So it's Christmas Eve, the kids are asleep and the first of many beers have been opened. It is time to start Operation: Fit Plastic Into Plastic aka Operation: Shit, We Don't Have Enough Batteries. There is a decent amount for for me to assemble this year but it could never compare to The USS Flagg.
|Yeah, that SOB is longer than the couch.|
The Flagg was the GI Joe Battleship playset. The retail cost was $109.99 in 1986, roughly $215.00 today. This was the largest playset available at the time and was over 7.5 feet long. I was eight or nine according to a credible source who was interviewed for this entry (thanks Mom) and I wanted it for Christmas. My parent's hope was that I would lose interest over the span of a year but when I asked for it again, they caved. What followed was a harrowing experience...
The picture at the beginning of this entry is of my father early on in assembly. He started the night before Christmas and continued until it was evident that a single night would not get the job done. The process continued into the following day and covered a span of over eight hours. From my online research, the instruction manual was six pages long with thirty-one steps, each of which may have had as many as four steps unto itself. Two of these pages were dedicated to sticker instructions. You can see the sticker sheet in the photo above. There were two additional sticker sheets of this size to apply.
Mom remembers that my father complained about the quality of the directions. I've looked that them online and they don't seem too bad but I also realize that is easy to say twenty-five years later when I'm not sitting in front of literally hundreds of little plastic parts that I have to make a seven foot aircraft carrier out of. My father also had to work on Christmas, the last thing you would want to do after a night and morning like this one. Dad said if he knew the trouble it would have been he would not have bought it for me. He listed this as his worst Christmas ever...
To me, this was the most awesome Christmas ever! Other kids in the neighborhood could have cared less about what was under their trees...we wore this thing out. It was so big we kept it on a bed in a spare room. That's right, this toy had it's own bed in our house. It's kind of a bragging right to say that you had it, some people don't even believe me (kind of like when you say you beat Ghosts 'n Goblins on NES, but that's another story). A cook at a restaurant near the house I grew up in has made reference to the Flagg when talking to Mom about times he came to the house to hang out as a child.
At some point the fun wore off and the playset, which broke into sections, was moved to the basement. It was later sold at a garage sale for $25.00. Mom says that Dad joked that there was a thousand dollars of labor thrown in for free. It had to be loaded into the buyer's station wagon in pieces, an event that a part of me seems to remember after talking to my mom about it. On a side note, this toy has become a Holy Grail of sorts for collectors. A bad example with missing pieces and no box will sell for $500.00. A complete set, in the box, may go for a thousand or more.
Parents will do damn near anything to make their kids happy. I'm not looking forward to the assembly I have to do this weekend but I know how much it meant to me as a kid to have those things on Christmas morning and I want to give that feeling to my children. I also want them to know the REAL meaning of Christmas and the feeling of love and family. I hope you are able to share all of these things with your children and loved ones this weekend.