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Featured Article

NLogan's Retro Christmas

By: NLogan



Merry Christmas.

Lovely, glorious, beautiful Christmas... around which the entire kid year revolved. - A Christmas Story

What does Christmas mean to me? Well for starters the remembrance of the birth of the Lord, time for family, a season of giving, and tradition.

1977



That is me and my twin brother many ghosts of Christmas past ago. My first Christmas. I had received a wooden rocking horse with my name on the side. I still have it to this day.



It wasn't long before I caught on to the gift giving spirit. Having discovered the bows on the presents and that sticking them to my head was fun, I wanted to share them with my brother. My first gift of Christmas, as I stuck one to his head.



Christmas has always been about family. Being a twin I always had someone to share it with. My family still regularly gets together during the holidays to laugh and enjoy each others' company. Many a story is told with conflicting versions being voiced over each other as we corrected how it really was and how it really happened. Time may fade or embellish memory but the feeling remains. Here are a few of those stories.

1979



1979 was the year of the super hero for me and my brother with our first introduction to the world of comic heroes. We regularly watched the Incredible Hulk live-action T.V. show where Banner traveled the road helping others and trying to maintain the terrible secret that he is the Incredible Hulk. As you can see by our pajamas we were also big fans of Batman and Spider-Man. Also clearly visible is my mother's ever present Poinsettia that adorned our house each Christmas. With its red leaves to remind us of the Savior's sacrifice for us and the green leaves to remind us of the promise of everlasting life. 

That year we went to see Santa Claus to sit on his lap and tell him our secret wishes for presents. Instead of the standard candy cane fare parting gift that usually accompanies such an occasion, this Santa had super hero coloring books!



Years later I tracked them down again and gifted them to my twin among his presents that year. I had the Incredible Hulk versus a nefarious numbers alien villain wanting to take all the numbers from Earth.



My brother received Batman in the big top versus a circus villain.



1980

A word on tradition. One of my family's traditions is to receive a present on Christmas Eve which is usually pajamas that we would then wear to bed so we would have new pajamas to wear Christmas morning instead of being photographed in the same shabby pjs from previous years.



That year we had striped Christmas pajamas with matching nightcaps and robes that looked as if we had stepped right out of A Visit From St. Nicholas. 'Twas the morning of Christmas, my brother and I in our caps. Had just taken a picture with sock monkeys and candy cane tubes. I later recycled that Christmas robe for our School Christmas Pageant for the part of the humble shepherd watching over my sheep at night.




Pictured at the very base of the tree nestled among the presents is my grandma's nativity scene. It was from around the 1960s purchased at Sears made in Italy with ceramic figures, a wooden stable and manger with moss on the roof. I played with it endlessly around Christmas time. So much so that grandma gave it to me and replaced it with a fancier white porcelain ceramic one. After her passing it was as much a reminder to me of my grandmother's love as of the birth of the Savior as we set it up each year.
 


This is me and my brother playing nativity at my grandma's house. With towels, bath robes, and a paper beard.



My brother was a wise man giving a gift of gold that was actually a Christmas door hanger with bells. Not to be outdone I was a shepherd that had a gold necklace to give to the Christ child that is actually a cereal prize box secret message decoder that was gold in color so was good enough. If I remember right the decoder had two windows with various letters and numbers and a white button clicker at the bottom to randomize your code. The secret message should have been that the Magi did not visit Jesus in the manger but later at his house as a young child and that the shepherds did not give gifts, just witnessed Him.



1981

My parents had divorced and we lived with my mom in an apartment. Since we didn't have a fireplace or mantle we hung our stockings with care from the hutch. Some rather generic pajamas rounded out with some Mickey and Pluto slippers completed the morning. Those book thingies in the background for the uniformed are actually a set of Funk and Wagnalls new world encyclopedias. It was the Google and Wikipedia of my day. If you wanted to learn about a random subject or write a school paper without the internet you had to actually open a book to look up facts.



