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Archive for October, 2008

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Halloween – Trick or Treat

Posted by Big Boo on October 31st, 2008

First of all, I couldn’t resist using a picture of my namesake from the Mario games as an image to accompany this post.  I give you Big Boo!

Anyway, I’ve nothing to go on here except for my memory, but I reckon it was sometime during the 1980’s when the concept of Trick or Treat at Halloween (or more correctly Hallowe’en) made it’s way over to the UK.  Halloween was never really celebrated much in old blighty before then, other than perhaps having a scary movie on TV and parents telling children scary stories about witches and monsters being out at night.

I certainly never went Trick or Treating as a child and I don’t remember any other kids knocking on the front door either during my younger years.  However, I do also remember this changing one year when I must have been around ten.  At school we had been allowed to make Halloween costumes out of black plastic bin liners, and I remember desperately wanting to go out and knock on doors for sweets.  My parents wouldn’t let me though, and I remember my Dad telling me to go out into the back garden and wave my magic wand a bit to frighten off any ghosts or ghouls that might be about.  I did this, but soon gave up when the blackness of the garden and the strange sounds of night sent be back indoors with a tingle down my spine (what a coward!).

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The Amazing Adventures of Morph

Posted by Big Boo on October 30th, 2008

Aardman Animations may be better known now for Wallace and Gromit, but back in the 1980’s their most famous work was the little orangey brown plasticene man called Morph.  Morph first appeared as a little bit of light relief on childhood hero Tony Hart’s art show Take Hart, but before long was graced with his own short show, naratted by and starring Mr. Hart.

Morph lived in a little wooden box on Tony’s desk, which had a hook fastener on the front that Tony could lock shut when Morph started misbehaving, which happened quite frequently.  Morph was a bit full of himself you see, and it got him into trouble at times.

The Amazing Adventures of Morph started in 1980 and the series introduced us to Morph’s extended family, each of whom seem to speak in a similar way to Morph, that being a series of strange squeaky sounds.  The characters were beautifully animated however, and whilst you might not have been able to understand a word they were saying (thankfully Tony translated most of what they said) but you could get the general idea from the way they moved their arms about, or the expressions on their faces.

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Kola Kubes

Posted by Big Boo on October 29th, 2008

Good old Cola Cubes, or Kola Kubes if you wanted to be completely correct!  These surely are kings amongst boiled sweets.  Chunks of cola flavoured boiled sweet that have been covered in an outer sugary layer for good measure, they last ages if you suck them, and taste delicious, although couldn’t really be considered that great for your teeth I suppose.

Kola Kubes were one of those sweets that were generally bought from jars stacked on shelves behind the counter in your local sweetie shop.  Normally sold by the quarter pound (EU rules on metric had yet to be introduced in the 1980’s, which was good as asking for 113.398 grams of Kola Kubes sounds a bit stupid) you simply asked the shop assistant for the sweet of your choice and they would tip them out of the jar into some scales, then tip the sweets into a little white paper bag.

There was one problem with Kola Kubes though.  They were just sooooo tasty that one was never enough.  Once you had finished one cubic chunk of sweetie heaven another invariably popped its way into your mouth.  Why was this a problem?  Well, after 4 or 5 sweets the top of your mouth could easily become quite sore thanks to a combination of the acidic nature of the sweets, and the fact the edges of the cubes could become quite sharp once you had sucked the sugary layer off.  The corners could also inflict nasty damage to your upper palette if you sucked them too hard!

The sweets were not only available in cola flavoured varieties.  I have fond memories of a pineapple variety which were just as nice.  You may not realise however that there were actually two different types of Kola Kube.  The cheaper type was just solid boiled sweet throughout, but the original Kola Kube manufactured by Pascalls (now part of Trebor Basset) had a chewy centre in the middle which was absolutely brilliant at sticking little bits of boiled sweet to your teeth in many hard to reach places.  You can relive this joy by visiting A Quarter Of, where you can get an entire 3kg jar of these tasty sweets!

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Digital Watches

Posted by Big Boo on October 28th, 2008

The image accompanying this post gave me quite a surprise, as believe it or not, it’s a modern watch available to buy today!  It looks stunningly like an old watch that I had during the 1980’s, right down to the positioning of the little alarm icons and AM/PM indicator.  I guess if the design ain’t broke, why fix it?

Digital Watches were very much a fashion item of the 1980’s, but the first instances of them actually appeared in the 1970’s.  I remember my Uncle had one of these early watches which used light emitting diodes (LEDs) to display the time.  LEDs consumed so much power though that the watch display was kept black most of the time, and to see what the time was you had to press a button to make it appear in all its glowing red glory.

By the mid 1970’s Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) had replaced LEDs in watches.  LCD displays were far less battery hungry, and allowed a battery life measured in years rather than months.  I don’t pretend to understand the physics of such displays entirely, but it has something to do with polarised light filters and the alignment of liquid crystals when an electric current is applied to them.  When current is applied the crystals rotate to align in a direction at right angles to the polarised light filters, and light cannot pass through, making that area of the display appear black.  If you want a more accurate description, take a look here!

