Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Some of you may be old enough to remember these classic comic book ads;* you may even have experienced the thrill of thinking "OMG!" (well, a five-year old's equivalent of OMG), "I could have a ROCKET SHIP or a POLARIS SUBMARINE in my ROOOOOOM!"
You'd better believe I wanted one; unfortunately, my frugal parents were not about to spend that kind of money (hey, it was the 'Sixties! $6.98 was a lot of dough back then) on a pile of flimsy-ass mail-order cardboard likely to fall apart after a single use (here's the reality, by the way, courtesy of Boing Boing: the Polaris Submarine and the Jet Rocket Spaceship--judge for yourself). I was forced to come up with creative alternatives.
Hold that thought.
The other day I was skimming My Monster Memories--Reviving Horrors From the Past, one of my favorite blogs, when I came across this entry:
"I remember reading some of this book" (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron) "while tucked in one of my own cardboard box spaceships, which made it even more fun. Of course, my parents worried how I could spend hours on end in a cardboard box, but little did they know my mind was soaring off on amazing a(d)ventures. With my canteen full of Goofy Grape soft drink, a peanut butter sandwich, and a good book, I would be e(n)sconced for hours in my make-believe space capsule."
Sweet Screamin' Jeebus! This was exactly my "creative alternative." See, my Dad worked for this store that sold (among many other things) washers, driers, refrigerators, stereo consoles,** and television sets. which meant there was an abundance of HUGE cardboard boxes, big enough for an army of kids, free for the taking. With some fast-talking and a little conniving I was soon the proud owner of...
A cardboard box.***
Except it wasn't a cardboard box. It was my spaceship, my submarine, my tank, my B-17 bomber, my fort, my treehouse, my reading room, my meditation/sensory deprivation chamber, my... well, whatever I wanted it to be.
It. Was. GREAT!
With a little help from Mom, her trusty kitchen knife, and a roll of masking tape I soon had a couple of portholes, an airlock, and an escape hatch. The seat part from a discarded wicker chair served as my command seat, a simple 60-watt work light provided illumination, and with a design scheme lifted from one of my favorite television shows, Space Angel (see more here), I spent hours (well, okay; maybe not hours) with my Crayolas drawing dials, gauges, buttons, and controls, all in very precise locations, each with very specific functions and woe be to the playmate who misused them, which is probably why I spent much of my childhood alone.
Bonus benefit: on those rare occasions when Mom took a nap on a Saturday afternoon and I could sneak a peak at whatever monster film was on Shock Theater I was able to keep from getting too scared by the simple expedient of closing the "shutter" on my makeshift porthole. No hiding behind the sofa or cowering under a blanket for me!
Oh, I would have lived in that box if my parents had allowed it. Good thing The Martian Child hadn't been written/filmed yet or my parents would have whipped me off to the nearest psychiatrist posthaste.
I'm sure they considered that option anyway.
Final summation? All Hail The Cardboard Box!
Edit: Oooo! Oooo! I almost forgot! Again from Boing Boing, HOWTO Build A Cardboard Spaceship.
*For a heavy dose of nostalgia, check out this flickr site: The Comic Book Economy.
**In those ancient days before components, a stereo system was expected to blend in with the rest of the living room furniture. They were big and bulky and made of high-grade wood 'n' steel.
***Thick, heavy-duty cardboard, mind you. Practically indestructible by kid standards.