Last night as I was getting the girls ready for bed, The Caterpillar wandered into the room doing this Frankenstein-ian type walk where she didn't bend her knees and instead wobbled from side to side and moved through the room.

"What's up, honey? You look like a Weeble," I said.

The Dormouse, who never misses ANYthing ANYone says or does (I'm sure that keen eye will come in handy one day and I'll be glad she has those powers of observation when someone short changes her at the drugstore and she notices before she doesn't have enough money to make cab fare, but right now while I'm trying to sneak some cookies for breakfast while she's in the other room, it's kind of a drag.) said, "What's a Weeble, Momma?"

And then I tried to explain Weebles to my six-year-old-twenty-first-century child who has never seen a Weeble. I used words like kinda like little people but not and oval and egg shaped and weight-in-the-bottom and some fleeting comparisons to Higglytown Heroes which sent her down a completely different track. Finally I just sang to her, "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down."

And incredible as it is to conceive, singing a jingle from the 1970s did not clarify in her mind exactly what a Weeble was so I finally pulled out the computer and showed her this clip:

And that's how a thirty-two second clip on YouTube did more to explain my past and who I am to her than six years of getting to know and love me.

And then, because we were by now officially sucked in, we sat on the couch for an hour until the room became dark, pulling up all the old commercials of toys and products I could remember from my childhood. We went through them all: the Green Machine, the Inch Worm, Bozo the Clown, Howdy Doody... am I dating myself yet? Remember when Mr. Potato Head was just a potato? Did you have a hoop and stick toy too?

And just so you don't think I forgot about you, dear reader, (and so I can continue on with my perfect streak of starting every paragraph with the word 'and'), I saved the best of those we viewed for you. The 1970s called, they want you to stimulate the economy.

Here are my thirteen favorite:

1: Underoos

This one brought back some surprisingly vivid memories of a slumber party I had one night with some of my girlfriends where we painstakingly recreated both the lyrics and choreography of this commercial from memory (no DVRs or YouTube back then, kids, we had to remember the hard way... WITH OUR BRAINS!) and then, if I'm not mistaken, we performed it for my parents complete with the wooden legs and arms that won't bed when the girls walk over to the store display. Oh, the horror. We did not recreate the costuming, however, because none of us was actually cool enough to have Underoos.

2: Dr. Pepper

The Dr. Pepper song was my decade's "I'd like to teach the World to Sing." The most interesting thing about this was that I seem to remember several different versions of the spot including one on a boat with Popeye where everyone's arms and legs flailed about as if independent from their bodies a la Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance.

3: Milky

Perhaps one of the strangest children's toys ever to grace the airwaves, as I now look at this commercial, my mouth hangs open and my eyes grow wide in abject horror that this thing even exists. I can't explain it, but back then, there was nothing I wanted more than a toy cow who drinks water when you pump her tail and then can be milked for "real pretend milk." Incidentally, when I showed this video to The Dormouse she yelled, "I WANT THAT TOY!" so I'm thinking that this ad was some kind of secret government mind control conspiracy that only works on children.

4: Krazy Straw

OK - you younguns probably don't think this is anything special; you've probably received one of these with every Happy Meal you've ever eaten. But back in a world before the Happy Meal, we didn't know from things like crazy straws and when we saw this ad our world was rocked, ROCKED I tell you. We were all, "MOOOOM, LOOK AT THAT STRAW! THAT'S CRAZY!! I NEED ONE!"

5: Lite Bright

I had a Lite Bright set, I believe. I think I played with it exactly one day while I used up all those little templates that told you what color peg to put in which hole that came with the set. Once those were gone, I'm pretty sure the only purpose those pegs served was to clog up the vacuum cleaner. I can still sing the lyrics to that song though.

6: Super Elastic Bubble Plastic

This was one of those cheapo toys that you always found hanging on the end wrap in the grocery store and that you begged your mother to purchase while she was agonizing over what flavor of Hamburger Helper to buy. I loved this stuff with a redhotfierypassion and was thrilled anytime I could beg, borrow or plead the $1.39 out of her to bring some home. It was basically a tube of gum-like substance that you'd squeeze out and stick to the end of a straw and could blow into floating orbs that were acutely more fragile than balloons but lasted hundreds of times longer than soap bubbles. When you blew the bubbles, you had the distinct impression you were inhaling some poisonous gas left over from World War I or, at very least, an extremely strong carcinogen. But you didn't care because that multicolored balloon of goodness provided input for every one of your senses. My personal opinion was this product was invented by Timothy Leary. In the 80s and 90s, this product disappeared. I believe it was taken off the market because it was found to be toxic, but it's come back in the aught years and now I see it in grocery stores in the very same end wrap displays. It still smells exactly the same and you can bet that whenever I see it, I buy it for my kids. That's how drug addiction works right?

