in the United States, and by 1992, the product had reached 100-plus markets around the world. Walter Willmann’s assets were acquired by Interwood in 1989 to deter counterfeit production in the United States.

By 2000, 20 million tubes of the strangely named miracle stain remover had been sold, with Didi Seven Ultra launching in 2003. This version boasted an improved formula coupled with more convenient packaging. Interwood Marketing was acquired by Northern Response, and unfortunately, as of 2017, Didi Seven is no longer produced.

You know, I really hate this part. I’m always convinced I’m going to find a commercial for something that still exists, and well, I wind up being disappointed once in a while.

The same commercial, with modifications, aired for quite a few years. I remember seeing the images of stains winding up on two different shirts, and this strangely-named cream being put on the shirts, making the stains disappear like MAGIC! Didi Seven was the OG of making disappearing stains look amazing!

Heck, this version even offered a 2-tube discount!

You can really get your 1980s curtains clean with this much Didi Seven, and still have enough to clean your crazy dirty hands!

Ewwwwww!

These days, from a nostalgic perspective, seeing this commercial in the wilds of commercial archiving likens it to the typical As Seen on TV Problems (which I affectionately refer to “White People Problems”), an advertising gimmick featuring white suburbia bombarded by total First World Problems. You know the type – stains on clothes, spilling everything trying to carry so many items, opening a cabinet and all of the plastic containers just spill out everywhere, wrist injuries, back injuries, falling down stairs, not being able to turn off the television unless you clap your hands, coffee filters everywhere – life in suburbia is messy, and the people are just plain old disgruntled and silly! So much “OH NO!” to be had. Didi Seven had the same effect!

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share this compilation of “OH NO!” moments – all the spills, splatters, trips, cuts, scrapes, bad backs, broken hoses, broken eggs, and broken souls As Seen On TV could possibly muster.

I still want to know who has that many plastic containers in their house.

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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I’m Not A Chicken, You’re A #FlashbackFriday!

Please note: Flashback Friday is not a dork that you shouldn’t talk to.

I’m not sure who the writers behind early 1990s kid-focused anti-drug Public Service Announcements thought their audience was, but the writing in many of them was so questionable, and the situations so outlandish.

I mean, it was only a few years before that a giant man-snake/drug dealer, named “Snake,” scared/tried to scare us out of a lifetime of drug addiction:

…and around the same time a woman told her boss the best comeback ever:

And as cheesy as the PSAs always were, regardless of the intended audience, they always had that one quotable line. 90s Working Woman had one, and so did the kid in today’s Public Service Announcement. Let’s just say that if we weren’t throwing the term “Sexual Harrassment” around in elementary school (because we 100% knew what we were talking about, am I right?), we were saying the infamous comeback in today’s PSA.

My generation was so cute and full of promise in the 90s.

Today’s Public Service Announcement/Commercial comes to us from, I believe, 1990 or 1991. I saw it so much at that time, it could be either year.

Our protagonist, Joey, has a Big Problem in Unnamed School Bully, who has “Pot. You know, MARIJUANA!”

And he wants Joey to get high with him, except…Joey isn’t so sure.

Unnamed School Bully (who looks way too old to be in school with a kid Joey’s age (perhaps all the marijuana?), asks Joey if he’s a chicken, complete with that stupid chicken imitation we all did back then, complete with Chicken Dance Wings.

Because all the cool bullies did that, right? Honestly, I wish that was the worst the bullies I’ve encountered did, just so I could tell them how immature they were.

The situation is interrupted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles interrupting the encounter, which was…recorded on videocassette?…to discuss Joey’s Dilemma.

What will the result be? Will Joey get a teacher, get a pizza, or get out of there? Will Joey rise above the influence?

Find out, when you click play!

That resolution was one of the most quotable lines in elementary school.

And the bully shove is priceless.

So it’s official – Joey knows how to put the way too old bully/drug dealer in his place, the drug dealer is a dork, and the influence has been put down. COWABUNGA!

Partnership for a Drug-Free America is the former name of Partnership to End Addiction, and was established in 1985, and carried its original name until 2010 when Partnership at DrugFree.com became its successor, only to be replaced by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids from 2014 until 2020. PDFA was the Gold Standard of Public Service Announcements we grew up, and were also responsible for the aforementioned “Snake” PSA, which aired from the mid-1980s until 1995. While that one was enough to scare us out of ever trying drugs, this one probably made us all laugh more than anything. The message and its intentions are good, but the delivery is just so…cheesy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great cheese, probably the best kind.

