dan as a child opening a christmas present of toy cars

Ghosts of Christmas Toys Past

This week on the blog, my fiancé Dan wanted to come on and share about all of the toys that he got as a kid for Christmas. Whether they were fun, dangerous, or anywhere in between, get ready for one blast from the past!


Christmas is supposed to be about giving right? 

But when we were kids? Yeah, not so much! 

I’m sure your father is still ecstatic about all the socks you gave him for Christmas, and all the cheap perfume your mom received that can still be found buried in her makeup bag. I can even remember my sophisticated childhood wrapping technique. 

After getting whatever gifts with the money my paren- wait, Santa gave me to get gifts for my parents, I would do what I call the ‘Roll 40.’ This very advanced technique involves rolling whatever size gift in wrapping paper, cutting it, then using about 40 feet of scotch tape to hold all the innards in. I always knew when I did the Roll 40 correctly when the present looked like a badly wrapped piece of candy, or even just a trash bag.

But I digress…here are some of the awesome toys that I received for Christmas growing up!



Thomas the Tank Engine

thomas the tank engine toy

I remember coming home from school to watch the Thomas the Tank Engine TV show. Then, of course, came along the usual 90s craze of producing an obscene amount of memorabilia to go along with it. I remember having the Thomas Clock that resembled his face, the cups that had the smoke that was supposed to be the handle, the books. 

But the ultimate Thomas-related toy was the diecast metal trains made to look like Thomas and his friends. These weren’t lightweight, no, they were pretty much crafted individually with an anvil. You wanted to carry around a case of them to play with? Good luck! You would probably need an adult’s strength to carry them. Ever step on one? Might as well step in your parent’s tool box barefooted, especially if stepping on one sitting upright. Thomas wanted you to feel the pain of the little engine that could! Hell, Macaulay Culkin could have murdered those pesky robbers using these toys.



Tonka Trucks

yellow tonka dump truck

Like Thomas the Tank Engine, Tonka trucks were made of metal as well, but much larger. They were great tools…I mean toys.

Who else dug too many holes in their yard using the front loader, only to hear their father later curse as he twists his ankle and falls on his face all while you’re laughing maniacally?

…too specific?

But that wasn’t me, I was a nice boy!



Pee Wee Herman doll

pee-wee herman doll in box

HAAA HAAA! 

Yup, you remember the Pee Wee Herman doll! He was a truly unforgettable toy, especially after his voice box broke and sounded like he was trying to possess nearby children. 
Pee Wee was, oddly enough, an idol of mine as a kid. So of course my parents got me the doll (or maybe was a hand me down from my brother, BUT WHO CARES, I’M NOT BITTER). I remember him being one of the MANY stuffed characters I had along with Fred Flintstone and Bugs Bunny. It was short lived for Pee Wee Herman, however. After the actor who portrayed him got caught doing something *ahem* inappropriate in an adult theater, my mother cut off his fingers and threw him out. But this didn’t keep me from taking him out of the trash and pretending his fingers were now ROCKETS!



Cool Tools

cool tools ad with toolbelt, toolbox, and tools

Yes, another toy series that was made with metal…the 90s was a wild time. It was a legit set of tools for children. I remember having the workbench, tool box, tow truck, and multiple mini sets. I wanted to be just like my father with his tools, so when he was doing work around the house, little Dan would follow Dad around with his tool box trying to help. He quickly lost his patience as I tried to cut wood with a fake saw and tried to tighten screws with an overly thick screwdriver. He gave up and literally let me use a real saw and other power tools (under supervision).



Lee Gunnery Sgt. R. E. Ermey Motivational figure

My childhood mainly consisted of G.I. Joes. My father thought it would be a great idea to get me a Lee Gunnery Sgt. R. E. Emrey doll that was based off the character from Full Metal Jacket (yes, the movie with the woman who said “me love you long time” to one of the troops and I didn’t know what that meant so I constantly said it to my classmates). 

