I Used To Be A Clackhead

When I was a kid, way back in the dinosaur days, we didn’t have computers or the internet or video games or cell phones or blah blah cool stuff blah blah. We had toys and records. That’s it. Oh yeah, and tv with 3 channels. Sometimes 4. There was no cable. There was this thing called UHF, but it never worked in our house. I don’t know why.

Sometimes I forget that I haven’t always had the modern electronic amenities. Not until I go back and look at old home movies. Not the kind on camcorder or video camera either. We had Super 8. You had to send them off to get developed and then watch them on a projector.

A lot of the toys that I had as a kid were dangerous. They could hurt you. Eventually, parents got sick of taking their kids to the emergency room or having to bury them, and complained. Enough of them must have complained because toys are supposedly safer now. Nowadays, if a kid gets hurt from a toy, it’s the toy company’s fault and they can be sued. Not so when I was a kid. If you got injured then it was your fault. It wasn’t even your parents fault.

I remember when I was about 12 or 13, kids were being hurt and permantly disabled because of Clackers. Clackers had a variety of names, i.e. Ker-Bangers. Where I lived they were called Clackers. Clackers were 2 hard plastic balls that were attached to a string. You would swing the string up and down so that the balls would bang against each other. They would make a CLACKING sound.

*CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK CLACK *

We would try to clack along in tempo to whatever song was on the radio. Sometimes the balls would chip or shatter, sending pieces of hard acrylic flying. If you got TOO crazy, one of the clacker balls might bonk you upside of the head. I was victim to both kinds of injuries. The flying shards of glass AND the bonks. The bonks usually produced huge purple knots on the forehead.

Eventually, Clackers were discontinued. They resurfaced in the 90s, only this time they were all plastic. There was no string. The handles were plastic triangles, which made it virtually impossible for the balls to become errant. What fun is that?

Another toy that left me with scars was those Thingmaker sets. I had the Creepy Crawlers, Creeple People and the Fighting Men. Creepy Crawlers is probably the best known of all the sets.

How it worked was this; You would put the plasticgoop in a metal bug mold. Plasticgoop was some kind of chemical liquid junk made out of I don’t know what. You would then put the mold on top of an electric hot plate oven. You would let it set on the oven for a while and then take it off. Let if cool, and VOILA!, a rubber bug. Or Soldier. Or whatever it was that came out of the mold you used.

Anyway, you could get burned if you touched the hot molds. Which I always did. Or you could get burned by hot plasticgoop. Which hurt like hell.  One time my thingmaker oven quit working, so I started to take it apart. All while it was still plugged in.

In the early 90s, just like Clackers, Creepy Crawlers and all of its little Thingmaker friends made a brief comeback. This time with stricter safety regulations. The newer sets used high-powered light bulbs (like Easy Bake Oven), and had a heat triggered door that remained closed until it was sufficiently cooled.

From what I understand, Creepy Crawlers have made a comeback this Spring. Apparently, they are selling them again.

I should get one, huh.

P.S. BRING BACK CLACKERS!!!

 

A Few Episodes From My Wonder Years on Panther Street


I used to live here. A long time ago. We lived in the farthest unit back in the nearest building on the right. The one right behind the tree. I got the picture from a streetview google search. It was base housing on K.I. Sawyer AFB, located in the upper peninsula of Michigan, very close to a town called Gwinn and just south of Marquette. The base closed in ’95.

When I look at the picture it reminds me of a concentration camp. Which, is exactly the way that I remember it looking 40 years ago.

In the bottom middle of the picture, where the two sidewalks intersect, was my bus stop. It was my bus stop from the 6th grade through half of my 8th grade year. That was when we moved. It was early 1971.

When we first moved there I was in the middle of my 4th grade year and it was – if I have calculated correctly – 1966. Both of my parents were still alive and I hadn’t reached puberty yet. Puberty would come 2 years later. That was when I attended Gwinn Middle School – grades 6 thu 8 – and was the only kid in my gym class to have started it. I was the gym class oddity. It was awkward and I hated it.

*OMG, Davy Jones died*

Anyway, right there by the fire hydrant in the middle of the picture; well, that’s where I whacked David Treece in the head with a golf club. He had to get 5 stitches. It was a putter. He was standing right behind me and I swung it like it was a wood or an iron. I didn’t really know that much about golf because I was just some creepy little kid who was kinda clueless when it came to sports. 
 I wonder where David is now? I wonder if he still he still has the scar and if he does, I wonder if her remembers how he got it? 

A year later I joined little league and even though I totally sucked, I did become slightly more agile and knowledgeable about sports. The team that I was on, The Panthers, which by coindence was also the name of the street I lived on, came in second place that year. I got a trophy. It’s in a landfill somewhere.

The lone window, on the side of the building that is on the right, has some significance. I was staring out of that window exactly at midnight on New Year’s Eve, when 1969 became 1970. My parents had gone out for the evening and even though I was 12 years old, this is where my sister and I were being babysat. The babysitter wasn’t actually there. She was across the street with her boyfriend. There were five kids in that house and I was the oldest. So, I guess that technically I was in charge while the babysitter was across the street hanging out with her boyfriend.
Anyway, exactly at midnight I opened up that window and screamed, “Happy New Year”!

In the first unit of the building that is on the left and in the back is where the Barker family lived. There were 3 kids. Joe, Donny and an older sister whose name I don’t remember. I hated those kids. With a passion. Their mother was my cub scout leader when I was in Webelos.
Joe was the worst. He was a big time bully. During the winter he would through snowballs, and on occasion ice balls at me while we were waiting for the bus at the bus stop that I pointed out earlier. He was also the inventor of an incredible inane version of tag know as ‘dog doo tag’. He still owes me about 5 bucks for all of the lunch tickets that he swiped from me. I kind of hope that bitch is rotting in prison somewhere. 
Donny was a bully too, but he was a few years older than me and pretty much left me alone. The older sister whose name I can’t remember got totally plastered one time and walked through the neighborhood making an absolute spectacle out of herself. She was 16. I don’t think I’ll bother with wondering where they all are right now.

A lot more stuff happened to me while we lived there, but I guess I’ll talk about that later. I’m kind of over this for now. Plus, Davy Jones just died so I have to go look at all of the weepy fangirl posts on Tumblr.