In decades, Public Service Announcements were more commonplace in late-night timeslots. By the mid-1980s, they were pushed into the forefront of programming timeslots, inserted into commercial breaks regardless of the audience. Since commercials were meant to sell goods and services, the goal of PFDA was to unsell illicit substances to audiences, rather than sell why not to use them. Campaigns were established around focus groups to understand motivations, and market research on teenagers and their parents, with advertising focused on children/younger viewers as the target audience. Aside from the involvement of cartoon characters, PDFA created the “This Is Your Brain On Drugs” campaign and the glorious “I Learned It From Watching YOU!” campaign.

Like I told you, these were all so quotable.

However cheesy and quotable “I’m not a chicken, you’re a turkey!” was, the message was well-intended. We all got a good laugh, and hopefully, learned something about not bowing to peer pressure from that kid who didn’t belong in elementary school.

TLDR: Drug dealers are dorks, don’t talk to them!

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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allisonveneziowrites

Bright Ideas And A #FlashbackFriday

…go together like chocolate cookies sandwiching vanilla cream!

First Flashback Friday since July? This calls for a sweet treat, classic in any decade!

As I’m writing this article, I am nearing my lunchtime, which doesn’t include today’s product, but sounds appealing.

The real bright idea is that I watch what I eat, but temptation is always lurking around the corner, and in commercials! Case in point, 17-year-old me wanted a specific brand of peanut butter because Derek Jeter promoted it.

Today, we are taking a trip back to 1983, to a time where our Oreos came in two varieties – original and Double Stuffed. The cookies were only chocolate, the cream was always vanilla, and eating an Oreo however you chose (twisting the cookies and licking the cream, or eating them whole) could cause WIDE EYES!

And not just WIDE EYES, but creative ingenuity, fashion sense, euphoria, and Jaleel White.

Seriously, was he everywhere when he wasn’t playing a kid in those One to Grow On interstitials?

Today’s commercial features the popular sandwich cookie used not only as food, but for fun and unlocking the mysteries of the universe.

That’s the only way to describe WIDE EYES, friends.

From 1983, Bright Ideas always involve Oreo cookies!

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Such dramatic reactions to cookie eating!

And seriously, this kid!

His Oreos inspired him to building something AMAZING!

Oreo cookies have been part of our cookie-snacking consciousness since their introduction 110 years ago, in March 1912 as a product of Nabisco, with the brand currently owned by Mondelez International since 2012. Sold in over 100 countries, Oreo has its trademark OG flavor, along with limited edition and regular varieties to produce bright ideas with.

Oreo is one of the top brands of cookies in the United States, and the top brand on a global level. The name’s origins are unclear, but may derive from the French word for “Gold,” or the Greek word “Oreos,” meaning “attractive” or “nice.” Surprisingly, it was Nabisco’s imitation of Sunshine’s Hydrox cookies, which were introduced in 1908.

See, you come here to learn something interesting. The Hrydox came before the Oreo. Who would have thought?!

During the summer of 2003, I had this super lofty ambition to try every type of Oreo cookie on the market. And when you’re skinny, like I was 19 years ago, you can get away with delicious experimentation. That summer, I tried mint and peanut butter (loved both!). Later, when Golden and “Uh-Oh” Oreos were introduced, my mom bought them, and she has not stopped buying the Golden version (Especially the one with the lemon creme). Over the years, I’ve tried many of the limited version, including Blueberry Pie and Birthday Cake. There are flavors exclusive to certain countries, and ones that just sound…strange and unusual.

Like Mystery (Churro-flavored), Jelly Donut, and Hot Chicken Wing.

Yes, China answered the call to combine the taste of chicken with Oreos.

And yes, Wasabi was a “Bright Idea” in China as well.

I can’t even imagine what these taste like.

Anyway, as cookies go, the varieties are diverse and certainly cater to every taste. Except for Hot Chicken Wing and Wasabi. Those flavors never made it to the United States.

So, whether you dunk it, crunch it, or unscrew it, Oreo is always a bright idea in any snack time situation. It goes great with your imagination, and adds “yum” to your creation.

And if this is what you do with your Oreos…bonus points!

Oh-R-EEE-O!

NABISCO *Bing*!

It is good to be back!

Have a fantastic Flashback Friday, and a great weekend!

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allisonveneziowrites

I’m BAAAAACK!

So…guess who’s back?

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?