Welp, we quickly discovered the figure could play clips of his quotes from this movie (that is rated R). I remember my mother sitting in horror and my dad laughing nervously as I pushed the button on the figure on Christmas Day. He was sure to discuss with me to not repeat what it says and to not bring it in school (so, of course, I did both!). It was a popular toy among my friends as they obsessively pressed the button to hear him scream curses. I did listen to my father on not taking it to school, only until after his passing. Mature me took it to high school to show some classmates until it went off in my backpack during math class and my teacher confiscated it, confused as to why I would still be playing with dolls at the crisp age of 17 years old.

I would later be in trouble with the same teacher for having a t-shirt that said “Save a Tree, eat a beaver.” Young, naïve Dan didn’t know what it meant, but still sounded funny.



Rated R movies and Mature rated video games

poster for raw deal

Oddly enough, at a young age, my parents allowed me to watch R rated movies and play Mature rated video games. I remember my father giving me money and allowing me to walk to the Macdade Mall (cool fact: this mall later was a filming location for The Lovely Bones). I got a copy of Raw Deal (rated R) by myself. Later, I purchased The Terminator which started my obsession with Arnold Schwarzenegger….I’ll be back to that one. 

I remember trying to buy Grand Theft Auto 2 for Playstation at a game shop in the same mall with my Christmas money. This cashier was a stickler and wouldn’t let me purchase it without an adult. I ended up convincing my mother to get me the game instead. I remember the cashier asking my mother if she was sure because “ in this game, you shoot cops,” my mom looked over at me asking why I didn’t tell her that. My defense was “Mom, you can’t even see them!” 

She let me get the game, which was exciting until I learned that I had to squint just to see what was going on in the game and it was hard to tell good guys from bad guys….many innocent lives perished in that game. Rest in peace to all the people I drove over in a car.



The Terminator 2 figure

terminator 2 doll in box

I told you I’d be back to that one! 
As everyone knows, I’m a fan of The Terminator. I had all the films at the time, the soundtrack to the movies, Micro-Machine sets based off the film, video games, and multiple action figures. My favorite toy from the franchise was the 14 inch figure that had glowing eyes when engaged, made gunshot noises, and said quotes from the movie. I most likely drove my parents and brother up the wall with this one. Whenever I had Terminator by my side, I was pressing one of the buttons to make him say “I’ll be back’ and hearing the gunshots. Out of all the 90s toys that had metal, sadly, this one did not. But it was made of hard plastic so it was difficult to bring into bed as a kid to cuddle up with. At night, I would always hold in the button to activate his glowing eyes…I liked to think I was his John Connor as he was my Terminator.



G.I. Joes

dan and other boy sitting on the floor playing with action figures

Yes, the soldiers of R. E. Ermey’s army. As mentioned earlier, G.I.Joes were the biggest part of my childhood. I’m not talking about the little G.I. Joes, I’m talking about the 12 inch figures that had dog tags and real clothing and could be posed in many inappropriate positions whenever your older cousins came to visit (thanks Dusty…and probably Rob). I had tanks, helicopters, boats, Humvees, Jeeps, and even an amphibious vehicle that floated in water. I had probably over 25 of these figures, each with their own story and adventure. One in particular was a part of the Adventure Team series. He had a jumpsuit, vest, an overly small raft, a grappling hook gun, and, strangely enough, an eagle that could be perched on his shoulder. I played with this figure so much that the joints that held his limbs became loose.



Video games

mario kart game image

You wanna play Sega? Nintendo ? N-64?

Cool, hold on PFFFFFFF *Inhales* PFFFFFFFFTTTTTT 

Playing anything on those systems required spitting all over the video game cartridge and then inserting it into the system while completely out of breath. Damn, older video games were a work out!

I’m a gamer at heart, though I don’t play as much as I used to. One Christmas, my parents got me a Game Boy Color and a bunch of games to go with it! Among all the games, they got me a Casino game. Young me didn’t know how to play craps or even knew how to play a card game…so I think my Dad snuck that in for himself, that clever man. I also remember having a Caesars Palace game for Sega. Not knowing how to gamble or play those sorts of games, I’d wander around the Casino in the game… and that was it for that one. [Note from your friendly neighborhood blogger Renata: This reminds me of the time I received a Playstation 2 for Christmas with 4 games: Tetris, a Spongebob game (because everyone knows that I have a Spongebob obsession), as well as a golf game (for dad) and a Star Wars game (for mom). Parents always know how to slip in stuff they’d enjoy!]

