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This Day in My History


George Washington's
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63rd:   A man ought not to value himself of his achievements or rare qualities of wit, much less of his riches, virtue or kindred.


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2001:
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MARVEL THE MUSTANG

26 October 2004

Marvel.gif (10051 bytes)We always knew we were headed into Christmas season when the first ad for "Marvel the Mustang" appeared on the television screen, with its catchy jingle that still remains in the memory banks all these years later.

Marvel the Mustang
He's almost for real
Just saddle him up
With spurs on your heel
No winding, no battery....

...at which point Jeri would call out, What Horse DO!!! ...

Marvel the Mustang
We love you!

Marvel the Mustang lead the Christmas toy ads for many years running.

I have great guilt about Marvel the Mustang.   I don't remember when it first appeared in television ads, but Jeri wanted one.  Badly.

However, Marvel the Mustang wasn't cheap, for a family on a tight budget, and we just couldn't afford it.  Yet, every year for many years, Jeri would ride around the house, pretending to be riding Marvel the Mustang and each year we'd have to try to dampen her enthusiasm so she wouldn't be disappointed on Christmas morning, because we knew there was never going to be a Marvel the Mustang under the tree.

It's funny how I remember more the things we didn't get the kids than the things we did.  I remember struggling each year between the temptation to get the kids the high-ticket high-tech toy that all the advertisers wereflooding the airwaves with--the high-ticket, high-tech toy that wouldn't last through Christmas day--and the sensible purchase of more durable toys whose interest would last throughout the year.  So the kids rarely got battery operated doo-dads, but they had lots of toys to encourage creative play (even if I did step on more than my share of Leggos over the years!).

Of course, then I tended to over-compensate.   We wouldn't buy Rockem Sockem robots or Mr. Magnet Man, which would either break or lose their appeal within days, but I'd go overboard on buying other toys to encourage creative play.  For months after Christmas, Walt and I would still be arguing over how much I spent on the kids at Christmas.  But I didn't buy the high ticket items!   LOL.

For a couple of years, Ned was so gun-happy that the only thing he wanted was a cowboy gun.  I was determined I was going to raise a houseful of pacifists, a stance that was strengthened after my sister was shot and killed.  Kids who came to our house had to check their firearms at the door before they could come in to play.

Whenever Ned went to any friend's house, the only thing he wanted to do was to play with their guns.  He made guns out of everything--his fingers, Leggo blocks, paper, tinker toys, slices of bread.   Everything was made into a gun.

Finally one year I decided that what I was doing was making toy guns an attractive nuisance.  Instead of training Ned that guns were not good things, I was making them the brass ring just out of reach.  I decided that we should relent and get him a set of cowboy pistols for Christmas.

It was also a year when Ned was beginning to recognize his super powers.  It would be a year or so before he became Superman, but this year he had discovered magic and was convinced that with the right equipment, he would become a teeny Houdini.

In addition to the cowboy pistols, I also put together a magic kit for Ned.  I think there was a hat and a magic wand (a dowel painted black with glitter glued to the tip of it), and some other "magic things." 

He opened the guns first and was amazed that the forbidden fruit was sitting there right in his lap.  But then he opened the magic kit and he completely forgot the guns.  In fact, I don't remember his ever really playing with the guns at all.  (Though he was always disappointed that Paul didn't disappear when he waved his "magic" wand.)

It's really difficult for parents when the holidays roll around (especially when ads for Christmas toys start appearing after the 4th of July). 

I can remember when I was growing up and the thing I wanted most of all was a big fancy expensive doll.  The kind with the long hair and the gorgeous clothes.  The kind that cost a fortune. 

TinyTears.jpg (16851 bytes)Santa always brought me a doll at Christmas time, but it was usually a baby doll.  More on the order of the Tiny Tears doll (pictured at left), who cried real tears, or Betsy Wetsy, who came with a bottle and who wet her diaper whenever you gave her a bottle of water to drink.

I don't know if I longed for a glamour doll for many years or only for one year.  In the wisdom of my adult years, I know that if I had received such a doll, it would probably have been a mess within days.  I probably would have combed the curls out of the hair and spilled something on the expensive clothes.  At the very least, it would have been impractical to actually "play" with, more the sort of doll you'd sit on a shelf somewhere to admire.

MaryHeartline.jpg (14659 bytes)I did get a doll with hair that year.  I still remember it vividly.   It was a "Mary Heartline" doll.  Mary Heartline was a character on the television show, "Super Circus" (probably the cutie in the short skirt that they hired to appeal to the Dads who watched the program with their kids!)

Mary Heartline was a nice doll, as dolls go, but she wasn't the glamorous, satin and lace-clad, bouffant hairstyle doll I'd been longing for.  I'm sure that the glamour dolls were too expensive and Mary Heartline was a compromise (though I discovered when looking for the above photo that if I'd saved my doll, she would be worth $375 today!).

That was the Christmas that I decided that I would listen to what my kids wanted and I would always give them the toys they wanted for Christmas.

The naivete of children!

When I became a parent, of course, I discovered that you don't do that.  Things are too expensive or too dangerous, or too unhealthy, and you deny your own kids just as much as your own parents denied you.

Only as a parent you don't think of it as "denying."  You think of it as being realistic and knowing better than the kids what they will and what they won't (and should and shouldn't) play with.

I can remember going to the circus and being upset that my father wouldn't buy me some of the toys that they sold whenever they came around.  I wanted a bird on a stick that you swung around your head, for example, allowing the feathers to flutter.  "Too expensive," Daddy said.   "You don't need that."

When I took my kids to the circus, I'd buy them those special treats, I told myself as a child.  Well, not only couldn't we afford to take the kids to the circus most years, but the one year we did take them and I looked at the quality of the junk they were selling, and the ridiculous cost, my answer to the kids who wanted the toys they sold whenever vendors came around was the same that my father had given me.  "Too expensive.  You don't need that."

We're well into the Holiday Selling Season at the moment, and I know that parents all over the country are agonizing over whether or not to buy this year's "Marvel the Mustang."  All this many years later, I think I'm sorry we never bought that for Jeri.  But it would have set a precedent, so it's probably good I didn't.

I wonder if she's too big to appreciate one now.....


So we've read that under the pro-life president, the rate of abortions has actually risen in this country and now we discover that under the "I will keep this country safe" president, hundreds of tons of dangerous explosives have "disappeared" from Iraq.  Read Joan's entry on this, if you haven't already heard the story.

Remind me again--why does this guy deserve to be president???

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