Friday, December 28, 2012

The Shogunian Bop Bag Extravaganza (and other legendary adventures in robotardation)

The 51st episode of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is a most dangerous intersection of ebay addiction, secret lost product release date knowledges and toy robot blow up dolls. Thrill to the almost daring adventures of the Nostrodomatron as I talk 35 year old toy robots news to myself while sitting at a bus stop at what used to be the most dangerous intersection in America. Then hear me squeal like rubber tires on a Stunticon as I realize an important ebay auction is ending so I rush home for a date with destiny and hopefully a future date with a Great Mazinga bop bag. Why were there so few ads for GoDaiKin toys in 1982 and '83? What year were the Superion and Menasor giftsets first released? And what kind of parent gives their kids Parasites for Christmas? All this plus part two of my Robo Force conversation with John of and Sean (the guy who bought Tiltor for 25 bucks) in this I'VE BLOWN BOTH OPTIMUS PRIME AND TRANZOR-Z edition of the podcastalypse!

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I bought my first old toy robots line art catalog recently. This must sound like the Pope saying he just bought his first bible. I understand it's a shock to some people that this milestone comes so late in my career, given I fancy myself the Indiana Jones of old toy robots newspaper ads. But the truth is I have very little in common with the real Indiana Jones other than sometimes I feel like librarians want to make out with me. Yeah I waste a lot of time looking for toy robot artifacts that will eventually be sealed up in boxes like so many Roswell aliens and Arks of the Covenant in some New Mexican aircraft hangar, but my collection of old toy robot drawings books is far less valued by Nazis and all I had to do to get them was be searching eBay in the right category. So it was little surprise to me when I was going through Computers/Tablets & Networking > Monitors, Projectors & Accs > Other that I found the 1985 Matchbox Dealer Ad Planner. It is an awesome book featuring line art of the legendary lead paint Voltrons, a line of robot monster cars called Parasites, and tons of other possibly deadly and/or inappropriately named Matchbox toys that parents gave their kids for Christmas back in 1985. And since the book gives me all I need to make my own 1985 toy robots ad, I get more interactivity from it than Indiana Jones can get from his aliens (although talking with dead aliens is about as much fun).


F.I.S.H.B.o.T. (Fuck I Should Have Bid on That) of the episode goes to ebay auction 271067160953 for a Shogun Warriors department store special catalog supplement (above left) proving that Combattra was indeed exclusive to upscale retailers as I had speculated back in episode 36. With a ninety-nine bucks BuyItNow I figured it would be up for auction forever. Then it sold a day after I first saw it! F.I.S.H.B.o.T. I say! F.I.S.H.B.o.T.! But then there's ebay auction 190732262858 for a Bandai price list from 1982 (above right) where the picture supplied is so good I don't have to win the auction to get what I want, which is information. I highly covet the material but I'm Not Bidding on That! Would that be a F.I.N.B.o.T.?


Up left is ebay auction 281014750917 for a pretty cool Mattel 1980 catalog. Usually these aren't a big deal but this one has Mattel employee names scribbled on the pages. This led me on an internet search for the men who designed Rodan. I suspect one of their names is Ray Gross based on these page scribbles, but despite several minutes of furious Google searching I am no closer to finding his email address so he can turn down an interview with me. Oh well. During my trip to McAllen, Texas, I came across an old ad for Shogun Warrior bop bags and commented at length about them back in episode 36. Well guess what popped up on eBay after I never in a million years thought I'd find one? And so the finding of this auction begins a 20 minute odyssey in the middle of this episode fraught with human tragedy, perseverance and last minute bid sniping as I curse the faceless other butthole sniper bidders who would deny my lips the opportunity to touch what amounts to a Tranzor-Z blow up doll.


