In trite, cliched movies and sitcoms of the '70s, '80s and '90s, boisterous children are often gifted with drum sets by vengeful family members or ex-spouses. This, we learn, is really a punishment for the child's parents, who will now have to listen to a burgeoning Keith Moon awkwardly learn about rhythm, thus missing out on next several hundred sleep cycles.But assholes who wanted to screw up their friends and colleagues' lives didn't really have to plunk down the cost of an entire musical instrument – there were an abundance of relatively inexpensive, widely available toys and amusements for children of all ages in that era that would prove equally irritating. If your parents kept some of these around the house for you when you were young, call them and thank them. (NOTE: You should be doing this anyway.) If your parents kept more than 10 of these around, definitely call and thank them, then promise to move them into a better home. One where the orderlies don't steal their antique rings and give them more than 1 hour of outside time a week. They dealt with the most annoying kids toys of all time. They deserve the best. It's okay... they'll probably forget you even had this conversation soon enough...
So much fondness and nostalgia appeal remains for Hungry Hungry Hippos, the tabletop board game is still produced by Milton Bradley, and plans have been underway for a feature film adaptation for years. But what many parents of the '80s and '90s probably recall more than the mythology of Henry and Homer Hippo, or even the catchy theme song from the commercial, is the deafening racket made any time kids played the game, and the inevitable discovery of loose marbles between the toes, inside the vacuum cleaner bag, or lodged deep within the air canals of beloved infants and pets.
Quite possibly the #1 parental complaint about water guns before 1990 was this: "Sure, my kids can get me and the things I'm standing immediately around WET, but they can't get us unpleasantly drenched." Super Soaker changed all that, using pressurized air to shoot more water, further and more accurately than any other water pistol on the market. Great! The toy became so ubiquitous that the name "Super Soaker" came to apply to ANY of the now-prevalent "powerful water guns" on the market, and it's estimated that the brand has brought in over $1 billion in sales over the years. That's a lot of pressurized blasts of water to the face, ruined suede and, of course, memories...
Let's Go Fishin'
Another list item, another loud, clanging mechanized board game. Pressman's "Let's Go Fishin'" takes all the outdoorsy, fresh-air fun of a real fishing trip, then removes all that family bonding and quality time and replaces it with magnets. Kids used little plastic fishing poles, armed with low-powered magnets at the tip, to try to pick up one of 21 mechanized fish that spun around in a circle and alternately opened or closed their magnet-filled mouths. So let's go down the checklist. This game was (1) loud, (2) frustrating, (3) filled with tiny parts and fish sure to get strewn about the playroom, the outdoors, and inside of inquisitive digestive tracts. And as an added bonus, kids could have fun exploring all the other magnets around the house and leaving their tiny fishing poles there, rendering the entire game useless.
Sit 'n Spin
Is it a toy or a rude phrase to tell someone to do in a classic '40s noir film? IT'S BOTH! The Sit 'n Spin was a hit for Kenner Toys back in the '70s and '80s, basically bringing the fun and nausea of Disneyland's iconic "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" attraction into living rooms across the nation. Basically, the child sits on a plastic base and turns a wheel, allowing them to spin around in place with their legs crossed. Then, Mom and Dad stop what they're doing to clean up all the vomit and dry everyone's tears. Then the cycle begins anew.