One of my favorite memories was playing Mario Kart-64 with my father on a week I had off of school. Why did I have off you may ask? Apparently, I thought it was smart to burn poison ivy while we were out camping…only to have it come back with vengeance in my lungs from breathing in the fumes. Imagine having an itch in your chest you couldn’t scratch. Yes, it absolutely sucked. It sucked just about as much as when you think you’re in first place in a Mario Kart, only to realize you’re staring at the wrong screen…



Socker Boppers

[Another note from Renata: I’m trying not to cut in too much, but I just had to say that TIL that they’re “Socker Boppers” and not “Sock ‘Em Boppers.” The more you know!]

Yes, it’s more fun than a pillow fight watching your father throwing haymakers at your older cousin using inflatable boxing gloves in the kitchen. I’m not sure how the creators of this toy thought it was safe. Any kid who possessed these pretty much decked their best friend in the front yard. They didn’t really even soften the blow. If you got punched in the sucker with these “toys,” you’d feel it in your neck later. My brother and I thought they were fun, though. Each time we fought, it ended with one of us begging the other to stop. It ended multiple times with my brother crying, or having a bloody nose…okay, I at least thought they were fun. Like many of the inflatable toys of the 90s, this toy was short-lived. No one was protected from these weapons of mass destruction.



Pedal cars / Big Wheel

young dan riding a big wheel

Though I never had a Power Wheel, my parents got me some cool pedal cars and 3 wheelers when I was young. I remember having a pretty detailed Mercedes-Benz pedal car. After watching Commando starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, I ended up trying to recreate the scene where the baddies pulled out important parts of Arnold’s Chevy Blazer and he pushes it down a mountainside and hops in to catch up with the bad guys! I had a small hill in front of my childhood home, so I’d give it a push, run, hop in, and go crashing dangerously into the street in front of my house like any other young kid would do! My parents gave it away after I was caught literally playing in traffic.

On top of pedal cars, one of the other big things of the 90s was Big Wheel, which was pretty much entirely plastic and probably takes up 80 percent of landfills today. I had some awesome 3 wheelers in my childhood. One of the big themes of the 90s was theming everything, and Big Wheels ended up being one of them. I had the Knight Rider Big Wheel with the hand brake, the Batman Big Wheel with the Batman logo on the front, and other various Big Wheels…why did I have so many Big Wheels?

During recess in preschool, you weren’t having fun unless you rode one of these baddies.



Harry and the Hendersons doll

young dan crying while his dad holds him and the harry doll

Do you have one of those photos of you screaming your head off, crying or whatever and your family thinks it’s hysterical? Well, for me that started with Harry. You know, the sasquatch movie that came out in 87’. Although I was born in 89’, the movie was a big hit with me and my brother when we got it on VHS. Later, I got my beloved Harry doll! It scared the crap out of me at first, but ended up being another stuffed animal I dragged around. I remember waking up in the middle of the night from a night terror, and throwing him under the bed to think he was kicking a monsters ass, like how he fought off that hunter in the movie. 

In adulthood, I told one of my former clients about the Harry doll, and he thought it was hysterical. It ended up being one of those inside jokes for him and me, so I gave him to my client. The last few days there, I went in to wake my client up, finding him cuddled up to Harry. When I call to see how my former clients are doing, he always says that Harry’s doing fine.



So with that, I think it’s time to close this up. Gather up all my toys and put them back in the toybox along with the memories and moments behind them.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

What was your favorite toy that you received as a kid?

8 thoughts on “Ghosts of Christmas Toys Past

  1. Thomas The Tank Engine! What a legend. I also came home from school and watched the TV show. I had all of those Thomas and friends toys and can confirm, stepping on them was painful. There’s a picture somewhere of little Paul sitting in a life-sized Thomas The Tank Engine at my local mall haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! So glad that the post could bring back some fun memories for you ☺️ I admittedly didn’t play with many of these, but I probably saw the show with my little cousins! Also, I feel like I saw videos on YouTube of Thomas the Tank Engine with the voiceover of a foul-mouthed comedian, which is very much my speed 🤣🤣

      Liked by 1 person

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