My brother and I are also holding plush Shirt Tales characters. I have Tyg the Tiger and he has the Digger Mole. I have no memory of the dog so don't ask. My best guess is that it was my mom's stuffed animal that she got in her stocking not wanting to be left out.



Shirt Tales were created by Hallmark as greeting card characters that branched out to Christmas ornaments and eventually a Saturday morning cartoon show.



1982

That year was the year of the full body suit footie pajamas.



My brother had Terrytoons character Deputy Dawg.



I had Terry Toons character Mighty Mouse. "Here I come to save the day!"


Look again at the picture of us in the footie pajamas. The look on my brother's face clearly demonstrates the feeling of most children forced to take pictures before opening presents. Get on with the presents already!



Here we are demonstrating proper technique for guessing a gift. The delicate shake. The quizzical look. What's in the box? After going through piles of Christmas photos I was dismayed that I had very few that actually showed the gifts I had received. I have lots of pictures of wrapped boxes. Another family tradition was that gifts from Santa were always in Santa wrapping paper. Going back to my parents' divorce, one of the results was what my brother and I termed the Christmas Wars as it came to be known. How do loving parents show love for twin little boys who are going through difficult times? Showers of presents. We were down right spoiled rotten as each parent attempted to outdo and one up the other in the show of affection through the glut of worldly gifts.

My mom managed to wrangle up nearly every HE-MAN and the Masters of the Universe figures available. Some I still have or have since replaced.





My dad took to Thundercats and GI*JOES. Mom bought comic books and dad bought first an Atari and later a Nintendo.



My Dad got us skateboards. My mom went for bicycles. My dad covered Transformers. My mom got nearly every Star Wars figure ever made by waiting in predawn hour lines at Toy 'R' Us and Lionel Playworlds, most of which I still have augmented by a contest win for characters long since lost.

.

The Christmas Wars continued. My mom went with a Sony Walkman cassette player. My dad went with a boom box and electric piano. Board games, stuffed animals from mom, toy trucks, books, and all manner of wonderful toys were found waiting for us on Christmas morning. If there was a toy line in the 1980s, very likely I had some or nearly all of it. Toys became very important to us. Eventually my parents simmered towards each other and began calling each other to not double up on the gifts. Or as I like to put it, gather intel for the Christmas Wars on the opponent's strengths and weaknesses. I am happy to report that with the coming of grandchildren we now all get together for the holidays amiably and that my parents are now good friends again. My dad never recovered from the Christmas Wars and spoils my sons rotten.

Back then one side affect of the divorce was that Dad moved out of the house and lived in an unsavory neighborhood, consequently we spent a lot of time at my grandma's house during his weekends which endeared her to us even more. Mom left the house and eventually my dad moved back in. My mom bounced us around from apartment to apartment and school to school for most of my childhood. We were always the new kids at school and since she worked we were latch key kids that had to stay inside until she got home. My brother and I had each other and our toys.



Very early on we began to suspect that Santa was not real. Why would Santa bring us gifts and stockings to both of our parents houses? We found Christmas presents in my mom's closet one year that gave us the evidence that we were right. But...

Let's face it. Most of us were scoffers. Moments before zero hour, it did not pay to take chances.- The Christmas Story

We played it cool just in case. Eventually though, after repeatedly snooping and finding the presents, we devised ways to figure out what was in them. Our early attempts were amateurish. We tore the corners off the wrapping to try and guess but the evidence of our deviousness was plain to see. The presents were hidden better and we became more determined. Using chairs and on the spot made of whatever was at hand scaffolding we searched the high places. We found new techniques, such as poking a pin hole on one side of the wrapping, shining a flashlight through the hole and out a hole on the far side to a mirror that reflected the image on the box. We eventually perfected our shenanigans by finding the wrapping paper, unwrapping the presents then re-wrapping them in the same paper. Mom eventually had to hide the gifts in the trunk of her car. Eventually she gave up the entire charade by simply informing us that Santa was not ready yet and stayed locked up wrapping presents in her room on Christmas morning. Some years we didn't get to open presents until nearly noon.

