Sunday, September 05, 2010

The snoopy snow cone machine

It baffles my mind sometimes when I think about the things we were allowed to do when I was a kid and the things that we were forbidden. I guess this thought was fueled when I was playing an arcade game version of lawn darts a week ago. The real thing, of course, has been banned in the United States and Canada since the 1980s, but this is the kind of toy that children were allowed to, and even encouraged to play with when I was a kid.
This is absolute lunacy. Give a handful of kids some sharp metal pointy projectiles, and it's only a matter of nanoseconds before they're throwing them at each other. It doesn't matter whether the object is a lethal weapon or a nerf ball: kids throw things at each other.

I never had lawn darts, but one Christmas I got a pub darts board and a ping-pong table. I resisted the urge to throw the darts at my sister, but within a couple of days, the ping-pong table was perforated by dart hits. Intentional hits. My mother, being the both the disciplinarian of the family and a very crafty person, proceeded to give me a well-deserved beating with one of the ping-pong paddles. It, too, had taken on more dart hits than the dart board had. Her preferred weapon of choice was a wooden spoon, and she broke more than a few administering punishment on me. Her instrument in this instance, though, was the ping-pong paddle. The significance of that deliberate choice was lost on me at the time, but it was brilliant.

I don't mean, even for a second, to paint my mother out to be some beast like Joan Crawford. On the contrary; my mother was and is a wonderful woman. This was, after all, the 1970s, when it was perfectly fine for parents to beat holy hell out of their children when they were acting like little assholes. Even in the middle of the Big Star grocery store. It's not like we were hit with lead pipes or barbed wire, but it's not like we were put in "time out" either. Punishments were fair and just. Sometimes, I even learned a lesson. Most often not, though.

That's not the point here, however. I'm supposed to be talking about the Snoopy Snow Cone Machine. And I'll get there. Trust me.

Parents were allowed by cultural standards to issue physical punishments to their children. Children were allowed to have toys that could easily become deadly weapons. We were encouraged to play tackle football in the street. We were encouraged to play around on open construction sites. Kids didn't wear helmets when they rode their bicycles. Somehow, most of us survived childhood unscathed.

For all the things we (and I've been using "we" in the editorial sense) were allowed to have and for all the things we were allowed and encouraged to do, it sometimes blows my mind what my sister and I were not allowed to have.

My sister, who is almost four years older than I, really really wanted an Easy-bake Oven. All little girls did. The modern easy-bake oven uses different technology and lots of safety features. It's pretty much foolproof and accident-proof. Back in the early days, though, this was a dangerous toy. The original oven resembled a real oven, but used a high wattage incandescent light bulb instead of a heating element. Although the light bulb as heat source was marginally less dangerous than a heating element, there were no safety features. This meant that a clumsy, uncoordinated, or overly-curious little girl had a very good chance of putting her hand directly onto the hot-burning 100-watt light bulb. My mother forbid Laura to have one, saying "If it can cook a cake, it can cook your hand". Again, the modern oven has a tiny slot into which the cake pan is shoved and a tiny slot to pull it out; there's no chance of coming into contact with the heat source. I'm pretty sure that even today, my sister, now aged 42, would be excited about getting an easy-bake oven. If for no other reason, than for the sake of nostalgia.

I usually got what I wanted, and I never really wanted much. Footballs, magic kits, digital watches. Things like that. Although there wasn't really a safety issue (maybe there was, but I can't remember), I wasn't allowed to have a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine. I was obsessed with Snoopy for a while, and while I got things like Snoopy dolls and Peanuts books and Snoopy lunchboxes and Snoopy Halloween costumes, I never got the one thing I wanted the most.

While other kids were getting expensive birthday presents like a trampoline or an Atari 2600, I just wanted a Snoopy Snow Cone Machine, which probably retailed at $7.95. I know I liked the commercial:

Apparently, the folks at Hasbro were merely cashing in on the late '70s pandemic that was Snoopy Fever. They already had a similar snow cone machine in the market with a similar ad campaign. It looks like they simply rebranded it with an iconic namesake. Check out the Snowman Snow Cone Machine commercial:

Until I started writing this post, I'd never heard of the Snow Man Snow Cone machine, and I probably wouldn't have wanted one of those. Proof that this toy is all about the celebrity name. In any case, I never got the machine, and there was never any parental commentary like "If it'll crush ice, it'll crush your fingers". There was just flat refusal. I spent the better part of my late childhood and adulthood resenting the fact that I never got the sought after piece of cheap plastic.

It's come to my attention that I was far from being alone there. Whether they've been re-introduced to the toy market or they never left the market, you can still get them. I've seen a few youtube videos of adults my age unboxing their very first Snoopy Snow Cone Machine and making their delicious treat. All with lukewarm reception. I think this one is a fairly good example of a grown man actually struggling to get the thing to produce one paltry cone.

If it takes that much work from a 30-something man, I hate to imagine how much effort it would require from a seven-year old kid. And now I'm glad that I never had one.


Bill Purdy said...

Had one as a kid, and I never could get a "real" sno-cone out of it. Mostly, just a few drips of cold water and a bunch of sadness.

When Logan was maybe three, Beth's aunt purchased one for him. Nothing has changed in thirty years -- it still sucks extraordinarily. The engineering is thirty years of profound FAIL. The handle is a tongue and groove snap-in sort of thing, but if you turn the shaver / tumbler in the direction necessary to "shave" ice, it unseats itself after a few spins and pops off. While you struggle to re-seat the handle, the pathetic few shaves of ice you've created melt in the ambient room temperature. There is no easy way to remedy this situation, and having two children bursting with anticipation for the treat that will never come only makes things more horrible for the parent involved.

Really, David, they are terrible toys. Terrible.

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