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In case you hadn't been made aware yet, Christmas is coming. Normally I'm not Mr. Number 1 Super Christmas Spirit Cheerleader, but this year I'm feeling it a little more. Maybe somebody put something in the water, I dunno. But I saw something in Walgreen's recently - the Mr. Snowman Snow Cone Maker:
It's a plastic snowman. You put ice cubes in it and crank a handle to turn the ice cubes into ice pulp, then you spray Kool-Aid on it. Big whoop. This is not a story about the Mr. Snowman (great name, by the way - Mr. Snowman? Someone much more well-paid than me sat up all night coming up with that) Snow Cone Maker. This is about what it reminded me of; the greatest Christmas present ever, the one I wanted the hardest. I'm sure there were other ones that were technically better, like a Transformer or something, but none lived up to the anticipation of...
The Snoopy Sno Cone Machine.
My God. Look at that. I yearned - pined for it. If I knew how, I would have leaned up against a windowsill, sighing as I stared off into the distance waiting for it to arrive on horseback.
An interesting point: this is back when companies would run ads for years, regardless of how dated they were. I mean, look at those clothes, and the lyrics: "cool and keen". That is some dated shit! Some research shows that this toy came out in 1979, so by the time it registered with me as a thing to have in the mid 80's, this commercial had been playing for my entire life and drilled its way into my soft little larva brain. I could sing this from memory, and since I was a tiny monster, "cool and keen" didn't make me wilt from embarrassment like it should have. Why did I want this? Let's take a closer look:
Well, first of all, it's an object that has to do with Snoopy, who was one of my first great character loves. I don't know why Snoopy is so endearing to really little kids - I know a two year old named Milo who has whole Peanuts specials memorized. Maybe young kids appreciate melancholy comments on the inevitability of suffering as told by big-headed cartoon children? I'unno, but the formula works, dammit. Having a Snoopy doll that you carry around so much it becomes crusty and off-beige is a rite of early childhood passage.
Next: it's a big, plastic replica of Snoopy's doghouse. With Snoopy on top! And it's red and white, a color combination that's scientifically proven to attract young kid's attention. If toddlers had checking accounts, they'd be drained from donations to the Red Cross. But yeah, there's also that cute little plastic snowman with Woodstock on it! And there's another Woodstock on the machine itself, which is not a canonical error, as Snoopy has lots of little bird friends. Duh.
I think that's it, really - it's not like I had an unquenchable thirst for snow cones or anything (inasmuch as any kid doesn't constantly crave sugar). To my little unformed brains it was a big toy Snoopy house instead of a means of candy production. Rather, it was a big toy Snoopy house that also made candy! It was a candy making Snoopy playset - let that sink in. And had a cute plastic snowman! And a little toy snow shovel!
Of course, the commercial itself wasn't alone in its insidious action. It had a partner in the various holiday Wish Books that every family got in the mail at the time. You know exactly what I mean: big phonebook sized deals that had full-color pictures of all your fondest dreams and fantasies, and sometimes ladies in bras, too. So I'd go right from seeing the ad on TV to staring at a color picture of TSSCM (as it has become known in fan circles).
But mostly it was that ad and its music. Those kids look like they're having the time of their lives with that thing, as only commercial kids can. For some reason, this was always advertised around Christmas, but the ad takes place on a gorgeous summer day, which is odd. Though I guess nobody really wants to eat a snow cone in the winter, at least not in New England. You need a life-changing commercial to force people to want it. Also, I think there's some kind of subliminal encoding in the high note the singer hits at the end of the song. Every time I play that video I swear I see birds die outside.
So when I opened that present after months - well, probably month - of begging, my heart stopped for a second. This was it. This was the big time, muthafuckas. I was playing with some serious Snoopy dog house.
Well, after the "some assembly", and then, "not at all", because what I as a tiny child didn't realize is that in order to turn ice into mulch, there was required a big, sharp, stainless steel grater directly in the middle of the toy. And if left alone with it, I would have done what comes naturally: stuck my hand in the hole and operated the crank, turning my fingers into Polly-O String Cheese brand mozzarella (post-stringification).
This meant my (ugh) older sister had to help. Now, she and I have a fairly close relationship, we talk, we enjoy getting together. But at the time, she actually gained sustenance - literal nutrition - from tormenting me in the most cruel ways she could. So by the time we got around to trying out the Machine, I was not allowed to touch it.
Which I guess is for the best, really. First of all, let me direct you to the statement above on finger destruction. Second, no part of the Machine was really a toy - yes, the Snoopy figure on top was cute, but his body morphs into a long white block from the butt down, that you use to shove ice cubes into his doghouse. The play scenarios are limited. And he and the snowman were made out of this semi-hard plastic, like Tupperware, because they double as the syrup dispensers. What kid wants to play with action figures made of Tupperware?
And that's when they're empty. When they're filled with syrup - and Hasbro wasn't fucking around with the term "syrup", since you use as much sugar as water to make it - you don't want a kid near it. Once a child figures out you can get it straight from the tap, as it were, who's going to futz around with "snow"? It basically becomes a human hummingbird feeder. Plus, while it might have made a poor toy, any beverage would be turned into sweetest ambrosia if it were being consumed from a plastic snowman with a Woodstock sticker. I'm assuming the syrup bottles are made of harder plastic, therefore difficult for a young kid to squeeze, because they needed to control the flow of that substance if a kid actually administered his own syrup. Keen judgement assured this wasn't a possibility in my case.
Also, you have to pour thick sugar water into a hole the size of your index finger, while a kid shrieks in your ear to give them sweets. I don't imagine that's how many parents/guardians want to spend quality time with their charges.
So it went up on the high shelf of the toy closet, behind the board games, after one use. I seriously don't think it ever came down, or was thrown away during the night, as I don't remember ever playing with it again. Not that I missed it much, because really, I had better things to do than cry over a Snoopy with a big square butt.
What was your best Christmas present?