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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Mouse Trap

Posted by Big Boo on October 27th, 2008

Mouse Trap is by no means a product of the 1980’s, indeed it was first conceived in the 1960’s.  The game was based on a drawing by US cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who drew images of weird and wacky inventions which were generally built out of everyday objects and completely over engineered.  If you’ve ever seen a Roadrunner cartoon think of the kind of outlandish designs concocted by Wile E. Coyote.

The game itself would however be fairly run of the mill if it wasn’t for the plastic contraption in the middle of the board.  This weird device was meant to be a mouse trap, but rather than a piece of wood with a sprung loaded trap and a piece of cheese this mouse trap consisted of a weird obstacle course that would give the mouse plenty of time to escape!

Turning a handle attached to some cogs wound back an arm which then flicked a boot that kicked over a bucket containing a ball bearing.  The ball bearing rolled down a set of steps and then a chute where it hit a long pole with a hand on the top.  Jogging this caused a ball in a bathtub to start rolling, which then fell through a hole onto a see saw, propelling a little figure of a man into a wooden tub.  This finally caused a cage to start to descend down a pole to catch the poor unsuspecting mouse!

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Are you a Child of the 1980’s?

Posted by Big Boo on October 25th, 2008

I thought it would be interesting this week to find out how many of the readers of this site actually were Children of the 1980’s.  I’m suspecting quite a few will be, but I’d love to know how many of you are older or weren’t even around during this greatest of all the decades – well, I think so anyway.

Whether you feel the same or not, please leave a comment on this post to share with us all about your thoughts and memories about the 1980s.  It’s really easy, just click the comments link at the bottom of this post and fill in the boxes…

Are you a Child of the 1980's?
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Plastic Bread Tags

Posted by Big Boo on October 24th, 2008

In my post on Pencil Toppers earlier this week I mentioned how they were quite a collectable item, which reminded me of something that I used to collect for a short time as a child, before I realised that there wasn’t a great deal of variation in the items I was collecting.  The items in question, dear reader, were Plastic Bread Tags.

Plastic Bread Tags were those little square pieces of plastic that used to be put on loaves of bread to keep the packet closed.  These days bread companies tend to use those annoying little pieces of bent over sticky tape, which are sometimes awkward to open initially, and tend to lose their stickiness after being opened and closed a few times.  The Plastic Bread Tag was infinitely superior.  Simply wind the top of the bag round to narrow it enough so that the hole in the tag could fit around it, and your bread was kept nice and fresh and instantly obtainable.

I remember starting to collect these for a while when I was little, but ultimately got fed up after collecting about 30 or so when I realised Mum always bought the same brand of bread on the same day, so there was little variation in the tags I collected.  The colour of the tag often used to indicate the day on which the bread was baked, and I remember Mum having a little list that she kept in her purse showing which colour equated to which day.

This may seem a strange thing to collect, but I’m not the only one to have done it.  Somebody with far more staying power than be, going by the name of Transactoid, has collected over 600 of the things, and has documented his or her Bread Tag collection on the Internet with absurd accuracy!  The picture accompanying this post was pinched off Transactoid’s web page (hope you don’t mind, mate) and there’s stacks more “fascinating” facts about the design of bread tags on there too.  Thanks also to Peter Marquis-Kyle for publishing the link on his website in the first place!

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Terry’s Pyramint

Posted by Big Boo on October 23rd, 2008

Here’s a bit of an obscure UK sweet that I bet most of you will have forgotten about.  The Terry’s Pyramint.  It was about the time that sweet manufacturers suddenly realised how popular Cadbury’s Creme Egg had become, and a plethora of cream/fondant or toffee filled egg products came on the market, many of which are still popular in the Easter period today.

Terry’s, better known for the gorgeous Chocolate Orange, noticed this too, but figured why limit your sales to Easter by making the sweet egg shaped?  They came up with the Pyramint, a product where surely the name must have been devised more the sweet itself.  The Pyramint was a plain chocolate pyramid shape filled with a really tasty mint fondant filling.  It came in a little pyramid shaped cardboard box and I remember them being extremely nice.

The Pyramint was very successful on launch but sadly didn’t stay on shop shelves for very long and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.  As I recall the Pyramint wasn’t the cheapest of sweets and for the money you got something that didn’t last long enough and was actually quite tricky to eat due to its unusual shape.  A real shame, and a personal favourite that I would love to see again.

Apologies for yet another of my rather lame drawings, but photo evidence of this delicious morsel seems pretty hard to come by…

…Update 26/10/08!  Thanks to Emma Burns who proves if you look hard enough you’ll find what you want.  She’s kindly pointed me at the rather excellent tellyAds site, which happens to have a video of a Terry’s Pyramint advert.  I’d forgotten about this ad, and unless I’m mistaken it features the voice talents of both Leslie Phillips and Kenneth Williams!