My 9 year old is in the know about Santa this year. He wanted a really expensive gift that I can't afford right now. I didn't want him to be disappointed so I told him it probably wasn't going to happen. He immediately replies with,"No problem dad, I got it covered. I'll just ask Santa." My heart dropped into my stomach. I debated using the old, "You're lucky to have gotten anything at all with how you've been all year" that was used on me as a kid (which was ironic since I was spoiled rotten), but he is pretty good and not a trouble maker at all. I clued him in about why we give gifts about the Heavenly Father's gift of His Son, the Son's sacrifice as a gift to mankind, and the gifts of the Magi. I told him of St. Nicholas and gift giving traditions. I started out by telling him that Santa lives in our hearts not the north pole. I told him that Santa was a way for parents to give a little extra joy to their kids. That his mom and I were Santa for him and that one day he would be Santa to his children.  I think he took it well. He then proceeded with the Xbox on down, "Was that you then that gave me that?" I told him I am waking him up and he has to help with the Santa duties and wrap his brother's gifts. He is excited to be in the secret club and get his share of Santa's milk and cookies.

1984



Pacmania was in full swing as evidenced by our pajamas. We also got more stuffed animals this time from Hardee's. Mickey's Christmas Carol, a fun adaption of the classic Dickens' Christmas tale by Disney.

Scrooge Mc Duck as Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey as Bob Cratchit, Minney as Mrs. Cratchit, Donald Duck as Fred the nephew, and Goofy as the ghost of Jacob Marley.



A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite stories and I read it nearly every year. A classic tale of introspection that happens this time of year with gift giving and love that comes with the Christmas spirit and change of heart. This is me dressed as the ghost of Jacob Marley one year.



Some of our homemade or school made Christmas decorations adorn the walls around the tree.



1984 was also the year we got Snake Mountain as can be seen by the box next to my brother's leg.



1985



What's that in my hand you ask? How about a nice football? Football, what's a football? Did you blurt out Sludge the Dinobot? Well that is in my brother's hand. I know twins can be difficult. I mean my hand. Look again.



Now it wasn't an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock.



But it was as coolly a deadly looking piece of weaponry I'd ever been given, a trusty ol' peacemaker. The Marksman .177 Caliber 20 Shot BB Repeater! I know, I know, "You'll Shoot your eye out kid!" right?



We promptly raced to try them out by setting up targets in the basement. Wait why am I squinting? Maybe I did shoot my eye out. No, I guess I thought I needed to squint to aim and was slyly trying to see if the picture was taken yet. Along with the pistols my dad gave us this cool magnet on a handle that had a switch to activate the magnetism, because, you know those dang bbs run all over.



I also got a few other things that year. Some Thundercats and knock offs by Fantasy World.







Visible on the couch is the package for my Transformer crane Grapple.



More Transformer goodness.



The constructicon giftset transformed into Devastator.



Your Decepticon Thrust jet is no match for Constructicon Devastator and um another Decepticon jet Skywarp!



1986

I was 9 years old and received the best game of my childhood! Fireball Island!



The huge board was shaped like a volcanic island paradise that adventurers had to explore to collect a hidden relic jewel from the evil idol. It is clear to see the joy in my face as I ripped away the wrapping paper to expose this awesome adventure.



1987

Visible in the background is the replacement ceramic Nativity set my grandma acquired to replace the one she gave me.



Those beauties are the loudest, coolest cap guns ever made, Coibel replica guns Tank Commander pistol an Italian design for WWII made of metal! Definitely a thing of the retro past as they were far too realistic.



That year my brother and I had an affinity for the Special Forces. The gifts mostly came from the Army Navy Surplus. WWII era pistol holsters and canteens. WWII rucksacks.



There is also Rambo style survival knife knockoff with a compass in the pommel and survival gear including matches, a saw, and fishhooks in the handle.



