Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Seuss Zoo – Christmas 1971

So, in looking through the photo album where I found the old picture in yesterday’s post, I also found this shot of Christmas presents from Dec. 25, 1971:

Dr. Seuss Zoo toy

Click to superSeussinate.

WHAAAAAT?!? I had a DR. SEUSS ZOO See ‘n’ Say?!?! Damn: I  have no memory of it at all. I must’ve broken that thing quick.

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January 23, 2012 Posted by | 1970s, Games, Ohio | , , , , | 1 Comment

Children’s Palace: Peter Panda Unmasked!

George Krstic’s Tweet asking, “Who misses Children’s Palace?“, sent me digging into the Booth photo archives. (Because, well, the answer to his question is a resounding, “I do!”)

I’ve mentioned the occasion of these two photos here on the blog and in Collect All 21!

Peter Panda - Children's Palace mascot, 1989

Click to embiggen and feel the 1980s love.

Peter Panda - Children's Palace mascot - Unmasked!

Click to zoom back in time.

“Classic” logo on the Coke 2-liter? Check.

Dual cassette deck AND turntable stereo system? Check.

Someone in the reflection behind me trying on the ginormous Peter Panda head? CHECKMATE.

I also have this odd tangible reminder of the most awesome of awesomest toy stores:

Children's Palace cup - Peter Panda

"Hey, kids? Mom and dad won't buy you a toy? Ask for THIS: It's cheap, and you can use it every day to remind them that you NEED TO GO TO CHILDREN'S PALACE RIGHT NOW!"

I dunno – maybe it was a giveaway or something, because I certainly can’t imagine that my parents would have paid money to put Children’s Palace ad space on our kitchen counter.


April 9, 2011 Posted by | 1980s, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Return of the JediCon WV – Episode VII

You know what snuck up on me?

JediCon West Virginia VII is this Saturday! (That’s October 9, 2010, starting at 10 a.m., at the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum.)

I really enjoyed my first trip to Wheeling for the 2009 show, so I happily accepted the invitation to share some more Collect All 21! memories this fall – and check THIS out: Former Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons – “The Man Who Shot Luke Skywalker” – is not only coming back to this year’s JediCon, he designed this amazing toy-populated Empire Strikes Back-inspired poster as a commemorative bonus:

JediCon WV VII poster by Kim Simmons.

I mean, come ON – that’ s just Too. Freaking. Cool.

Kim will be giving another retrospective on his Kenner years, and Star Wars animator Jon Seay is expected to attend with some pieces of the original Death Star to show off. Besides, how much of an excuse do you need, really, to spend a fall day hanging out with some fellow Star Wars fans in a fun and truly nostalgia-inducing atmosphere?

October 4, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oo! Ooo! Oooo!

While I was looking through our family photo albums for Empire Strikes Back-related pictures, I found this shot of one of the more bizarre toys from my childhood: Welcome Back, Kotter Colorforms:

Hi there.

Sincerely, Epstein's Mother.

According to the note on the back, this picture’s from 1977, when we lived on 19th St. NW in Canton, Ohio. I could have cropped it closer to the actual Colorforms set itself, but I like the inclusion of the rug and the footstool and, at lower right, the case of the peel-apart film Polaroid camera with which this photo was taken.

Since I’m not in the picture, the possibility exists that, being six years old, I was so excited about creating my own wacky adventures with Mr. Kotter, Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington, Arnold Horshack, Vinnie Barbarino and Juan Luis Pedro Phillippo DeHuevos Epstein that I got my parents to let me take a picture to preserve the joy. (I’ve labeled the characters on the picture’s Flickr page, where there are also larger – though not much clearer – versions.)

There’s a great shot of the set and the Mad magazine-esque package art totally worth checking out over at Hake’s. (Although Epstein’s not mentioned in the cover text – what’s up with that?)

I do remember playing with this – as well as the “You’re A Pal, Snoopy” Colorforms I had, though I associate that set with the basement play room of the next house we lived in – and though I get the mix-and-match legs & torsos and props like the paper airplanes, to this day I can’t figure out what the hell that giant striped candy cane was for.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Games, Television | , , , , | 1 Comment

Free Comic Book Day

Despite an overcast afternoon – and, in fact, a brief period of really light sprinkling – Free Comic Book Day over at The Toys Time Forgot was fun. Met and hung out with some awfully nice people from the Little Hollywood Ohio film community and SuperHero 101,  picked up the FCBD “Owly & Friends” issue (for Kelsey, of course!), and sold a couple copies of Collect All 21.

And hey, any opportunity to wander among shelves of old Atari, Activision and Imagic video game cartridges, comic-and-cartoon-and-movie-scene-laden drinking glasses (Collect Them All!), and racks of 1980s action figures – well, that’s time well spent.

Besides, I also got to set up shop next to this life-sized fantastically-detailed replica of the B9 robot from “Lost in Space.”

