Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sadistic Summertime Fun

So Summer 2014 is here...It's hot and many of us are wanting to get out and hit the beach or pool...This weather definitely sends me back to my childhood with memories of the crazy outdoor products we were subjected to.

Having grown up as a child of the 70's and 80's, I can honestly say that our generation was doomed to be emotionally scarred, not by our parents but by our toys. If you were born between 1970 and 1989, you've most likely developed masochistic tendencies. I place the blame completely on Wham-O. What kind of sadistic bastards work in their development department? I'll tell you, people that could never work for Nerf. These people made a mint with trash bags and sprinklers connected to water hoses posing as toys for the summer. You mention Slip-N-Slide and everyone has a story. My parents never allowed my sister and I to have one but being as inventive as we were, my sister and I made one with trash bags and the water hose. Archaic? Yes! Entertaining? Mainly for the neighbors. Real Slip-N-Slides posed no less danger than our ghetto version. The Slip-N-Slides of today have raised edges and a pool of some sort at the end but the ones we grew up using required skill to not slide off the mat. You got scratched and gouged no matter what you did. Slip-N-Slide had a hidden danger that no one really remembers unless they experienced...stakes that held the mat in place. Stub your toe on one of those stakes and you will go down the slide butt down holding your foot and hoping you don't catch your ass on another before you stop.
Slip-N-Slide pails in comparison to Whamo's modified garden sprinkler known as Willy Water Bug. Picture it...A cute yellow plastic figure with googly blue eyes and a polka dot vest, nothing brooding or scary that is to say unless you're scared of something that resembles clowns...or until the water comes on. This guy becomes a sprinkler from the depths of hell. The second the water hose comes on, panic ensues and we do what human nature programmed us to do...Scream and run in every direction. Panic eventually becomes feats of bravery..."I dare you to jump over him" and "I dare you to pick him up" and anything else a kid can think of to see this instrument of pain inflict upon their playmate. This guy had fabulous rubberized dreadlocks that become crazy stinging tentacles...yes like a jellyfish. We had whelps and stripes up and down our legs. The second the water is on, my high pitched voice filled the neighborhood. Neighbors look through their windows and doors to see why a little girl is screaming at the top of her lungs, only to realize it's just me. If Willy Water Bug stayed on the market, you'd understand why child protective services would be interviewing every victim, parent and neighbor of this twisted Wham-O creation.
I remember while staying a weekend at my aunt's house, my cousin Lynda figured out if she turned the spray nozzle to a certain setting and the hose to full blast, 20 feet of the hose became a crazy unpredictable instrument of death. Someone at Wham-O must have had us under surveillance and weren't happy with just scratched chests, broken ribs and whelped legs created from Slip-N-Slide and Willy Water Bug...They had to one up both by crossing the beloved masochistic birthday classic known as Pin the Tail On the Donkey and drunkin' pinata with a flimsy garden hose gone wild for a butt whup-pin' fun filled summertime cook down classic known as Water Wiggle. I swear to this day that Lynda is due residual payments from this one, they essentially recreated her genius idea. The water pressure in our neighborhood was high enough to peel paint and never being the kids to scrimp on fun, we turned the hose on FULL BLAST. Water Wiggle looked like it was an innocent toy featuring a character with a goofy smile and big eyes, much like Willy Water Bug, but innocence was lost the second the water started flowing. It may have been safer to play in a sandbox full of glass. Essentially this contraption was a plastic bucket at the end of a vinyl hose which bobbed around and flew in every direction. If it hit you right, it would wrap around you like a python. With all that said, it seemed that chipped teeth, bruises and bloody noses were acceptable just to cool down.

And then there was one more Wham-O water toy that I wanted REALLY badly just by seeing the box. Had I seen the commercial for Fun Fountain, I would have thought better of my wish and been happier with standing in the shower. My yearning for this summer toy disappeared when a neighbor child got one. Essentially it is a clown head connected to the garden hose which shoots a constant stream of water from the top of it's head while balancing it's hat. The object was to through the water without making the hat fall to the ground. Obviously the fun in the toy lasted until the hat conked you on the head, usually the third or fourth pass through if you're a skinny kid or once if you're a fat kid. Anyway, as I watched the neighbor kid play in his Fun Fountain for a minute, he stopped and stood over the clown essentially give himself an enema. That's when I realized I didn't want one.
Wham-O's marketing was brilliant but I can't imagine what the casting call listings for commercials would have been like. "Does your child have a high tolerance for pain and doesn't scratch, bleed or bruise easily? If you answered yes, we have the perfect punishment for them while they get paid to be on TV!"

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