Friday, August 22, 2008

The Monster Magnet

Today's Monster Memories are of:
The "Monster Magnet" by Wham-O!
(Click on images to view full size.)

"Yeah, I gets around pretty good for a guy dats got ta walk around on my hands!"

It was a simple toy, really.

No sound chips, no lights, no moving parts, no cartoon or movie made about it. There were magnets on the bottom of the hands, and you picked metal stuff up with it. So why would I love to have one now? Equally simple: because I had one when I was six. And everything you had when you were a kid is now special, and you want to get it again. With the exception of chicken pox, that is.

I lived in my hometown of Macon, GA at the time, in 1965. My mother had just remarried, and I was trying to get used to the drastically different "parenting style" of my new step-dad. His style consisted of keeping me scared, basically, as a deterrent. So, I spent a lot of time away from him and alone in my room, which would become the norm for the rest of my life that I lived at home. Consequently, I had a very active imagination, and got into reading very early on. I can still remember several of the books I checked out of the library in first grade... like "Wynken, Blyken and Nod." I re-checked it out every week until the librarian made me stop.

A neighbor gave me a stack of her son's old comics, which started me on a life-long love for them. I can recall many of the stories in them. For example, I vividly recollect reading the Batman comic pictured, while sitting on the truck dock of the dairy distribution building where my Dad worked. He had a job as milk truck driver, and he took me there after picking me up one evening. While he did some paperwork, I ate a nutty-buddy cone (the ice cream was free since he worked there) as I read the comic.

The playthings I had also figure sharply in my memories, and I'll never forget many of them; such as the trick Sixth-Finger spy gun, a "Johnny 7 One-Man Army" gun which was awesome, a play Indian teepee tent; a felt Batman cap (pictured to the left as my daughter modeled it nearly 15 years ago) with a mask made into the brim that could be pulled down over your eyes; my first Super-Ball, which really could bounce over a house (and did, promptly getting lost); but towering over them all was the big red Monster Magnet.

(Image Source: A fun link!)

Even at that tender age, I felt the call of the monster. Perhaps it was triggered by seeing the Abominable Snowman on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which I had recently watched the first time it aired. It might have been seeing the Muppet monsters eat each other on the Ed Sullivan show, which gave me nightmares; possibly the Outer Limits promos which nearly made me wet my pants, or the giant Cyclops from Lost In Space, which had just begun airing. Seeing the Monster Magnet commercial on TV, I had to have it, and the next time we took my Grandma to K-Mart to go shopping she got it for me. Good ol' reliable Grandma.

But whatever the reason for my burgeoning interest in monsters, I truly enjoyed the Monster Magnet, as I walked around the house and yard trying to find things it could pick up. At the house we lived in, there was a hole in the back yard, which was an open septic tank. Would you let your six-year-old kid play around an open septic tank hole and do nothing about it? Talk about dangerous! But neither parent nor step-parent took any precaution or gave warning about it, so it was The Bottomless Pit to me and my toys. I would crawl up to the edge, and sacrifice an army man or two as they fought together and one threw the other one in. Some memory, huh? Fun, fun, fun! No worries about germs; I could go inside and wash up with my Fuzzy-Wuzzy soap, which got hairier as the soap wore down. The "Soaprize," which was supposed to have a small prize hidden inside, was a bust; I washed the heck out of my pruny little body and when it was gone, there was nothing in it.

"I guess ya could sez I gots a magnetic porsanality!"

Back to the yard; the open Pit Of Death wasn't the only hazmat-worthy item. There was also a leaking 10-gallon drum of chemicals in the yard, what I know now to be used for concrete curing. The odor of the yellowish-white gunk was very distinctive, and I recognized it years later when I encountered it in road construction. In among this hazardous backyard, I camped out under the mimosa tree in my Indian tent, drank from a canteen full of "Funny Face" Goofy Grape drink that I mixed myself, and chomped on pink, green or yellow bubble-gum cigars from the whole box of them my Dad had brought me on a recent visit. I played army with my guns, and marched the Monster Magnet around destroying plastic enemy regiments with his mighty knuckles. I tied him to a string and stick, and flew him around the yard like the monstrous genie he was, swooping in to knock over buildings made of shoeboxes, and pick up the metal cars and trucks on the dirt roadways. It was also fun to put your finger through his mouth/handgrip and wiggle it like it was his tongue.

Monster Magnet, I'll not forget ya. You had some "attractive" qualities!

1 comment:

greg oakes said...

i remember having that toy as a kid; it may have been a hand-me-down via my uncle who always had the cool stuff i was supposedly too young for at the time it came out. nonetheless, i totally remember playin with this toy; your page brings back some great memories! a bunch of stuff i wasn't necessarily familiar with, old movies, comics, etc.. i honestly haven't even scraped the surface of this blog; i shared the link on facebook hoping my other (monster) artist friends will see it! btw, i draw naked ladies and monsters, in my spare time. ;)