There are lots of books about baby boomer toys, but this fun collection is presented from the viewpoint of the kids who played with the toys and includes lots of personal memories and photographs. Sure, there are many interesting facts and histories about well-known toys and their creators. Classic toys and games that are still made today like Tonka trucks, Easy-Bake Oven, G.I. Joe, Matchbox and Hot Wheels, Twister and Mousetrap are featured in loving color photographs and vintage ads. Their stories are well-known, too. For example, writer and artist Johnny Gruelle patented his rag doll design in 1915, the same year his daughter Marcella died after a controversial smallpox vaccination. The Rageddy Ann and Andy dolls and books helped Gruelle keep his memories of his daughter alive.
Famous fads include the '50s Davy Crocket Coonskin Hats, the '60s Troll dolls, and the '70s Pet Rock. Toys always reflect the times they’re from and this book provides plenty of cultural and historical background. Only after the heady 1960s and '70s with women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, and Black Power movement would there be an anatomically correct African American baby boy doll, Mattel’s Baby Tender Love, molded in life-like vinyl skin called Dublon.
Other less well-known toys are long gone from the toy store shelves but live on in the very personal memories (and actual childhood photographs!) featured throughout the book. Home health training specialist Lisa Crawford (b 1963) appropriately recalls the insanely dangerous metal-tipped lawn Jarts. I was delighted to find Make editor and fellow WINK contributor Gareth Branwyn’s (b 1958) recollection of using his own Johnny Horizon Environmental Test Kit to get an A+ on a school project (and to keep tabs on any hometown polluters!). Read the rest
An exploitation documentary that looks at Los Angeles youth culture in the 1960s. Without mobile phones they had to amuse themselves with sex, drugs, music, surfing, and motorcycles.
From the YouTube description:
Greasers, Mods, Beehived Go-Go girls, and pre-Hippie "Mod Generation" run wild in MONDO MOD, a lunatic look at the Hollywood Youth Scene of 1966 that's so hilariously dated it's almost breathtaking! From discotheques to dirt bikes, political protests to pot parties, MONDO MOD takes you to the Neon Neverland of the Sunset Strip, peers into an underground drug den, and even rides with an outlaw motorcycle gang!. Before there was Woodstock there was MONDO MOD, complete with mini-skirts, surfer dudes, narration by L.A. deejay Humble Harve, photography by Laszlo Kovacs (Easy Rider) and Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters Of The Third Kind) and non-hit title tune "It's a Mod Mod World!"
Avant Garde magazine ran for 16 issues from January 1968 to July 1971. It had a small print run, but is treasured today for its gorgeous design by art director Herb Lubalin. It was edited by photo-journalist Ralph Ginzburg, who was indicted by U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the 1960s for distributing obscene literature through the mails. This website has scans of most of the issues. I would love to have the dead tree version of the complete run.
Avant Garde is a seminal, but somewhat overlooked by a wider public, magazine, which broke taboos, rattled some nerves and made a few enemies. The magazine was the brainchild of Ralph Ginzburg, an eager and zealous publisher, even if the path that led to Avant Garde wasn’t so straightforward. It represents the third major collaboration between Ralph Ginzburg and Herb Lubalin, the magazine’s talented art director. The two previous magazines came to unexpected demise due to their candor and provocativeness, that landed them into legal trouble.
The Family Acid is my favorite Instagram feed. It's a stream of photographer/author/explorer Roger Steffens's vintage snapshots of his psychedelic dynamic, inspiring, and psychedelic life in the counterculture since the early 1960s. Roger's children Kate and Devon are the editors and curators of their dad's hundreds of thousands of slides and negatives.
Kate has just issued these fantastic enamel pins for just $10/each. The "LSD did this to me" design is based on her dad's original pin from 1960s. As Boing Boing patron saint Timothy Leary once said, "You have to go out of your mind to use your head!"
One of my favorite toys as a kid was Creepy Crawlers. Introduced in 1964 by Mattel, it was a kit that let you make rubber insects, spiders, snakes, lizards etc. It came with a set of metal molds, squeeze bottles of liquid plastic called Plastigoop, and an electrically-powered, 390 degrees Fahrenheit open-face hot plate called the Thingmaker to cure the Plastigoop. It's the kind of toy that would be deemed to dangerous today because of the high heat and shocking hazard (the kit came with a mold cooling tray that you filled with water and placed next to the Thingmaker).
I may have gotten a couple of first-degree burns using Creepy Crawlers, but I never regretted it. It would occupy my friends and me for hours at a time. My kids would have loved the Thingmaker as much as I did.
The Fright Factory was an especially cool Thingmaker toy. It was a kit that let you make macabre prosthetics: scars, long fingernails, a third eye, a diseased tongue, fangs, etc.
Nightflight's Bryan Thomas has a good article about the history of the Thingmaker line of toys, with lots of images. And Bob Knetzger wrote a terrific article about Mattel's line of DIY Toys for MAKE.
LIFE photographer Allan Grant took 850 photos documenting Hanna-Barbera studios in 1960. Read the rest
When famed 1960s LSD cook and live soundman Owsley "Bear" Stanley died in 2011, he left behind 1,000 reels of high-quality concert recordings of The Grateful Dead, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and many more. The Owsley Stanley Foundation has launched an Indiegogo campaign to save those deteriorating tapes. Read the rest
The New York State Department of Health is selecting companies that may be given license to grow weed on farmland in Bethel, New York adjacent to the site of the legendary Woodstock Music Festival of 1969. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Read the rest
Mars Attacks! was a lurid, horrifcally gory series of Topps bubble gum cards produced in the 1960s. Makeup artist Marla Malone created this wonderful face painting tribute to the genius of artist Norm Saunders, who painted the Topps Cards. Watch the video below.
Read the rest
Dirt Road To Psychedelia is a documentary about the underground culture and music scene in Austin, Texas during the 1960s. Above is the trailer.
"With a folk-singing Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, peyote, LSD and the first psychedelic music venue in Texas, Austin was a fertile ground for the emerging counterculture of the 1960s," says director Scott Conn.
If you're lucky enough to be in Waxahachie, Texas this Sunday (3/23), check it out live at the wunderkammer that is the Webb Gallery as part of their "Big Hair & Sparkly Pants" Texas-themed group art show. You can also buy the DVD on Amazon. Read the rest
The Groupies is a remarkable record. The 1969 LP features nothing but interviews with "super groupies" who discuss the culture of sleeping around the '60s rock n’ roll scene. It was made by, and featured, an 18-year-old version of the future Dr Cleo Odzer who shows her early interest in both sex and culture – both of which she’d study in her career as an anthropologist.
LIFE.com has a beautiful gallery of Michael Rougier photographs from Japan in 1964: runaways, rock and rollers, biker gangs, "pill kids" and other Japanese teens. LIFE Magazine published some of these in September, 1964, but some have never before been published.
Above, the original caption from 1964: "Kako, languid from sleeping pills she takes, is lost in a world of her own in a jazz shop in Tokyo." Read the rest
Image Link. Boing Boing reader MewDeep, who has an awesome Flickr stream of '60s-'70s ad scans, points to this YouTube clip of a notable television commercial from 1968: it's a promo for the Peace Corps, set to "Age of Aquarius." As MewDeep excerpts here, the ad is mentioned in The Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism, by Thomas Frank. Read the rest