7: Operation

I don't remember owning an Operation game, but I do remember playing it... a lot. Even back then, I was showing my promise to one day become a graduate of multiple mini-medical schools. Santa brought an Operation game for the girls this year and while it retains the overall concept, the game now comes complete with a different sound effect for each item instead of the annoyingly loud BZZZTTT!! that made you want to pee your pants when it went off and an electronic means of selecting the next item to be removed from Mr. Ouch's body. I had completely forgotten until I watched this clip that in the original game you drew cards to take out items for play money, which was a much more realistic depiction of the medical community than today's game where you just take them out for the hell of it Today's version seems to have more of a serial killer twist to it. I had not forgotten, however, the melodramatic acting of the mother in this commercial even though she only has four words in the whole spot. That's some diction.

8: Big Mac

I include this one because this was a big (big) advertising campaign when I was a kid. It was the "Where's the Beef?" of the 70s. Also because there was a joke that my algebra teacher told me years later that involved punnage on this slogan. I no longer remember the joke, but I remember the punchline, simply because it was so completely idiosyncratic: "Two obese Patty's, special Ross who's teasing Lester who's picking his bunions on a Sesame Street bus." Thanks, Mr. Minelli, wherever you are, for searing that into my memory banks instead of how to find a value for the unknown y. That's been way more useful.

9: Hawaiian Punch

This one I included simply because of what I like to call the "Annoying Factor." I'm pretty sure that that's what most advertisers default to: "Well if we can't make an ad that makes them WANT the product, maybe we can just make an ad they'll NEVER BE ABLE TO FORGET." Oh, I remember this ad, all right. I do not now, nor have I ever, willingly purchased an Hawaiian Punch, however, and I'm pretty sure it was because this ad campaign irritated me so. I'm not sure that was the intended consequence. It seems infinitely less annoying today, but imagine this being on once during almost every commercial break like the Geico ads for oh, say, A MILLENNIUM.

10: Toffifay Candy

Are these even around anymore? This jingle was catchy but annoying as well. Also: trying to garner kids' approval with that last line "But not too good for you" tacked onto the end was just lame and we all knew it.

fake 11: Burger King Uniforms

This ad doesn't really deserve to be in my thirteen things list because it's neither brings back fond memories nor was it a cool jingle we all liked. I only include it here because LOOK AT THOSE HATS! Did Burger King actually make people WEAR those when they worked there? Or was that just for the commercial? Either way, I think it was the inspiration for Brainchild, the supervillian from The Tick.

real 11: Twinkie the Kid & Fruitpie the Magician

In my high school year book a friend of mine signed one of the pages like this:

Dear Alice,

It was great getting to know you this year. Thanks for everything and if you don't remember anything else I ever said to you, remember this: Fruitpie the Magician is the Anti-Christ.

Your friend, Johnny

When I asked him about it later, he explained, "Well, think about it... he's always leading those innocent children into haunted houses and other dangerous places and then they all fall through the floor and Twinkie the Kid has to save them all. I think I'm onto something that will save the world a lot of trouble in the future."

A few weeks later, he came to school wearing a self-designed t-shirt with an image of Fruitpie the Magician on it... and a very small, very subtle "666" drawn into the crust like the "Nina" in an Al Hirschfeld cartoon.

12: Tootsie Pops

This ad was ubiquitous and I'm pretty sure they ran it until about a week and a half ago. It was clever though and as an adult, I'm impressed that they got the whole "smart owl" joke past network censors. Also: WHY IS THAT BOY NOT WEARING PANTS?

13: Keep America Beautiful

If you were alive anytime before 1985, you are probably familiar with this ad. Even if you didn't watch it when it was originally broadcast, it's known as one of the Ad Council's greatest hits and is shown as an example of a Public Service Announcement at every film school in the country. A couple of months ago, we were at an outdoor event where there were vendors in tents lining the streets. It was cold and the wind, she was ablowin'. We had both the girls with us and they were bundled up but as we walked down the street, one of the vendors pointed out that The Caterpillar had a single tear slowly dripping down her cheek due to the windchill. The KingofHearts answered without missing a beat, "Oh, she's okay, she just saw some trash on the highway back there," and everyone in the immediate vicinity who was older than thirty immediately began to crack up. That's how pervasive this ad is in a part of our pop culture. Even just a reference to it - and a tangential reference at that - and EVERYONE knows what you mean. That's marketing.

The fact that the actor who played the American Indian in the spot, Iron Eyes Cody, was actually an Italian-American dude named Espera de Corti shouldn’t detract from its message. Litter is still bad and it can make a grown man cry.

Bakers dozen in the world of Thirteen Things Lists: Cheese Advocacy

I simply cannot let this list stand without adding this one. I must have watched it twice every Saturday morning from the time I was three until I was fifteen, if not older. I used to think it was a part of the Schoolhouse Rock series, but looking at it now, it doesn't appear to have any connection aside from random backgrounds and oddly drawn humanoids - and that's probably just a function of the decade. I still don't understand what or whom he is meant to be. But he loves cheese and that's good enough for me.