Danger, Will Robinson!

Photo courtesy of my OSWCC friend Ryan Meister.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, geek, Ohio, science fiction | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t forget Free Comic Book Day is Saturday!

Saturday’s weather forecast looks iffy, but  FREE COMIC BOOK DAY is still on over at The Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio, so rain or not – come over and get free comics from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What free comics, you ask? Look, here’s the whole list of possibilities – and not every shop is going to have them all – but any day is a good day to visit this place anyway. I’ve seen a lot of stores carrying old toys, but never anyplace that has such a ridiculously cool load of “holy-crap-I-forgot-they-even-MADE-this” stuff in addition to the high-profile toy lines like Star Wars and G.I. Joe and Transformers and Sea Wee- um, never mind. Here’s a peek, though it barely hints at the wonders within.

There may or may not be some cool movie and TV vehicles on hand, depending on the weather, but I can tell you this much: Darth Vader and a stormtrooper lackey or two are likely to show, and I’ll be there helping nostalgify things with copies of Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek.

You want I should draw you a map? Here –

Mappity mapping, mappily.

Easy to find. Tough to leave empty-handed. Click to embiggen.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, 1990s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Travel | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Survivor types

Pure nostalgia, man. Pure. Freaking. Nostalgia.

My original Kenner X-Wing – the second Star Wars ship I ever had, right after my Landspeeder (Dead these many years, The Maker rest its plastic soul.)  – and the long-lost Greedo figure I found behind our family’s deep freezer on one of my trips back to Ohio in the early 1990s.

April 2, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, science fiction | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Games, More Fun

As I’m hitting the road for a weekend defined by gaming, it seems appropriate to share this bit of nostalgia found in an empty box.

Without my mom’s wonderfully labeled and sorted volumes of family photos in front of me, I can’t say for sure what Christmas I got this, but I really can remember the feel of the box beneath my hands as I peeled back the wrapping paper and let out a whoop of unparalleled joy upon seeing it:

Model CX-2600

The Original. Click to zoom in and check out the games. THAT'S packaging ART, my friends.

I don’t know why the box got saved – the system is, of course, long since dead or handed down to a cousin or garage saled or something – but holding it and running my gaze over that font and the images take me back almost more effectively than even playing the recreated games themselves on my Atari Flashback.

And check out the back: Combat in all its glory.

A taste of Combat.

A taste of Combat.

There was, in fact, one game cartridge and one controller stuck inside this box in the attic for years -along with the now-ridiculous-looking plastic shell that once served as a “dome” above the plastic-woodgrain case where the console itself sat, revered and protected.

Star Raiders.

Not to be confused with Star Blazers, of course.

Man, it was almost like a real, you know, COMPUTER!

An Atari game was super special if it came in a really fat box, because you knew that meant it had a special controller in it, like the Indy 500 game we got for dad thathad a set of special driving “paddles,” or, in this case, that keypad which at one time had an overlay labeling buttons for warp speed and coordinates and stuff like that. Honestly, I don’t remember the game mechanics so much as I remember really thinking it was kind of like hunting TIEs alongside Red Five and the gang, and if I looked over my shoulder there in the basement, I’d see R2 in his socket, and the starfield receding behind him.

March 25, 2010 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, geek, video games | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Building blocks.

Update: Fellow GeekDad writer Jonathan Liu says these look an awful lot like Wechsler Blocks, which I’d never heard of, but are (were?) apparently used in psychological testing. Interesting.

I can’t recall a time when these blocks were not among my toys.

Just a couple of blocks, about one-and- 9/16 inches square on a side.

When I go back in memory, they’re there, in the wooden toy box – the one with the hinged, great-potential-for-finger-smashing lid –  in the space where I played next to the kitchen of our house in Lima, Ohio, the first place I remember living.

And even when I’d outgrown them, they stayed part of the “box of blocks” that expanded through two more Booth boys and eventually filled about two-thirds of the original mailbox from the North Canton house where we all grew up.

Somewhere in my adult years, I got hold of two of these blocks and kept them around because they reminded me of being a little kid and how fascinated I was with the number of patterns it was possible to create in diamonds and triangles and stripes and zig-zags.

General Mills Fun Group black and white blocks

"Triangle Man, Triangle Man..."

Within the last few months, I found three more (I don’t remember how many were in the set originally – maybe eight) drifting around the bottom of the toy box that mom keeps at her house for all her grandkids, and I reunited them with the pair I had.

A side note which I like: The tiny embossed copyright on each block reads GMFGI, which stands for General Mills Fun Group, Inc. and is also present on several of my earliest Star Wars figures.

Adding the trio of new blocks pretty quickly reawakened the memory of those patterns I made when I was little, but I’ve also found myself messing around with new arrangements, using the corners and angled views as opposed to the sort of flat, mosaic designs that use just one set of faces.

