“I was working in the lab when a radioactive spider bit me. Aah!” This is what I hear in my head any time I think about Spider-Man. Since I recently saw The Amazing Spider-Man, it sparked yet another memory: The Talking View-Master.
When I was little, this was one of the most amazing things I played with. My sister had it (though I think it was a hand-me-down from my brother), so basically what was hers was mine to play with.
It was a pretty huge contraption that probably used 2 C or D batteries. So, you’d hold this monstrosity up to your face, press the “Sound bar” on the front, and this little record on the back side of the reel would play. To make it even more difficult to use, the batteries tend to fall out because the closure was broken.
Aside from that, it was great fun. It was entertainment when there was nothing to watch on TV or no one to play with outside. I remember we had Spider-Man and Popeye reels, but I can’t remember much else.
I wonder if my parents had stock in whatever company made the View-Master because my brother and sister seemed to have all the different variations. There was one that was shaped like a movie camera of that time. It was blue and had these red, rectangular cartridges. You would snap the cartridge into the “camera” and then use the crank to get the “movie” going. My brother had I believe 3 cartridges, and they were all Star Wars related. I remember there was some scene that grossed me out, so when I knew it was coming, I’d pull my eye away and crank past it as soon as I could. I am sure if I watched the actual movie, I’d still remember it was coming. The other fun part about this toy was that if you cranked backwards, the explosions would go in reverse and people would walk backwards. Good times.
There was also the regular projector. You just popped in the reel, oohed and aahed over the square picture on the wall, then push the lever down to move to the next slide. All I can remember was having reels of Disneyland circa 1970-something and The Billy Goats Gruff. I’d tell my sister I wanted to watch “movies,” so she’d set up the projector in her closet. I’d then go in there, slide the door closed and enjoy (sans popcorn, drinks or annoying cell phones). Sometimes when the reels were done, my sister would do shadow puppets on the wall for variety’s sake.
I kind of miss those simpler times, when you could just stare at a single image for a few seconds and be happy. I guess I enjoyed it because I hated reading, but sure loved the pictures!
Lesson learned: Take care of your toys because some of the best ones will cease to exist.