Nostalgia is such a weird beast that pulls me in some very strange directions. When it comes to collecting and impulse buys I find that I am consistently picking up some very unconventional items like being drawn to collecting 80s stickers and sticker-collecting ephemera including hobby magazines and old photo albums that had been used to house vintage collections. Then a few years later I was building a rather large collection of old “mom magazines” (stuff like Working Woman, Woman’s Day and McCalls) because I felt a strong urge to find pictures of old household products in advertisements and stuff. And let me just say that I have found some pretty amazing advertisements in those magazines like this badass Return of the Jedi jungle gym play set!
Lately my attention has been focused on old school supplies (vintage Pentel mechanical pencils, Trapper Keepers, and old school folders.) At the end of the day what I’m really seeking is that gut-punch feeling I get when I see something that very strongly reminds me of my childhood. Sure, vintage toys and releases of old cartoons and sitcoms on DVD are cool, but the smell of a specific kind of Trend scratch and sniff sticker or the sound the Velcro makes on a Trapper Keeper flap is so vivid and clear that it’s like stepping back in time.
So when I stumbled across a gentleman that was selling mint, in-package vintage Star Wars Return of the Jedi Oral-B toothbrushes and perfectly stored empty boxes of Star Wars Pepperidge Farms cookies I didn’t hesitate and immediately plunked down $30 to reclaim a few tiny pieces of my childhood that really should not exist anymore. Before I forget, everyone hunting for vintage toys should totally check out @FarToys_Vintage for some great stuff!
I’m pretty sure I’ve brought this up in the past, but it still dumbfounds and amazes me that some of this stuff is still bouncing around in people’s pop culture and ephemera collections. I mean these two Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes are the definition of trash. I mean thousands if not hundreds of thousands of these boxes were purchased by parents around the country (even world maybe?), the cookies were eaten, and then the boxes were unceremoniously thrown in the garbage. Who in the hell had the presence of mind to think, “Hey, I should hold onto these because 30 years from now there will be a dude who will give me $20 for these two cookie boxes.”
Granted, I know that there is/was a craze for collecting anything Star Wars related and that makes the fact that these were carefully flattened and shelved for three decades a little easier to understand. I mean, hell, I was so into the Tim Burton Batman flick that I distinctly remember filling a short comic book box with every scrap of Batman-related anything that I could get my hands on, up to and including a full sealed box of Batman cereal (the one shrink-wrapped with the creepy Batman coin bank.) But even though I was a rabid collector that box only stayed in my collection for a few years before it eventually ended up in the trash.
Similarly, who was buying up Oral-B Star Wars toothbrushes back in 1983 and storing them in their original packaging for posterity? Now I don’t want to come across as mocking, because as this article points out I not only bought these 30 years later, but and very, very happy that they still exist. I just can’t help wondering how I can even be in a position to buy these things.
Anyway, on to these miracle treasures that I’ve recently been able to reconnect with. The first item that I stumbled across was the Oral-B toothbrush. I can so distinctly remember the day my mom bought me one of these back in 1983. I’d already seen the movie a couple of times in the theater and I was still practically begging her to take me back to see it again. It was a rainy overcast day in central FL and I remember driving down a back road to a local Drug Emporium in my mom’s copper-colored Mazda 626. Though I have no proof of this I would swear that I was wearing my awesome blue Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader iron-on T-shirt as I pretty much had Star Wars on the brain 24/7 that year.
I remember walking into the store with my mom, feeling how weirdly slick the low-pile carpeting felt underneath my Buster Browns, and then making a b-line to an aisle that had a bunch of candy and toys. As my mom went in the back to fill a prescription I was making my way up and down the aisles scanning the shelves for anything of interest when I stopped dead in my tracks in the toothpaste section. There on a set of pegs were a bunch of colorful slim boxes with a very family logo and bunch of characters that I practically thought were my real life friends (and enemies.) Holy crap, there were Star Wars toothbrushes and I had to have one. I hated brushing my teeth (what kid doesn’t?) and had recently gotten into the practice of counting to counting to 60 out loud in mushy toothpaste mouth to know exactly when I could stop scrubbing. Immediately my mind started compiling all the reasons why a Luke Skywalker toothbrush would solve all of my (and my parent’s) frustration with at bedtime as I would now love brushing my teeth.
I’m not sure exactly how eloquent I made the argument, but that day I went home with an awesome shiny red brush with my hero, Luke Skywalker, painted on the handle. As a very predictable postscript to this story the toothbrush did absolutely nothing to enliven my brushing experience and I’m sure I was just as cranky every night at 9:00pm as I ever was. Either way, that day in the Drug Emporium was burnt into my brain and when I saw a mint in box toothbrush pop up in my instagram feed I absolutely had to have it. Now, the only question that remains, and it’s a question that’s subconsciously plagued me since that fateful day, why did the designer of this series choose red as the color of the packaging and brush? Why wasn’t it green like his lightsaber in that third movie? There was also a Darth Vader brush in the set. Why wasn’t that one red?
The whole ad campaign for these was pretty awesome considering they were just cheap toothbrushes. There were posters produced, as well as activity books and even an official plaque-fighting club that you could join!
Moving on to the second nostalgia gut punch. About a week after I picked up the toothbrush from Faraway Toys on instagram, he blew me away again by offering up a set of two Pepperidge Farms Star Wars Return of the Jedi cookie boxes. Holy hell did I ever eat my weight in these as a kid. If memory serves they weren’t even that good, but anything edible and shaped like Chewbacca, Admiral Ackbar, and Luke Skywalker was a favorite. These came in three varieties, Peanut Butter, Vanilla, and Chocolate (the latter being offered exclusively in the “dark side” villain character shapes.) Though I remember the dry, crumbly cookies coming in a foil bag inside these boxes, I don’t really have any specific memories of eating them. I just know that I did because I can recall almost every aspect of these boxes that I undoubtedly poured over while munching on the cookies. I was always a food container reader, something that I continue to this day.
No matter how these things ended up surviving, I can’t thank @FarToys_Vintage enough for allowing me to reconnect with some very obscure treasures from my past.
What’s your favorite weird tiny nostalgic collection?