As more presents were opened more equipment was acquired including plastic Uzi sub-machine guns.



For the eagle eyed out there reading this and wondering what those vintage metal lunchboxes visible are well wonder no more, mystery solved by my exceptional sleuthing skills. Mystery solved for you at least. My brother and I have no memory at all of them but we do remember others we had such as Pac Man, Heathcliff, Secret of Nimh, and Dragon's Lair.




There it is. Right there behind that over sized coloring book of the first Christmas story. That is the sled that grandpa built. This was definitely not your standard flexible flyer. Homemade by grandpa in his shop, this beauty featured freshly waxed skis, rotational steering bar covered in foam, and inch and a half thick wood. The only downfall was that it was heavy as all get out being nearly 5 feet long.
 




We quickly adjourned to the local park with dad and grandpa to the precipice of "Doom Drop, Pallbearer's Peak, Dismemberment Gorge, Lookout Hill, Mount Maim and Suicide Slope" as the sledding hill could be known. Over 100 feet of heart pounding plummeting near free fall.  The sled was long enough for both my brother and I and either grandpa or dad. One fateful descent I was steering the lightning fast sled followed by my dad with my brother in the rear. My dad repeatedly bellowed into my ear, "Don't go off the jump! Don't go off the jump!". As my brother puts it I then steered right towards it, but I claim that I hit a bump which changed our course directly into the ramp of snow and then panicked by closing my eyes and letting go of the steering. The truth unfortunately is lost to time.



Nearly 280 lbs of man and machine careened off the jump as we roared skyward. There was a brief sensation of no gravity and weightlessness before the collision, and then the pain, oh the pain. My brother wisely had bailed off of the back right as we went over the jump and landed relatively uninjured with a face full of snow. Unfortunately his action caused the weight to shift on the sled so that the nose was pointed down upon impact. My dad valiantly scooped me up to try and shield me with his body spinning as we landed so I was on top as we heard the resounding crack of the sled severing in two! The aftermath was grim. We were spread out across the ground like a yard sale. A glove here, hat there, and at the far end the mangled, tangled bodies of my dad and I. After a few seconds of silence where the only sound was the pain singing in my body, my dad whispered into my ear, "Are you okay son?". I weakly nodded in the affirmative. Jubilant to be intact with no broken bones I feebly whispered, "Yes".  My dad then slowly, painfully disentangled and arose to his feet, shakily staggering towards the car. Grandpa dragged the sad remains of the sled behind us as we retreated from our sound defeat by the sledding hill. When we got home my dad urgently called from the bathroom. "Boys I need your help. Please." Neither of us moved. Happy to help my dad under nearly any circumstance we were hesitant after hearing him groaning and cursing in the bathroom for several minutes. "Please." he entreated. We peeked our heads into the doorway to see him sans pants bent over and trying to look into the mirror to dislodge the massive splinter lodged in his buttock cheek. We took one look and beat feet leaving my dad to his own fate. Several minutes later he cornered us and showed us the nearly 3 inch long half inch wide splinter he had received when the sled cracked in two. "Thanks for the help boys." he sarcastically intoned.

That was the last of the Christmases with my dad, grandpa and grandma as she passed away the following year. That was the start of our many bachelor Christmases. Here is the turkey me and my brother cooked for one such bachelor Christmas, my first time ever cooking turkey. Being for four bachelors there was no need for a large bird and hence no leftovers.



It was good, "but it was gone. All gone. No turkey. No turkey sandwiches. No turkey salad. No turkey gravy, turkey hash, turkey a la king... or gallons of turkey soup. Gone. All gone." - A Christmas Story

Well did you get what you wanted for Christmas? If not you can take out your frustrations on this sadistic Santa piñata for not fulfilling your list. Chances are if you did you would land squarely on the bad list for next year however.



Many may have noticed a disturbing trend running through this article, namely hideous sweaters, sweatshirts, and turtlenecks. In my defense what is a kid to do when gifted and asked to put it on?



