OSWEGO, NY – Toys on today’s Christmas wish lists have more computer power than the Pentagon just a few years ago.
Youngsters are asking Santa for robot dogs, video games, smart phones and even smarter watches as well as computers.
And, Alexa can answer any question these days.
A sampling of newspaper ads from years gone by provides a glimpse into a different shopping for the holidays approach.
Toyland – Outdoor Store’s annex (East Bridge Street) offered sensational values in 1965.
A big remote controlled auto raceway could be under your Christmas tree for only $5.99.
It featured “all the thrills and spills of road racing!”
For those who wanted to get on the road themselves, the store sold Sting Ray bikes, with those cool banana seats. The Roadmaster brand bikes were “priced to move” at $39.50.
If you wanted to just stay home and see what happened when you mix chemicals, you could ask Santa to bring a Gilbert Chem Lab to your house on Christmas Eve.
The set included a variety of chemicals and sold for $3.29. “Why pay more?” Toyland’s ad asked.
Long before the term “action figure” ever came into vogue, there was G.I. Joe. “Don’t you dare call me a doll, maggot! I’m an American hero!”
Toyland offered a complete line of accessories. No, son, not an evening bag and pearls. Bazookas, bayonets and hand grenades and neat stuff like that!
You could get your very own American hero for $2.17. It’s interesting to note here that today, collectors are paying hundreds of dollars for these very same dolls, err, action figures.
Bowling was in its heyday in the 1960s. For the youngsters too small to pick up a 16-pound bowling ball, Toyland offered a light-weight plastic version.
It came complete with a set of 10 multi-colored plastic pins.
You could “enjoy the great sport of bowling in the comfort of your living room.”
An elementary school student could afford to buy the set using his allowance. The price tag was a mere 83 cents.
If plastic bowling balls and pins didn’t make enough noise for you, Toyland had other options.
Rock em, Sock em Robots (Blue Bomber and Red Rocker) could be had for just a couple dollars.
It allowed youngsters to “box” by controling the two plastic roboats until one knocked off the other’s block.
It provided hours of fun. Unless your big brother and his pal pounded on the controls and broke it before Christmas dinner was served.
A Tap Drum Set could be had at the holiday sale price of $2.97. It regularly sold for $5.96.
The set included a miniature bass drum, snare and tom-tom and produced “realistic sound effects!”
If you didn’t want to pay for your purchases right away, no problem.
“One dollar holds your layaway until Christmas” at Toyland.
Of course, you had to get some clothes, even in 1965.
A junior boys two-piece slacks set was priced at $1.44, sizes 3-8, at Oswego’s Easy Bargain Center at the midtown shopping plaza.
Most of the underwear was sale priced at less than 50 cents.
Just about every store carried Funtastic’s Silly Sponge and Silly Sand in 1970.
For Christmas, you could buy each at $1.67. They were regularly $3 apiece.
“Silly Sponge is the new mystery stuff that sticks, squeezes and doozes,” the ads claimed. It didn’t explain what “doozes” meant, however.
“Silly Sand is hours of fun with colored sand,” the ads continued. Today, youngsters also sit and watch colored sand swirl and sift – as their computers’ screen savers or the aftermath of an explosion in one of their video games.
For those who wanted to spend a little more on a gift for not just the youngsters, but entire family, a pool game was just the item.
“The table top ‘pool’ game Skittles is a lot of fun for the whole family,” the ads said.
It basically played like “real pool” and cost $16.97 “in stores everywhere.”
Westons Shoppers’ City in the Oswego Plaza, Route 104, announced a huge holiday sale for toys.
Johnny Lightning Indy 500 was priced at $10.88, marked down from $20.
Youngsters could “experience stark excitement! That’s what you get from Indy racer with the same breath-taking speeds that come in every set.”
Oh yeah, there was some stuff advertised for girls, too.
Not all that much, but some.
The Suzy Homemaker Super Oven ($12.88) “bakes many delectable goodies – and is completely safe!”
The young ladies could also ask Santa for “Mattel’s exciting Living Barbie or Talking Barbie.
Either of the “incredibly life-like” dolls cost $3.99.
Like G.I. Joe, their accessories were extra.
Young boys and girls would enjoy the game Ants In The Pants ($1.99). It was deemed “hours of fun!”
Kenner’s Easy Show Color Movie Projector was a step up from the “Give A Show Projector” the company introduced a few years earlier.
The original was a jazzed up flashlight that children could slide cartoon strips through and project the images on the wall or ceiling.
The new projector cost $5.99, more than twice its forerunner.
