by Michael Kabel

    Ask anyone over thirty five years old and they'll tell you that for toys and games, the 1970s were an almost impossible act to follow. With Saturday morning cartoon shows providing inspiration and all kinds of new retail outlets (like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us) stocking their shelves with the new toys, kids in the seventies had what amounted to a Golden Age of playtime fun. 
    Presented here, in no particular order, are some of the greatest toys of the Me Decade, preserved in all their cardboard and plastic glory. 

10. Stretch Armstrong (1976) - Soft yet manly, this rubber doll with tousled Teutonic good looks was filled with a syrupy liquid that allowed his arms and legs to stretch out and slide back into shape. For lots of kids in the 70s, Stretch made a good "rope" for impromptu games of Tug O' War. He even made a brief return in the retro-crazy 1990s, but with the new name "Fetch Armstrong," for some reason. 

9. Barbie Townhouse (1973) - Massive in size and with (for its era) mind blowing details, the 3 foot tall, four-story cardboard and vinyl tower made Barbie ahead of her time in the condo market. The working elevator and rooms full of sturdy, colorful plastic furniture brought uncanny realism to girls wanting their Barbie to have the best. Though debuting in the early 70s, it was so popular that production continued for much of the next decade and into the 90s.

8. Shogun Warriors (late 70s) - The decade saw the first wave of Japanese toy and cartoon imports that would pave the way for today's manga and anime explosion. The Shogun Warriors were elaborate samurai-styled robots painted in primary colors, ranging in size from three inches to hulking twelve-inch deluxe models. Perhaps the most memorable feature, however, were the spring-loaded launchers on each toy that fired a variety of missiles, battle axes, and other projectiles. Some could even launch their entire fist. Safety recalls and concerns eventually diminished the toy's appeal for parents, and by the early 80s they'd largely disappeared from shelves. 

7. Crissy Doll (1970) - "Beautiful Crissy" debuted at the 1969 World's Fair and hit the market the following year, bringing girls everywhere the chance to style her lustrous hair, making it either long or short and combing or styling it however they liked. The "Movin' Groovin'" 1971 model had a rotating waist and orange mini-dress and boots, making her the "party girl" of early 1970s playrooms. Styles changed, however, and by 1975 Crissy had faded from popularity. 

6. Hungry Hungry Hippos (1978) - this board game by Hasbro might not have been the most fun or the most memorable of its kind, but it was almost certainly the loudest. Players would mash a button that caused plastic hippos to devour white marbles thrown into the plastic game area. Whichever player gathered the most marbles won the game. The clatter or marbles on thin plastic and the frantic pounding on the controls to make the hippos eat was almost deafening. It's easy to imagine parents banning the use of the game until at least after noon on many a Saturday morning. 

The top 5 toys of the 1970s follow in Part Two of this series.