Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Don't Fix What Isn't Broken

Change is inevitable. I know I'll learn that lesson eventually, but there are certain things that just shouldn't get messed with. Right now I can think of two:

Exhibit A: The Kenner Easy Bake Oven
Exhibit B: The Mattel Creepy Crawler Thingmaker

Back in the day there was nothing quite like pulling an all-metal Easy Bake Oven out of its box and whipping up a tiny chocolate cake in miniature metal pans. Mine was a coppery brown and a marvel of Lilliputian perfection. You plugged it in. It got hotter than hell. Dangerous? I suppose that cooking something with a high-powered bulb and reflective mirrors in a totally metal object that is plugged into a wall could be construed as...uh...somewhat hazardous. Show me an oven that isn't. Besides, there was a war going on (not WWII, you dopes!) and a little blister wasn't going to stop me from baking anything. For all I knew my ability to crank out tiny pies was the only thing keeping the VietCong at bay. (*cue patriotic music here*)

There were certain precautions one could take to prevent accidents involving baking one's own hands accidentally. I used a marvelous invention called a POTHOLDER to take the molten objects out of the little oven and then I let them cool before I ate it. No, it wasn't as good as mother's cake, but gaining a modicum of autonomy over your own life by being able to make your own dessert (that was before girls got the LIFE MEMO about having to do it every day for the rest of our lives for certain individuals who will remain nameless) came in at a really close second. Either way...you had yourself an iced cake in less than 20 minutes. What's not to love?

I saw an Easy Bake Oven recently. What a lame excuse for a baking contraption! What an affront! What an atrocity! The oven is plastic! How far do you think things are going to progress in a plastic oven? The bulb was small and of low-wattage. Maybe even battery powered. How long did it take to make the cake? Well...let me just say that I could fill a shoe with cake batter and set it out on my sunny driveway and it would bake faster than the "new and improved" EBO. I could bake it faster using a blowdryer or by waving an ordinary kitchen match over the top of the pan. Honestly...just thinking about it destroys my faith in humanity and technology.

Ditto for the Creepy Crawler Thingmaker. The PlastiGoop came in plastic squeeze bottles and, like the EBO, the contraption used to bake the bugs/snakes/creepy monsters used real metal trays that we lifted out of the cooker with metal tongs. The goop had a particular rubbery smell and consistency that was even more obvious as it heated up. Some colors seemed to bake faster than others and when Mattel introduced Glo-In-The-Dark goop we thought we would pass out from sheer ecstasy. It was an exercise in coordination to remove the baked rubber bugs from the trays using straight pins while they were still flexible without searing off your own fingerprints on the hot metal. Hey, no one I knew went to the E.R. on a Creepy Crawler-related accident.

It's just not the same anymore,though. The trays aren't heavy and the "cooker" is pathetic and slow. It's all so....*sigh*....safe. The resulting items aren't any good either. They're brittle and they don't smell the same.The new goop is now FDA approved and isn't any fun at all. It's tragic, really. The thrill is gone.

How are we to teach our kids life skills and survival tactics if we reduce the risk factors of their toys to that of a small rubber ball? Where's the adventure? Where's the rush of adrenaline? What's the world coming to?

Okay...I'm going off in a corner and wait until it's 5 p.m. when I can have a glass of wine without being labeled a "day drinker". In the meantime, amuse yourselves with this cool website about retro toys and then tell me about your own personal favorites. Perhaps by then my despair will have passed.


Blogger Arabella said...


Please tell me it isn't so. :(

Sigh. How I LOVED that toy. An oven of one's own, to make single-portion desserts. The perfect postmodern toy. I considered purchasing one when I was in my early twenties.

I also really wanted a Baby Alive for a while, but I outgrew her before I got one. She came with packets of powdered "food" that you would mix with water and feed her. How cool is that?

3:38 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Oh, I could have written this! Except I never owned my own easy bake oven because my parents thought it was too dangerous. Whatever.

Arabella, I never had Baby Alive either and I coveted her!

As an adult, I was talking to a good friend who also was not allowed to have the EBO in the 70s. So I bought her one for her birthday a few years ago with every intention of us getting hopped up on red wine and baking some mini cakes. The thing was flimsy and crappy, the cakes never even fully baked after 45 minutes and we just ate the dough scraped out of the little pan with our fingers. It was so sad, two grown women with glasses of wine and sticky fingers.
I truly think today's kids should have to play with all the "dangerous" toys of my youth. It builds character.

3:44 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

I totally forgot about Baby Alive. Probably because they didn't have them when I was a kid. We used corncob dolls. Just kidding. We did have a windup doll called "Thumbelina". Mine looked real until I cut her hair down to the nubs. She looked just as though she had dropped out of The Hair Club For Men and resorted to getting plugs.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous jess said...

