Sea mon­keys and other such stuff

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Ma­rina Gam­bin Ma­rina Power Gam­bin was born and raised in her beloved Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She now lives in Pla­cen­tia where she taught school for al­most three decades. She can be reached at mari­nagam­bin@per­

Grow­ing up in Branch in the 1950s, we did have some ac­cess to comic books. With lots of bud­dies on the Hill, some­one or other was al­ways lend­ing or bor­row­ing the lat­est edi­tions.

Most of us had rel­a­tives living away who freely con­trib­uted to our col­lec­tions. Ev­ery time my mother made a med­i­cal visit to Pla­cen­tia, she came home with an am­ple sup­ply. Be­sides the ex­cit­ing ad­ven­tures of the likes of Roy Rogers, Su­per­man and Archie, those col­or­ful lit­tle pub­li­ca­tions con­tained ad­ver­tise­ments. Comic ads! Therein lies my story.

The first time I an­swered one of those ads was for a pack­age of sea mon­keys. Be­tween my mother and my un­cle and my grand­mother and the pro­ceeds of a few beer bot­tles, I scraped up enough money. The ad said to send $1.25 (a for­tune to a 10 year old in those days). By the time the lit­tle crea­tures made their way from New York City to Branch, the whole she­bang cost a lot more.

The long trek proved to be detri­men­tal for my pre­cious cargo be­cause by the time I opened the pack­age, they looked like a plas­tic bag full of mushy potato eyes. Although I fol­lowed the di­rec­tions to a tee, the fin­ished prod­uct looked no more like the happy lit­tle sea crea­tures pic­tured on the comic page than our old tom­cat looked like Sylvester. Although I tended their con­tainer dili­gently for weeks, they didn’t even come close to re­sem­bling as much as a sar­dine, let alone a sea monkey.

A few months later, I was again try­ing to put to­gether enough cash to re­spond to an en­tic­ing ad that of­fered a Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Ra­dio. The ad said “No bat­ter­ies, no elec­tric­ity, no tubes.” No ifs, ands or buts about it, I had to have that ra­dio. Never mind that it was hard enough to get a re­cep­tion on our big Rogers Ma­jes­tic ra­dio at the best of times. I must have waited six weeks, post­ing my­self out­side the Post Of­fice door day af­ter day. When the pack­age fi­nally came from Chicago, the gad­get worked no bet­ter than two Car­na­tion milk cans with a length of sud­line at­tached to both ends. Again, my out­port gulli­bil­ity fell to the wiles of a USA toy com­pany.

If you think I might have had enough sense not to get fleeced a third time by smart Amer­i­can ad­ver­tis­ing, think again. X-ray glasses! With those amaz­ing X-ray glasses I’d be able to see through walls like Su­per­man.

I can’t imag­ine where I came up with the money for this com­mod­ity and I can’t imag­ine why my mother gave in. Then again, Mommy was never the kind to put a damper on my imag­i­na­tion. Maybe I asked for it as a Christ­mas present and she didn’t want to dis­ap­point me. How­ever it was, I re­mem­ber be­ing in pos­ses­sion of those X-ray glasses.

Of all the duds that re­sulted from my mail order­ing, this one took the cake. It was such a use­less gim­mick that you couldn’t even use it as sun­glasses. My dreams of be­ing the Su­per­woman of Branch were quickly dashed to the ground. To my credit, I did not send away for the live sea horses or the amaz­ing ant farm. There were times how­ever that I looked long­ingly at the pic­tures of those cute lit­tle horses of the sea. Oh to be back to the fan­tasies and dreams of child­hood.

If this ar­ti­cle does noth­ing else, I hope it stirs some mem­o­ries for all the comic book read­ers of my gen­er­a­tion.

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