This popped up on Twitter the other day. Behold one of the biggest pains-in-the-ass of my childhood.
As you can see from my response, we called these “hitchhikers” on my native Long Island. A lot of people from the northeast chimed in that they likewise remember the appellation.
People elsewhere know them as “travelers,” “stickers,” “bindies” and (drum roll please) “Satan’s Spurs.” That last one is truly inspired.
Welp. I guess I’m “old as shit.” Cap guns weren’t even really an 1980’s toy, as far as I remember. They’re something that I mostly associate with the tail end of the 1970’s. Oh, we definitely played with toy guns in the 80’s — every kid had a rifle to grab in case a game of “army” broke out. But we didn’t bother with caps by that age. (And Wikipedia tells me that the toy’s popularity declined along with the popularity of cowboy TV shows in the 1970’s.)
There also seems to be some confusion out there about whether cap guns are legal. They’re fine — just so long as they’re manufactured with an orange ring at the end of the barrel, so that authorities can tell that it isn’t a real gun. (That law was passed in 1988, and it seems like a good idea.)
Cap guns aggravated the hell out of adults. (The only more pernicious gift for a child was a musical instrument.) For you millennials who are unfamiliar with the toys, there’s a breakdown of how they work at this theatrical weapons site. (But it does make the toys sound a hell of a lot more dangerous than I remember them. Yikes.) The caps contain an explosive mixture called “fulminate;” we kids thought it was actually gunpowder. (And we wondered whether it was possible to make a cannon if you carefully dissected and emptied a million caps. None of us ever got around to so time-consuming a project, despite its allure.)
My older brother had a replica antique cap pistol; I thought that was pretty neat. I’m pretty sure it is the one at bottom right in this picture.
It looks like the kind of thing that you could only buy at a Disneyland or Disneyworld gift shop? Come to think of it … there were a few items in our house growing up that inexplicably were Disney theme park stuff. (That’s where that totally awesome Randotti Skull came from.) I’m starting to think maybe my parents took my siblings to Disneyworld without me. Maybe it was that one week they sent me upstate to my aunt’s house.
Photo credit: By Hmaag – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=76166977
God, I loved these movies back in the day. It’s silly, but they were one of the things that made me want to become a news reporter when I was a kid. I actually saw the second movie first, in the theater — and then found the first movie on VHS at my local mom-and-pop video store.
I’ve heard good things about the reboot with Jon Hamm, though I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve also never read the original novels by Gregory McDonald, and I feel like I ought to remedy that.
I found a couple of videos online the depict The Roosevelt Island Tramway around 1980. (The picture below of the tram arriving in Manhattan dates from 2006, as I couldn’t find any vintage public domain photos.)
The first video I am linking to here was posted by Richard Cortell; he completed it as a long ago student project for The New York Institute of Technology. Parts of the video are quite dark, but it’s still a terrific glimpse in New York City’s past.
The second video is also Cortell’s; this one is dated 1980. It focuses more on life on Roosevelt Island — the tram is seen only at the beginning and end.
I’ve never been on the tram — or to Roosevelt Island. But just seeing it brings back memories of my early childhood. My Dad used to occasionally take me on trips to New York City, and I remember seeing it depart from 60th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan. I was pretty damned awed by it.
But I didn’t ask to ride on it. My Dad took me to all sorts of places in NYC that were fun for a kid, but the sight of that hanging tram car made me pretty apprehensive. Hell, I’m not sure I’d want to ride it as an adult. (There was a malfunction in 2006 that left 80 people trapped up there for around 90 minutes.)
I didn’t know it at the time, but the tram would have actually been relatively new at the time that I saw it (and at about the same time Cortell filmed his videos). It opened in July of 1976.
Postscript — there is actually a shot of the tram in that old “Million Dollar Movie” intro that everyone loves. It’s right at the start, five seconds in.
Photo credit: Kris Arnold from New York, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
I am linking again here to the Youtube channel for Hugo Faces, for a nifty Christmas greeting from CBS in 1982.
Hey, look! It’s Ed Koch!
I am linking here to the Youtube channel Hugo Faces, which is a treasure trove of 1980’s local television clips for Long Island and elsewhere. That Carvel ad is as priceless as it is cheesy.
These aired on WCBS.
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy this 1984 holiday commercial from Carvel Ice Cream. (I am linking here to the Youtube channel for The Museum of Classic Chicago Television.)
This is from 1988 — it was my speech when I ran for president of the International Student Organization at Longwood High School.
I even had buttons made up. I was quite the extrovert back in those days (and a nerd too, in case you hadn’t noticed). But I wasn’t exactly Marcus Antonius, even if I wanted to be.
Note the use of a dot matrix printer! 😀
My 6th grade classmates and I would have gone to Adventureland even before this ad was made. (I am linking here to Jay Lifton’s Youtube channel; he writes that this ad aired around 1987 … my friends and I went there after graduating from grade school into middle school.)
I’ll never forget the fun we had. I rode The Gravitron! But those giant rotating swings — the kind you can find at just about any carnival — were my favorite.
Adventureland is still around. It hit its 60th birthday this year.
Tragically, Wikimedia informs me that there were two ride-related deaths — which really surprises me, because I remember the rides as being pretty tame stuff. Both deaths occurred within a week of each other in 2005, and the details are pretty horrifying. Wow.
“Renaldo!” I wrote this story in the 7th or 8th grade. It was my attempt at an organized crime thriller.
The story has everything!! Ziti!! Cocaine!! A main character whose name is “Scab!!” Famous cops who go by a single name — like Madonna or Prince or something!! The phrase “genius detective, pride of the police force!!” Possibly a degree of confusion about when the Great Depression occurred!! (I chose to set the story in the 1920’s, for some reason, and confusingly stated that “jobs were scarce” at the time. Hey — I’ve told you people before that I was never the smartest kid in the class.)
Anyway, enjoy (?) this antique Nolan prose. Thanks once again to Carrie Schor for passing along vintage stuff from the Longwood Central School District in New York.
Postscript: admit it — you saw the headline “7th-grade crime story” and thought this would be about me committing a crime in the 7th grade, didn’t you? But I gotta find out about a couple of statutes of limitations before I write about those.