A Trip Down Memory Lane: Nostalgic Toys From the Past

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Nostalgic Toys From the Past

A Trip Down Memory Lane.  Nostalgic Toys From The Past

Before the internet this thing called paper existed.  Some very fine things were printed on it.  Nothing defined Christmas more as a child than the “Sears Christmas Wish Book!”  The long awaited catalog arrived every fall, helping kids shape their wishes. The pages were filled with great action figure toys like Star Wars, Gi Joe, Masters of the Universe, Transformers and many more.

Here’s one’s boys story…


Making a List and Checking it Twice

The highlight of my year as a kid growing up in the 1980s was the arrival of the long-anticipated “Sears Christmas Wish Book.” My brother and I would spend hours pouring over the toy section, making lists of the toys we wanted for Christmas and dreaming about the toys we would be getting as presents of from Santa Claus. He and I played a game called “clubhouse” where we each had an imaginary clubhouse and we’d pass the Sears catalog back and forth, each alternately picking one item at a time until we’d filled our imaginary clubhouses with imaginary toys. Each pick was precious, well-thought-out and carefully researched. We were Sears catalog experts!



Optimus Prime Changes Everything

Then in the fall, my neighbor across the street got Optimus Prime and everything changed. No longer were these toys the stuff of dreams and wonder because we knew someone who actually owned one! My brother and I, up to this point, had GoBots, but they weren’t as cool as Transformers. Even though I had the GoBot Command Center and had thought myself to be pretty hot stuff, I had nowhere near the street cred of my neighbor with the real Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime was an authentic G1 Transformer, the strongest and wisest of the Autobots. He was disguised as a semi-truck. The trailer became the “Autobot’s Headquarters” when the cab turned into the ultimate warrior himself. At least so I thought at least at the time, in reality it was just a battle platform.  He was far superior to my GoBots by a factor of ten.

Optimus Prime Vintage G1 Transformers

We’re Gonna Find Out Who is Naughty or Nice

My brother and I couldn’t live with the shame. We had to get Transformers of our own. So we went to the best source to buy Transformers toys, the Sears Catalog. We looked at the Transfomers’ names and pictures.  In the end, for Christmas I asked Santa Claus for Autobots and my brother asked for Decepticons. On Christmas morning, Santa delivered. I got a Dinobot: Sludge, the Brontosaurus with a rocket launcher, a gun, and a bright red sword. It was a revelation. It mixed all the excitement of a Transformer with the mystery of a dinosaur. The combination was more awesome than my ten-year-old brain could handle. My brother, not to be outdone, got two Insecticons: Shrapnel, the Stag Beetle, and Bombshell, the Rhinoceros Beetle.

Sludge Bombshell Shrapnel
Sludge, Bombshell and Shrapnel.

Play Time

GoBots became a distant memory and G1 Transformers consumed our days. Now we had something to compare to my friend’s Optimus Prime. Of course, he still had the “Autobot Headquarters” and a Dinobot is an Autobot. This made it so we were a team, but my brother’s two Insecticons were always wily and so tough he managed to put up a fight enough for the both of us. (The fact that my brother was a year older than me and better at making up “rules” seemed to always make battles go in his favor.)

Of course, the equilibrium of our neighborhood wars was destabilized when my friend had a birthday and found himself not just controlling the leader of the Autobots, but also the leader of the Decepticons, Megatron himself. Megatron was a ‘robot in disguise,’ but also was a toy gun that could be used to run around our yards and shoot me. Suddenly it was my lonely Sludge against two Insecticons and Megatron, and my missile launcher only held three missiles. I couldn’t miss a shot without fear of being overpowered.

Megatron Vintage G1 Transformers

Back to “The” Pages

So I returned, yet again, to that Sears Catalog. I searched the pages for something, anything, that would help me in the cause of justice. Autobots couldn’t lose to the Decepticons! That was unimaginable, and to think that my friend, who controlled Optimus Prime, was now a traitor with Megatron, was too much to take.

1984 Wards G1 Transformers toy selection pages 12 and 13
1984 Wards G1 Transformers toy selection pages 12 and 13. Images courtesy Wishbookweb.com

Peace in Our World at Last

I had my birthday. It evened the odds. And I was nothing if not loyal to both the Autobots and to dinosaurs. I got Grimlock, the Tyrannosaur himself. Like Sludge, he also came with a red sword and three rockets. I found myself on even footing again. No insects could stand up to two dinosaurs and my duplicitous friend found new reasons to use Optimus Prime again—the Autobots could rule together!

Grimlock Vintage G1 Transformers

Toys Never Forgotten

I don’t know what happened to those toys. I grew up. Then became interested in other exciting toys: Mask and GI Joe and Micromachines, and ultimately, the toys gave way to a Nintendo. But I’ve never forgotten the excitement of the year of the Transformers or the giddy excitement that came every season when the mailman brought the Sears Catalog. I’ve never forgotten the first moment my friend unfolded Optimus Prime’s trailer to reveal the “Autobot headquarters.” It was like stepping into a new world.

Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane.  We’d love to hear your Sears Wish Book or similar catalog story with us. Share it with us.  Autobots, roll out!


Author: Chris Ingledue

Affiliation:  Autobot

Function: Theoretician

Bio:  I’m the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab.  My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys, triggering fond memories and reigniting their imaginations.  Every day I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year; scouring the internet – like we did the Sears Catalog of yesteryear – for the next great treasure, awaiting the arrival of the postman as if he was Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas.  Every day is an absolute joy!

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