I have no idea which is worse - that hideous wrapping paper or the horrendous sweater turtleneck combo. At least mine looks like it fits while my brother is wearing last year's model.



I would like to think my style got better as I got older but I am not sure. The urban camo pants set off the skull sweatshirt nicely or so I thought.



Do not fear however my sweatshirt, sweater, and turtleneck days are safely well behind me in the Retro Daze. Now I won't go near one unless it has a hoodie.

I leave you with one last Christmas memory. As the lights were dimmed, only the glowing of the lights of the tree and all were nestled snug in their beds. My brother and I would listen to our Christmas records as we lay under the tree staring up at the twinkling lights between the branches.






Many times falling asleep as we tried to stay awake to hear sleigh bells and hooves upon the roof.



I hope you enjoyed my Christmas reminiscing and wish you a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!






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NLogan Posted on Dec 20, 2014 at 04:54 PM

I just realized two pictures didn't show up that I thought I had included. One was the advertisement of the Hardees' toys for Mickey's Christmas Carol. The other was a small plastic nativity that my other grandma had that I remember from the 1960s.






Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 08:57 PM

You said it. Those items are more than the plastic and paint they are constructed of. They jump start feelings and memories that are easy to forget in our adulthood. That's why they are precious... what they represent, not what they are.

NLogan Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 08:05 PM

Thanks Oldschool and Vapor. Can you guys guess which of my parents gave us the BB guns and cap guns and army gear?

Divorce is a hard thing on kids with parents playing for the kid's affections and using the kids to get back at the former spouse. Most kids from divorced families have a higher divorce rate themselves. I have been lucky to be married to my best friend who also comes from divorced parents (hers divorced while we were dating in college)for nearly 15 years now. If anything I learned that no matter what my parents loved me. That time spent together was precious. That feelings of love can be remembered by seeing or picking up childhood objects and remembering the circumstances and feelings when they were received. Maybe that is why I am so nostalgic. Because it is not just HE-MAN, Snake-Eyes, or Han Solo it is a reminder of my parents' sacrifice and devotion to two little boys who couldn't possibly understand what was happening and needed desperately something to cling to to make them happy.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 07:34 PM

Well, now that I have some time to make a proper comment...

This was a great look into your Christmases past. It was as much a look at you and your brother growing up through Christmas as can be achieved through writing and images. I can look at these images, and read about the circumstances surrounding them, and almost sense what you were feeling. Especially with your parents divorcing... I can relate to that very well.

Thanks for sharing this awesome piece of NLogan history with us. It means a lot, this time of year especially.

OldSchool80s Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 03:31 AM

Loved seeing the pictures especially the ones with the great 80s toys. Merry Christmas!

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 02:22 AM

Good heavens man! I'm afraid I'll have to hold off a true comment until tomorrow when I actually have time to read this beast! :) Looking forward to it though. Until then...

NLogan Posted on Dec 19, 2014 at 12:08 AM

@vkimo what is really impressive is that neither of my parents could afford the presents they got me. My dad is a postal carrier and my mom a secretary. Now that I am an adult I wonder just how much debt they went into for those smiles on Christmas morning.

NLogan Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 11:37 PM

Dunno they looked like nuns a little because of the black and white but I think they are supposed to be elves.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 09:47 PM

Glad to see you got to analyze your own Christmas photos, very impressive. The picture of you "bowing" your brother is pretty much the cutest thing ever (yeah, guys can say cute!). You got a lot of great gifts over the years, but I have to say I'm most impressed that Santa had super hero coloring books to give out instead of candy canes, that's my kinda Santa! Also, are the girls on either side of Santa supposed to be elves or Nuns?

vkimo Posted on Dec 18, 2014 at 09:20 PM

Wowzers. I'd trade all my cumulative Christmases for just one of yours. I can't believe the loot! The fact you still have most of it is pretty amazing in it's own right. I guess one of the bonuses as you stated of having split parents, is you pretty much double up on gifts. I see everything that made the 80s toy generation so great in these pictures.

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