During the summer of 2021, I decided that I wanted to take a little break from writing. It came at a time when Pop Culture Retrorama – or, rather, our fearless leader of Pop Culture Retrorama – was hanging up his computer keyboard and retiring from writing. It was also at a time where I was dealing with personal and – as it turned out, professional – issues. I had changed jobs a few months earlier, which left me with far less time for writing. I felt like the quality of my output was declining, because I was just too damn unhappy to care. I was constantly stressed out, and when I would come home at night and go into my home office, the idea of doing anything that felt like “work” was thoroughly unappealing.

However, I was pouring my stresses into my other creative love – crafting. In the last few months, I’ve even taken up a love for painting. I’ve paint poured and stencil painted, made customized mugs, worked with resin, and even sold a few things here and there. I’m even in the process of starting my business, and even sold at my first craft show. Crafting – especially painting – was bringing me so much joy amidst my unhappiness with work.

I was still missing my old job, one I hadn’t done since the beginning of the pandemic, but kept holding out hope that I would get The Phone Call that would allow me to leave my then-current situation. I kept hoping for the moment I would get that call, and say “yes, I’ll be back!” I knew this would mean giving up, but I was so unhappy, burnt out, and lazy, going back there would have been “the easy way out” of my situation.

So, I’m sure that brings up a good question…why didn’t I just quit?

You see, I have a reputation for solid work ethic, and that includes being a “stayer.” I figured cross-training and moving to a different job position would help the resentment of having a new job. While that change did help briefly (I emphasize “briefly”), it wasn’t enough. My un-satisfaction was hurting how I felt, and I was becoming more and more resentful of my job. It was less than a year, and when you spend ten years at one job (my then-previous position), less than one year doesn’t look good on a resume. And – big and – I wanted to bank the experience, which I knew would help in trying to secure a medical office job. I knew I wanted to work in the medical field, and I knew I wanted to go back into performing clerical work, but I needed this experience. So, I hung in there and made the most of it.

And not all of it was terrible. Once any difficulties (however real or perceived) with my co-workers were put to rest, they became my greatest allies in dealing with the difficult patients, who were truly the worst of the worst, and 95% the reason I wanted out. The other five percent was divvied up between my work schedule, and my days off, consisting of Sundays and one weekday, so no proper weekend. I could never really relax when I had off. And a few instances, I had to cover closing because of call outs. I was tired, miserable, and reaching my burnout point. I wanted weekends back – proper Saturday/Sunday weekends at that, I wanted less aggravation, and I wanted an office job. I didn’t feel like being yelled at by patients because I was running behind, I didn’t like having to pick up the slack of an unreliable backup Receptionist (our lead was the best; our backup, not so much) who called out more than she came in, and when she did, she didn’t do much. Trust me, I could go on and on about this!

By the end of January, I decided it was time to start taking the necessary steps to move on. I resigned in early February without having any prospects for a new job, giving myself an end date of February 26, 2022. I had a job interview the day I put in my intent to resign (I submitted it in writing a few days later, on February 7, 2022). I had an excellent interview with a Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital for a Receptionist position in their local outpatient office. Part time hours, better pay, benefits, no nights (the latest I would work was one office “late night,” which was until 7 pm), and no weekends. Opportunities for more hours here and there, it was just a great idea.

And guess what? Nearly three months later, things have worked out well.

I’m now equipped with health insurance, I pick up extra hours here and there (especially the week I’m writing this during), and I get to interact with adorable kids who don’t pitch a hissy fit when I try to take their temperature for screening purposes. I have time to write, I get to listen to music all day, and best of all, I have my weekends back. My mental health has improved, and I’m addressing my physical health – I’m working out more often, even working with weights now in addition to my two weekly dance classes. I have more time with my husband and dogs, which are my biggest priorities. Best of all, I have actual weekends.

Since all of this has happened, I’ve been considering coming back to writing, but it had to be when I was ready, and when I had some great ideas to work with.

I’m planning on bringing the commercials back each week, starting out with Flashback Friday for now. As for other articles, I am hoping to publish something quality once a week. I was particularly proud of my Do You Remember? and Retro Rewatch/Watch/Technology/Replay/Listen articles from 2019 and 2020, the research for those articles was fun. I feel like if I can put something out there once a week with that kind of quality, I will be satisfied with writing again. Also, I’m going to throw in a monthly article on training video nostalgia, which is something I wrote about over on Pop Culture Retrorama, and had a blast with.

Getting back into writing will be a process, but I figure with a more relaxed structure, it will be fun again. I’m excited about starting up again, and I’m looking forward to taking you on that adventure with me, all over again.

So…shall we begin again?

ball point pen on opened notebook

allisonveneziowrites

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