Oh how i coveted the EBO and the creepy crawly maker. My mom was totally against the EBO and let me bake willy nilly from a very young age. Making up recipes and forcing the family to eat it for dessert.

I did have a Holly Hobbie doll that i adored. Oh! and i had candles that i was allowed to light in my room from 10 or so on.

4:24 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

OMG!!! Thumbelina was my very fav doll! My mom even made a bed for her out of a cigar box. I got to play with her when I was done churning the butter- kidding!

I had a Susie Homemaker Oven (it was probably the no-name brand for EBO) It was awesome but I never had the patience to wait for that damn cake so I remember my mom sticking my tiny little pan into the big oven so it would get done faster.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

There's my Marx civil war set. I still have many or the pieces. I played with that for years.

Skittle Bowl was a favorite. When I received that one Christmas, I think I played with it for three months straight. God only knows how my parents put up with the noise.

Bop The Beetle was great when I was really small. Two generations of kids have played with it since.

Twister was fun as a kid, and better when I was older. Then, it served the same purpose as spin the bottle.

7:19 PM  
Anonymous LetterB said...

Easy Bake Oven and Baby Alive. I wanted both so badly. My very feminist mother would not allow the EBO and my father couldn't believe that i wanted a doll that pooped, but oh how I coveted them. (When my son started on solids one of the first thoughts that popped into my head was that I had finally gotten my baby alive doll. Ha!) The greatest irony is that my very feminist mother ended up writing ads for Kenner Toys. Shilling for the enemy to keep her teenagers in Guess Jeans.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

Alas, no Easy Bake oven, no Baby Alive, no Thumbelina, but I had Crissy, the doll with hair "that grows and grows, right down to her toes" NOT. But I adored her. She survived until my own little E-Grrrl wrecked her last year. So sad to see her go. But my buddy Shirl Grrrl still has her Velvet doll because her daughter Molly is not allowed to TOUCH IT! Altogether now---it's not faiiiiiiir!

Remember the 6 inch high "Dawn" doll and friend "Angie." Man, they rocked my world. Malibu Barbie and Skipper too. I still have them.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

They just don't make toys like they used to... Remember metal slinkies? How about slap bracelets? A thing of the past my friends. Too dangerous.

I miss She-Ra toys. Hoop keeps searching on Ebay for those little pink M.U.S.C.L.E. Men. I remember Teddy Rupskin and my friend's brother scaring the crap out of her by putting an Ozzy tape in him. Good times.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Kurt said...

I burned myself on that Creepy Crawlies so many times. No one remembers the edible CCs. I loved the licorice ones.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Here's what you get when you've got 3 brothers and a working mom:
-GI Joe with Kung-Fu grip. He wasn't very snuggly because his hair was made from the scratchy half of Velcro.
-That stretchy monster with the green goop inside. Yes, we found out what was inside with a pair of scissors.
-The little plastic army men that had been discarded because they had been blown up with firecrackers or melted with matches.

My very own, favorite toy was my Kewpie doll. Her head melted on the baseboard heater one morning when I was getting dressed under the kitchen table. It still makes me sad.

10:00 AM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

I miss the really good playground toys. Remember the metal merry-go-round? You'd run around it really fast while holding onto one of the bars, and once it was spinning really fast you'd jump on and cling to the floor until it eventually flipped you off. You won't find those in a playgorund now.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

Oh, I'd forgotten how much I miss feeding my Baby Alive her powdered lime-flavored baby food that I'd oh-so-thoughtfully taste test for her. (it wasn't half bad!)

11:56 AM  
Blogger Peggy said...

Amazing how two photos can take me back. I still rememeber making Creepy Crawlers as my best friend Mary Ann & I listened to the Cowsills. (I can even smell the plastic, food-like substance .... from the Crawlers, not the Cowsills, that is.)

BTW --ever seen the Easy Bake Oven Cookbook? Famous Chefs adapt their recipes to be cooked by light bulb.

6:59 PM  
Blogger Arabella said...

GG--I loved that merry-go-round thing! Yeah, playground equipment today is all ergonomic and safe. Not that character-building stuff of my youth!

5:39 AM  
Blogger Tink said...

We still have metal merry-go-round equipment! They must not care about us Floridians. They're like, "There's too f'n many as there is. Maybe we can thin them down a little."

8:27 AM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Oh, V-Grrrl!! I had Dawn and her friends. Remember, she danced on the 45 record?? Oh, Lordy I am giving away how old I am.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

I has the Holly Hobby oven and the blisters to prove...but man if you needed a junk food fix it worked. There is an even cooler invention to use for your kids today, it is called a toaster oven....it actually works.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Plain Jane said...

Oh man, one of the guys at work got me an Easy Bake Oven recently (don't ask) and I thought the same thing!! They've KILLED what it was!!!

11:45 AM  

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