Posted on October 20th, 2010 4 comments
This masterpiece of cardboard fun came from an era when board games were no longer relegated to the flat world, and rose up in glorious three dimensions. Games like Mousetrap, Operation and Hungry Hungry Hippos transformed the single-layer concepts into mechanical miracles of light, sound, and moving parts. And marbles. Which Witch? is an engineering marvel that must have taken the brains at Milton-Bradley many LSD-laden hours to conjure up.
It starts with a typical game board, covered in 60’s style cartoon graphics of the floors of four rooms (in what is apparently a haunted-type house infected with three witches). Next, cardboard walls rise to form the four rooms: The Broom Room, Spell Cell, Witchin’ Kitchen and Bat’s Ballroom. In the center is a chimney which (witch?) doubles as the means to the demise of snoopy little children who enter the abode. (If you pick the card that says, “Ghoulish Gerty Drops It Down The Chimney”, you have to drop the ruby red marble down the top of the roof;
the marble can go in any of four dimensions and wreak havoc on the ill-fated children). In the Bat’s Ballroom, the final room, sets a staircase. The first meddling kid to reach the top of the stairs and land on the “Charmed Circle” (without being turned into a mouse or knocked off his keister) wins the game!
Two young-girl pieces and two young-boy pieces (made of plastic and very 50’s Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys looking) try to make it through these danger-ridden rooms, desperately attempting to avoid the hidden traps and spells. The fear of being hit by a broom, pushed down the stairs, crippled on loose floorboards or plain old hit-in-the-head with a giant ruby marble doesn’t seem to thwart our intrepid explorers. They roll the die and move their spaces, pick a witch card and hope for the best.
I remember playing this game with my mother (something of a witch herself) when I was a young kid. Once, I spent almost the entire game as a mouse. That’s no fun, because you don’t get to move. Another time I got knocked over like eight times in a row. The worst part about this game was that since it was made of cardboard & plastic, it didn’t last. Putting the cardboard walls together meant twisting, bending, and ultimately tearing the parts. My original game died an illustrious wrecking-ball death in the 1970s; I was lucky enough to come across one cheap a few years ago to replace it. You can still find them on eBay for anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on condition (and the market). These are only going to get rarer and more expensive, so if you dig this sort of thing I’d recommend finding one soon!
Posted on August 23rd, 2009 4 comments
There’s been a lot of buzz about the hit show “Mad Men” and the gloriously egocentric style of the era. But the show only touches on some of the coolness of gadgetry associated with the time; The ’60s was a decade of new, fun stuff made to fill your office, car and home, from electric cigarette tables lighters to pocket-sized spy cameras. With all the technology and all the groovy gadgets that’ve come up in the last 20 years, there’s nothing to compare to some of the simple, clever novelties of the second half of the 20th century.
Case in point: My favorite book, How To Get Along With Your Mother-In-Law, by Hugh R. High.
This relic of the swingin’ ’60s was saved from a box of junk destined for the flea market, way back in the late 1980’s. My parents, who were antique dealers in the ’70s, still had a few boxes of goodies left over in storage when I was in high school. I made it a point to raid those boxes and grab anything that was too cool to sell off. This book, along with a bunch of other retro fun stuffs, was among them.
Of course I had no idea what it was when I first saw it. Imitation leatherette bound, and closed with a snap, it looked like a plain vintage book at first glance. Then I realized it wasn’t a book at all, but a box. At first I figured it was one of those hide-away boxes people used to keep their valuables in to fool stupid burglars. Man, was I pleasantly surprised when I opened it up!
What a find! This was one of those things you see in old movies, or read about in gag magazines from the old days. For it wasn’t a hiding place for valuables…it was a hiding place for a little hooch and a couple of shot glasses! No kidding…built into the chamber of this fantastic tome were straps holding down two metal tumblers and a hip-pocket sized (unfortunately empty) bottle of whiskey. Fannntastic!
This immediately took up a place of honor on my bookshelf, and became quite the conversation piece. When I go a little older, I refilled the bottle with Canadian Club, and even used it as the centerpiece of one of the best scenes of one of my favorite Dinner Theater Shows, “One Crazy Mystery”, a show I wrote and produced when I had my StarDust Productions Mystery Theater. In the scene I (a crazy jazz-playing hipster) and my nurse, (the young & sexy live-in kind) play a drinking game using this book as part of the gag. Of course in the show, I replaced the booze with water…except for one show where I switched it back to booze without telling the nurse! Lemme tell ya, that wasn’t just One Crazy Mystery, it was one crazy show!
I’m always on the look out for crazy fun stuff like this…if you have any, send your story and pix to email@example.com and I’ll post it!
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