You know what would be cool? Someone with time and patience and more talent than me could do some awfully nifty stuff with a couple hundred – or thousand – of these. I wouldn’t mind having a couple more myself, but honestly, I’ve never seen another set, and I haven’t been able to find them online.

It’s probably for the best – I do have work to do.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | geek, Ohio | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Wars: past, present and future

There’s a discussion on the Rebelscum vintage forums today about finding Star Wars toys marked down to clearance prices in the late 1980’s.

Since I specifically wrote about this in  “Collect All 21!”, and since I was just talking about Children’s Palace recently, and also since I’m all hyper that Star Wars Celebration V has been announced for Orlando next August, here’s an excerpt from the book that specifically talks about those years when the original trilogy was starting to fade from the pop culture picture:

When I was in high school, I got a job at the Children’s Palace down by the mall. For most of the 1980s, this was the toy store we begged our parents to take us to. At the time, it seemed absolutely monstrous – it had faux castle towers on its façade, which helped – because the only other toy stores were Kay-Bee Toys and Hobby Center in the mall, both of which seemed just plain pathetic when compared with Children’s Palace and its acres of toys stretching impossibly high into a distantly buzzing haze of fluorescent lighting. I can remember when the place had its own Star Wars section, a canyon wall of black and silver packaging, that familiar logo reproduced into infinity. You’d stretch an arm back between rows of figures hanging on their pegs, craning your neck and pushing each toy aside just slightly to see the one behind it, looking for the one you didn’t have.

Later, when the toys were on clearance, I found a huge pile of Rancor Monsters at the rear of the store, marked down to five bucks each, and I bought one to replace (my brother) Nick and Adam’s, which I’d broken an arm off of.

I worked nights and weekends, starting as a seasonal employee before Christmas of 1988, straightening merchandise, re-stocking shelves. I stayed part-time there for the next two or three years, mostly working the floor and spending some time in the warehouse, unloading trucks and pulling items like bicycles and swingsets for customers, who had to drive around the back of the building to pick up the big- ticket purchases.

I also spent time in the Peter Panda suit. Peter Panda was the corporate mascot, and once a month or so, someone was asked to put on the suit and spend a work shift wandering the aisles and either making kids smile or inadvertently scaring the shit out of them. The panda suit was a huge, padded thing, hot and heavy, but I liked volunteering to wear it. For one thing, it meant not having to interact with the customers, because Peter wasn’t allowed to speak. No having to fake a smile, either, thanks to the one sewn onto the oversized panda face. (Though I have to admit, I smiled at about two hours’ worth of little kids during my first time in the suit before I realized it was just wasted effort. In one of my later Panda stints, I stood largely motionless outside to promote a sidewalk sale and actually put on headphones and listened to Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine.) Panda time also earned the wearer something like a 10-minute break for every 20 minutes on duty, which really made a four-hour weeknight shift fly past.

I even talked my bosses into letting me borrow the thing to wear to my then-girlfriend’s high school graduation party, which was fun, especially driving over to her house wearing the body of the suit, with my huge, furry bear paw cocked nonchalantly out the window as I tried my best to work the gas and brake pedals while wearing costume tennis shoes with soles the size of turkey platters.

There wasn’t a defined Star Wars section at Children’s Palace anymore by the time I worked there – the big crazes during my tenure were The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – but for awhile, there was still some Star Wars stuff to be found sulking on the clearance shelves and squirreled away in the piles of old merchandise on the shelf-tops. I remember pegs near floor level displaying Return of the Jedi badges and pencil cases, just above some Emperor’s Royal Guard plastic banks. They were all as far away from the rest of the real toys as you could get, sandwiched between the baby bottles and teething rings and the bicycle department.

Using one of the big metal ladders – they were more like staircases on wheels – I fished around the stuff on top of the shelves in the action figure aisle and came up with a Chewbacca Bandolier, a Kenner Micro Death Star Compactor Playset, and a Laser Rifle Carry Case to hold action figures. (There was an Indiana Jones truck up there that I should’ve bought, too.) And during a warehouse shift, I was poking around in the loft up near the ceiling and found a big cardboard box with “C-3PO Cases” written in marker on the side. Inside was a single shiny-as-new action figure case. I was amazed to find that clearance prices for this stuff were still in the computer system: The Bandolier cost me 90 cents; the Micro Death Star $2.90, and the carrying cases were, I think, $1.90 each. And I either bought or swiped (sorry, CP executives) an Emperor’s Royal Guard ink stamper and the Parker Brothers Return of the Jedi Play for Power card game.

Finding Star Wars merchandise was like unearthing a rare prize on an archaeological dig, but I still opened them up and threw away the packaging, which makes me wince a little now, but then I think that because I did open those toys, it means I still saw them at least partially through the eyes of that 6-year-old I had been when Star Wars first came out. They were still toys to me, and not collectibles, and that’s something I’ve tried to keep hold of.


December 3, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Travel, writing | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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