It runs “forward and backward,” the ads said, “with speeds fast and slow.”
You only got a couple of cartoons with the projector, and the ad didn’t mention if others could be purchased separately.
Even the Fay’s Drugs chain was in the holiday mood.
Its stores offered the latest fad in decorations for the holiday.
“Electrified fire place – only $2.33,” the ad said. It was “made of heavy duty cardboard for quick assembly.”
Fay’s also had a new game, Skittle Bowl ($6.44).
A wooden ball was attached to a pole in this tabletop game. The players would swing it around in an attempt to knock over as many wooden pins as possible.
And, yes, there were times when the ball would come loose from the key chain type chain it was on and fly into the wall and – other things.
A safer item was the Close and Play Phonograph ($5.66).
The Close and Play came with “complete instructions … place record on turntable, close top.” Need I repeat that?
Today’s youth are asking for portable CD players, iPods and cell phones that take pictures as well as download music.
In 1967, portable music meant having a pocket radio.
Fay’s offered a 14-transistor pocket radio for $4.99.
The batteries were included, as was an earphone, in case you wanted to listen to the ball game while at school.
For your Close and Play, you could take part in “Fay’s Record Riot all top labels and artists – just $2.39 each!”
If you wanted to get your holiday shopping done early, Green’s on West First and Bridge streets was happy to help.
On Dec. 5 only, they offered a 10 percent discount – on everything!
But, of course, there was a catch. Shoppers had to buy something that cost at least 50 cents.
Over at Grant’s on Route 104 East in the Oswego Plaza, you could get one of my favorite old toys, Incredible Edibles.
A few years before, the same company had come out with the Thing Maker, which allowed you to make rubbery snakes and worms and other assorted creatures.
Since many of these creations wound up dangling from a youngster’s mouth, the company came up with Incredible Edibles in 1967, so you could make it and eat it, too without having to worry about getting yelled at by your parents.
The ads proclaimed “Incredible Edibles are sweeping the country. Hilarious adventures in eating with flavor-filled unbelievable figures!”
The ad continued to mention that the product was “completely safe” and came with its own “scooper gooper, heating unit, gobble-degoop, molds and tray – as seen on TV!”
The sale price was $8.44, not much of a real difference from the regular $9.97 price.
In 1967, it seemed like toymakers were training all young boys to be soldiers. Remember Vietnam?
Stores offered items such as The Monkey Gun, “the only weapon any good soldier needs.”
For $3.29 you got a rifle that doubled as a grenade launcher and could come apart to be used as a pistol, too.
That was the little brother of “Johnny – 7 OMA.”
The OMA stood for One-Man Army. And, as you can probably guess by the number, that’s how many different weapons the Johnny – 7 OMA could become.
For those who wanted a more realistic toy rifle, the “Sound Of Power” Army rifle was for you.
It resembled a real infantry rifle and cost $4.44. “Press the trigger, four different sounds. Battery operated. Real details. (Batteries not included),” the ad said.
For youngsters who’d rather make music than war, the Easy Bargain Center had a special on all the top-selling LPs.
Featured artists included: The Happenings, The Trogs, Tijuana Brass, The Monkees, Sonny & Cher, The Platters, The Doors, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, The Kingsmen and more. Your choice for only $1.77 each.
Over at Toyland, you could get such old favorites as Lincoln Logs (from $2.27 to $5.99), a Tune Train xylophone (for $3.39) and Gumby and Pokey (for 57 cents apiece, regularly $1 each).
Coca-Cola was making celebrating the holidays a little easier.
They offered Coke in one-way 10-ounce bottles with the new turn top cap “for simple opening.”
The local A&P had turkey on sale for 29 cents a pound and five-pound canned hams for $4.29. The ground beef was 49 cents a pound.
The IGA had 7-Up on sale, five quart bottles for $1. Sirloin was 99 cents a pound and Maxwell House Coffee, the one-pound tin, was 57 cents.
The pie fillings were two for 39 cents and a half gallon of ice cream would set you back 59 cents.
For those who over-indulged during the holidays, they could stock up on the “King Size” 40-ounce bottle of Bromo Seltzer for 58 cents.
After Christmas 1970 was through, adults could kick back and ring in 1971 in style.
Jack Ziel and his 11-piece orchestra were slated to perform at the Pinarama Party House, Route 104 East, on New Year’s Eve.
Dancing and music was planned for 10 p.m. until 3 a.m.
A full smorgasbord would be available from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., and noisemakers and favors would be included.
The cost per couple was a thrifty $10.