Hello! Tonight I’ll be tearing apart another old toy catalog for your enjoyment.
This time, Montgomery Ward’s 1983 Christmas catalog is on the slab. We didn’t have Montgomery Ward stores around here, so my firsthand knowledge is limited to stray references in long-ended sitcoms.
I was only four when this catalog came out, so I’m surprised that I remember its inclusions so clearly. I guess it’s hard to forget Han Solo bedsheets, or tricycles meant to resemble KITT.
For the record, that year’s hottest brands — at least according to this catalog — were The Smurfs, Garfield, Star Wars and Strawberry Shortcake. Below are eight of the highlights!
I would’ve killed for something like this as a kid, Smurfs branding or not. Perhaps as a result of spending my formative years in a crowded house with few sacred spaces, the idea of my own clubhouse was riotously appealing.
Standing almost five feet tall and looking as much like Fred Flintstone’s house as Papa Smurf’s, the playhouse was mostly made for outdoor use, where it’d no doubt stay in the backyard for way more years than were necessary, slowly evolving into a filthy sanctuary for bugs and raccoons.
Return of the Jedi Bedroom Junk!
($17.99 – $35.99)
Wow! I totally had those Return of the Jedi bedsheets and pillowcases! And the curtains, too! What I remember most about them was Jabba the Hutt’s weirdly blue skin, which even as a four-year-old struck me as off-model.
Also in the catalog were similar “bedroom pages” for Garfield, The Smurfs and more of 1983’s top brands. Whenever I looked at those pages as a kid, I’d become so envious of the imaginary children, what with their picture-perfect collections that carried one solitary theme in everything from the blankets to the tiny desks.
(Look close and you’ll spot some neat touches, too. I’m especially fond of the action figures marching toward that cactus, clearly intending to destroy the one thing in the whole bedroom that wasn’t Star Wars-themed.)
Star Wars Vehicles & Playsets!
($19.97 – $49.97)
Whether as a kid or a collector, I’ve owned everything featured here. As mentioned in one of my older catalog reviews, the thing about me and Star Wars toys is that I have absolute total recall in respect to how I got each and every one of them. Every figure, every vehicle and every playset from the vintage line is a portal to some awesome-if-trivial memory.
I told you my AT-AT story on the most recent Purple Stuff Podcast, but everything shown here sparks something in my brain. Take the Millennium Falcon, for example. One of my cousins gave it to me in 1986, as a hand-me-down. It was missing a few minor pieces, but it was still the Millennium Fucking Falcon.
He was around 8 years older than me, so by that point, whatever toys had he left were more just “things in his room” than “things to actually play with.” When he gave me the Falcon, he also promised to give me one additional action figure each time I came over. That promise meant the world to me. Even by 1986, Star Wars toys were things of the past, and he was my literal last hope in getting any “new” ones.
The next time I went over, I danced around the subject and made 50 subtle reminders. He never took the bait. To this day, I don’t know if he actually forgot, or if he just realized that a cousin he saw 2x a year wasn’t worth losing childhood trophies over.
AD&D Fortress of Fangs Playset!
The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line was never on my radar as a kid. I wasn’t even consciously aware of its existence until my “collector years.” Man, I really missed out! That line was stuffed with what I still consider some of the best “monster” figures in action figure history. Loving AD&D is not at all a prerequisite in loving this toy line.
For me, the line’s pièce de résistance was the Fortress of Fangs playset. I was already crazy about that thing when I gushed about it on Facebook a while ago, but then someone mentioned how well it would work as a home for the Masters of the Universe Snake Men figures. Holy shit, would it ever! NEED.
I’ve been asked by a few readers to include more “girls’ toys” in these catalog reviews. For the record, the exclusion is not deliberate. I usually just stick with what I know. One sad byproduct of growing up when I did was the very thick line between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys,” and how crossing that line was so often considered wrong.
I’m super glad that people are fighting against that kind of shit today. There’s no reason to give children lifelong complexes over something as stupid as playthings.
This was especially annoying with a line like Care Bears, which was so obviously “genderless” even within those dumb confines. Tell that to the kids at school, though.
The truth is, I was enamored with several “girly” lines, albeit from afar. I remember Sweet Secrets as being one of the more dramatic kicks to the balls, because man did those toys look like fun.
And yeah, I would’ve went in for a few Care Bears, too. Remember that one that was a lion instead of a bear? I don’t know his name, but I wanted the fuck out of him.
Glamour Gals Ocean Queen!
See, here’s another one. I know nothing about the Glamour Gals collection, other than that it basically consisted of half-sized Barbie dolls. Even so, I would’ve LOVED this Ocean Queen playset. A cruiseship for Hordak and Cobra Commander? Hell yes!
Masters of the Universe Toys!
($9.19 – $27.97)
I’ve gone into great detail about most of these Masters of the Universe toys before, but yes, I had everything in that spread. Of particular interest is the original Skeletor figure, which is one of the earliest Christmas presents I can remember getting.
When I received him — as an early Christmas Eve present meant to keep me quiet while everyone cooked — I was actually still young enough to have a crib in my room. I wasn’t sleeping in it by that point, but it was there. I know this for a fact, because there’s a photo of me in an old family album, standing in front of that crib while chewing Skeletor’s fingers off. Christmas comes in so many forms!
Knight Rider Power Cycle!
Oof, I had a couple of Big Wheels and Power Cycles as a kid, but none were nearly this cool. I couldn’t have been an active Knight Rider fan at that age, but it didn’t matter: Every kid knew that car, and every kid understood that that car was cool.
In Power Cycle form, it was arguably even cooler. I would’ve felt like such hot shit sitting in that thing. Admittedly, I was perhaps a smidge too young for it at the time, as its gimmick — a handbrake that made the bike spin around — would’ve been beyond my feeble four-year-old strength. Eh, so what? Making the kid across the street jealous was all I was really after.
Did you have any of this stuff? Share your own memories in the comments!