Just for the holidays, I’m reposting one of my favorite Times Past recollections…I hope you all had a safe and happy holiday. Enjoy!
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With the holidays here, this seemed like a good time to share my memory of receiving one of the greatest gifts ever. Read on!
1985. Arguably the greatest toy year ever, with Masters of The Universe, Transformers and G.I.Joe at the heights of popularity. During that spring I had received the G.I.Joe Snow Cat vehicle, and with it came the extensive fold-out catalog showcasing all the new G.I.Joe products that would be released that year. I poured over the photos of the new figures and vehicles, circling the ones I wanted to get.
And then I saw it.
There, at the bottom of the page. The single greatest thing I had ever seen up to that point in my life – the U.S.S. Flagg Aircraft Carrier.
“The ultimate G. I. Joe vehicle! 7 1/2 feet long! Taxi G. I. Joe aircraft down the runway with towing vehicle and gas-up with fuel trailer. Sound the “alarm” and give commands on the electronic sound system! Features include working deck elevator, blast deflector, two arrestor hooks, and much, much more! Also includes G. I. Joe ADMIRAL and the Admiral’s Launch.”
Unbelievable. I had to have it! Somehow, some way, it would be mine.
I began lobbying for this during the summer, with notes and showing my folks the catalog and inserting the USS Flagg into pretty much any conversation I had with my parents, much like the Ralphie character in A Christmas Story. Which made it tough on them, because that $99.99 price tag was a formidable challenge.
Like many other families, my parents had financial problems during this time which made it difficult to spend extra money or non-essentials. Sure, we had food and clothes and a roof over our head, and the occasional (okay, frequent) action figure or small vehicle; but spending close to $100 on a toy was laughable. Ridiculous. Crazy, even. Of course I was oblivious to these money problems at the time, because my parents (as parents do) made me feel like we had everything we wanted, so I truly did not understand why I could not have this.
I asked for it for my birthday in September of that year, but did not receive it. I redoubled my efforts with my parents. When we were at K-mart in October, I discovered the U.S.S. Flagg on an endcap display and it was a glorious sight to behold. I dragged my parents over to look at the huge boxed vehicle, and while they were impressed, they quietly explained the reality of not being able to afford this. I even drew pictures of the Flagg and put them everywhere around the house. Before the holidays, my parents made a point to explain that receiving the Flagg for Christmas wasn’t likely. I was obviously disappointed, but had plenty of other toys to put on my Christmas List.
Finally, the big day had arrived – Christmas Morning. At this point, I had understood that the Flagg wasn’t going to be arriving, but I still scanned the tree and surrounding room. No Flagg.
Slightly disappointed, I still had a wonderful Christmas, receiving many action figures and vehicles from the various toy lines. It was a wonderful Christmas. Later that morning, after all the gifts were opened, my whole family was relaxing around the room and my folks asked me if I got everything I wanted. Of course with a goofy smile I said “pretty much, but I didn’t get the G.I.Joe aircraft carrier.”
My brothers laughed. My parents looked at each other, and they said “Well, we have one more gift for you!”
My heart skipped a little.
I closed my eyes, thinking this must be it! I then heard my brothers hauling something big into the room. I was excited.
But then I overheard my brothers saying “watch the handlebars” & “lookout for the tires”, and my heart sank, just a little bit. A new bike was great and all that, but I was hoping for the Flagg. Still, I told myself that I would not act ungrateful and rude, and be excited and appreciative.
They told me to open my eyes. I expected to see a shiny new bicycle.
Instead, sitting right in front of me was an enormous box with a painting on the front. A G.I.Joe Skystriker jet, taking off above a giant “99″. G.I.Joe characters everywhere, busy at work. A red, orange and white explosion framing the entire dramatic image.
Wide-eyed, open-mouthed, all the breath gone from my lungs.
Unbelievable! The G.I.Joe USS Flagg aircraft carrier in all her glory! I screamed a child’s scream of sheer joy and hugged the box tightly. It was surreal! The thing I had wanted the most and here it was, right in front of me.
It was a moment I will never forget.
I remember spending 3 hours Xmas night putting her together, fitting all the joints and pieces together and putting on all the decals. And many imaginative hours of my childhood were spent with playing with my Joes. My friends loved it. As I got older, many people wondered why I never sold it. It was expensive and highly sought-after by collectors.
The reason was simple. Besides keeping it for my kids, besides the nostalgia factor, besides all of that, here’s why – a few years after that Christmas, I found out how my parents afforded the USS Flagg. During that first visit to K-Mart, my Dad went to the back of the store and put the Flagg on layaway. He added money every week for months until he paid for it just before the holidays. He had been planning to buy this all along, despite their financial struggles (and common sense opposition from my Mom). They knew how important this silly toy was to their little boy.
So for what it means to me personally, and for the sacrifices my family made in order to buy it, I’m never parting with my U.S.S. Flagg.
And Merry Christmas, everyone.