Gotcha’s from the past

In grade school, I’d eagerly await the arrival of every issue of Boys Life magazine, with its stories of loyal dogs rescuing lost kids, its wholesome cartoons (“Pedro!”), its how-to tips for constructing a tipi in your backyard, and, yes, its back page ads promising many exotic thrills…

At the top of my list of thrills were the many novelty or prank items that I could afford on my meager allowance. “X-ray glasses” that almost made you think you could see the bones in your hand, packs of gum that snapped the finger of anyone who withdrew a piece, and much more. I loved it all, but now it’s vanished from our cultural scene, leaving us to ponder a crucial question:

“Why are kids no longer entertained by fake blisters that squirt water at unsuspecting friends?”   

Read this Creative Pro article for a few theories and travel in time through novelty catalogs from a much simpler era. True, juvenile sadism was always lurking behind many of these pranks, but somehow it never seemed to produce the deep trauma or large-scale massacres of our modern age… gosh, am I starting to sound like a geezer, or what?!!

For the record, I should also state that I wasn’t a Boy Scout back then, I never sold Grit newspapers, and I didn’t always spend my allowance on novelty gifts — the Scholastic Book Club was my other addiction, and that probably help set me on the path to my current writing career. See? Those hard-earned quarters and dollars didn’t completely go to waste…

UPDATE (04/27/07): One of our loyal readers has informed me that the S.S. Adams Company still sells novelty items like these, fresh from their time machine of a warehouse in Neptune, NJ. Stock up on your joy buzzers!

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