Fisher Price Play Family Castle (1975)

Susan is a good friend of mine from college. Susan loves Full House, but that's not the point of this story.

This story begins Friday evening around 5:30 when I got a text from her:

Now please note, my response below was sent at the exact second that Susan's next text arrived:

Wait. WHAT?!

I had just been talking to my wife within the past few weeks about the fact that I'd love to find the Fisher Price Play Family Castle but eBay prices are just simply outrageous -- often pushing $150 for a complete set. I was almost afraid to ask Susan, but if the price was even remotely reasonable, the set had most of the accessories, and she didn't want it for herself, this castle was going to be mine.

I just about swallowed my tongue.

Skipping the back-and-forth that followed about the fact that only a few pieces were missing and it was in great condition, let me clarify something. Susan is part of a core group of my friends from college who, 20 years later, still tries to get together occasionally. Although our group of friends is spread out through the state, we aren't far enough apart in proximity that we couldn't hang out together a few times a year. For example, Susan and her family are only about a 90 minute drive from me and my family. Still, adulthood tends to get in the way and despite our semi-regular contact through text messages and social media, making plans to get together becomes difficult and only seems to come to fruition about once every two years.

Unless there are toys involved. That's different.

At 7am Saturday, a mere fourteen hours after Susan's first text to me on Friday night, I was backing out of my driveway with a 7-year-old co-pilot on our way to pick up a Fisher Price castle.

A ninety minute drive and a fifteen minute visit with Susan later and our mission was complete.

One hundred seventy-two miles and we were back home by 10:30. 

Of my three kids, my oldest daughter is the only one who like to get up early and go "treasuring hunting" like me. What a great time we had singing along to Christmas songs on the radio as we drove up and down the highway to check one more treasure off our list!

Totally worth it.

The Book of Wonders

Feeling stressed? Let my oldest daughter help you put things in perspective with her book of wonders.

She and I found this today -- a book she made a few years ago when she was five or six years old. If you think you've got a lot on your mind, just wait until you read about all of the stuff that was floating around in her mind.

You're welcome.

Vintage Family Photos: Adventure People Wilderness Patrol

At some point in 1980, my brother and I were at the home of some family friends. He played with the kid next door. I played under the pine trees with the plane from the late-70s Fisher Price Adventure People Wilderness Patrol set.

And I wore red pants.

[Image courtesy of Flickr]

Redemption: The Monkees Scratch Test

A lot of times when I come home from a sale or a flea market, I try to explain to my wife why the things I bought are absolutely amazing. My explanations are usually met with mild tolerance and general dismissal as just more "stuff" in our house.


Let me be clear about one thing. Everything in my collection of "stuff" has a story and tonight's purchases at the flea market are no exception.

For most of my adult life, I've considered building my own set of Sesame Street Fisher Price Little People. First off, the original Little People are some of my all-time favorite toys. Second, my brother and I had this set when we were kids and technically it was given to him before I was born so I know I have no dibs on our original set (still back home and still complete). So a few weeks ago, I finally resorted to the eBay market for a cheap "starter set" knowing that I could fill in the gaps over time as I hit various sales and flea markets. What I came up with was a great set of pieces for a great price and in fantastic condition (minus the tiny chip in one corner of the building).

Always visiting my favorite seller at the flea market as soon I walk through the door, I was super pleased tonight to find that he had two Little People out on his table among a pile of WWE wrestlers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I passed on Mr. Hooper because I've got three or four of those already.

But Gordon for a buck? Yes, please.

Now for my other flea market purchase...

Back in the latest of the 1980's or earliest of the 1990's, my dad invested in a new stereo system. It was one of those cabinet systems that stands about stomach-high with two equally large speakers on each side. And this stereo had a CD player.

With a means to play CDs for the first time, I took advantage of a trip to Wal-Mart and hit up an end-cap of discount CDs. It was here that for five bucks each, I purchased my first two CDs -- Black Sabbath's Paranoid and The Monkees' Pool It.

A few weeks later, my brother and I discussed this new CD technology in a conversation that probably went something like this:
TIM: "I heard that CDs are indestructible." 
MATT: "Probably not." 
TIM: "I bet if I scratched up a CD it'd still play." 
MATT: "Probably not." 
TIM: "I'm going to try it."
With that, I completely recall taking out my Pool It CD and dragging the bottom side across our home's plaster ceiling for a good five feet. Then for good measure, I threw it across the room like a Frisbee.
I dropped that disc right back in my dad's CD player...and did it play?

Probably not.

I've always regretted that decision for a few reasons:
  1. Heart and Soul is an awesome song.
  2. This CD now sells used on Amazon for as much as $30.
I've since picked up a vinyl copy of Pool It at a record sale for a buck but, much like Voltron's wheeled feet, that CD copy has always been in the back of my mind.

Until tonight.

Pool It for three bucks? Yes, please.

Flea market redemption!

Vintage Family Photos: Crayola Caddy and E.T. Colorforms

It was Christmas morning 1982 and Santa had come to visit. I can tell because Santa always put out two chairs to clearly separate the gifts that were intended for me and those intended for my brother. Clad in my Batman pajamas, I dug into some of my holiday loot.

A package of Life Savers marketed as the annual "Sweet Story Book." Apparently there is a finite amount of information on the internet as I was only able to find one small shot of that packaging (below on the left). Christmas that year tasted like wild cherry and butterscotch.

The Crayola Caddy was packed with everything from markers to water colors to rulers to stencils to (of course) crayons. All on a spinning caddy for artistic convenience.

[Image courtesy of Pinterest]

And finally, at the height of extra-terrestrial madness, there was the E.T. Colorforms set which is still in my possession today.

[Image courtesy of my basement]

Some people have called me a pack rat. Some people don't know awesome when they see it.

Vintage Family Photos: Jabba the Hutt Action Playset

In 1983, I was wearing my E.T. sweatshirt when I opened up a Jabba the Hutt Action Playset at my grandparents' Christmas.

I'm not sure what ever happened to this set as it was around for many years. Although I don't recall ever selling it, my guess is that it (much like my Secret Wars Turbo Cycle) hit the eBay market back in college. I do know that a few years ago I came across the bowl and pipe from this set in a box of my old stuff. Having no use for that random piece alone, it definitely hit eBay and probably sold to some Dorito-munching 19-year-old searching for "bowl" and "pipe."

And, for the record, I wasn't the only cousin on that side of the family with a cool E.T. sweatshirt. I was just the only one to throw fashion rules out the window and wear mine two years in a row.

Vintage Family Photos: Secret Wars & Knight Rider

In 1984, I had awesome glasses, wet hair, super cool Knight Rider pajamas, and I got a Secret Wars Turbo Cycle for Christmas.

I'm guessing those PJs came from Sears or JcPenney, but I can't find a better shot of them anywhere on the ol' internet. But the Turbo Cycle? No problem.

[Images courtesy of and]

Sadly, my original Secret Wars toys are some of the ones I parted ways with in college when I first discovered eBay. I'm sure the money I got for those toys went to a good cause like a ticket to see Counting Crows or a few cases of Rhinelander.

More of this to come. Maybe.