Foleys 14 December 1984

Carls 16 November 1985

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Around the Playworlds in 80s Days

The breaking of the 49th seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse is the sound of a cartoon kangaroo jumping on your frowny face! Cry along with the Nostrodomatron as I realize it has been almost twenty years since countless millions of frowns were forever frozen upside down when Lionel Corporation closed the doors of its toy supermarkets. Yes it's a Lionel Playworldocalypse with special guest William "Mr. Playworld" Hamby bouncing in to reminisce about growing up a Playworld kid and working at the Toy Capital of the World. Why do billions of children agree Playworld was the greatest toy supermarket (and pool table and outdoor rifle dealer) of all time? Whatever happened to all those buildings that used to be Playworlds in southern Florida? How many miles can a kid ride a bike balancing the GI Joe Defiant Space Vehicle Launch Complex on the handlebars? And why does October always smell to me like Kaycee Kangaroo? Find out all this and more in this WHAT THE HELL AM I SUPPOSED TO DO ABOUT THIS FROWN NOW?!?! edition of the Podcastalypse!

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The Playworld on Pembroke Road...

as it appeared in a newspaper article from 1982...

...and what it is now in 2012.
When I was a kid growing up in El Paso, Texas, my life was changed forever at the age of ten with the grand opening of a Lionel Playworld just a few blocks from me back in October of 1985. There was nothing else like it. Toys R Us wouldn't open in El Paso for another two years. Suddenly my toy exposure went from the single aisle of action figures at K-Mart to worshipping Playworld's full blown toy robots Valhalla where they had entire gondolas dedicated to toy robots alone. I loved that store. Then it went out of business and consequently my life turned to crap. Well when I visited Colorado for Vintage Space Toast Tour Denverado I was surprised to find that they had a couple of Playworld stores in the 80s and those had been around since at least '78. It was an eye-popping revelation. It's like living in the present where Halloween is only once a year and then excavating the site of some long lost tribe of Colorodoan Halloween people civilization who had Halloween every day. I thought Playworld was just one local store that existed in El Paso, not an entire chain of multiple toy Valhallas scattered across the universe. So you can imagine how blown away I was when I moved to southern Florida and found Playworld was down here since the early seventies and they were all over the place! Broward County is a virtual graveyard of Playworlds! I became obsessed what those buildings were like now. While the idea of visiting the corpses of one's childhood Valhallas might be depressing to some people, I decided I wanted to visit them all anyways. Nevermind that they would probably be old, abandoned, or converted into something else. I just wanted to visit the buildings that were once brothers to the store that shaped my childhood. And maybe, just maybe, one of them may still be something remotely similar to a toy store. I hoped I could at least find something robot related for sale at one of these used-to-be-toy-heavens.

Lionel Playworld 24 October 1970


So I started digging deep in the newspaper archives of the local library, which is where all the most revered ancient knowledges of secret lost Floridian toy civilizations are kept. Sure enough, I was able to figure out Playworld opened down here in a big way in 1970. The ad above is one of the earliest for the Playworlds of southern Florida. There was yet another surprise in store for me. When Playworld first started it was a place where you could buy sporting goods and camping equipment in addition to toys! Eventually the sporting goods would be phased out but in those early ads you could usually find rifles and pool tables. Note how there are four stores listed in Broward County and only one in Miami (the Hialeah store on west 49th). At its peak during the 70s and 80s Playworld would have up to 8 stores operating simultaneously in southern Florida's Broward and Miami-Dade counties. With the exception of the Oakland Park location, these original Broward stores and the 49th street one in Miami would stay open from 1970 through the chain's demise.

Oakland Park
Lauderhill on State Road 7
Pompano on US1

West Palm on Military Trail


Once I had the addresses down I went out on my quest to visit the locations that used to be Playworld. The buildings pictured above are the sites of the first four Playworlds in Broward County. They all share a distinct shape, which leads me to believe the structures were built by Lionel Corporation. It's a form characterized by an overall elongated rectangular front with a large area protruding up from above the entrance that made space for where the marquee originally mounted. Of the original four, three are still occupied and in business today. One is an art supply store, one is an antique mall, and the last one is split up into a dollar store, a furniture store, and an AutoZone. So it's possible for some people to walk into the same building that used to be their Playworld and stand in the spot where they first bought Star Wars figures in 1978 (although that spot may now be an endcap stocked with antifreeze). I was hoping that the one that's now an antique mall would have some old Transformers or other kinds of robot that maybe would have first been sold at that building when it was a Playworld. I was also hoping I would pass my Calculus mid term but that didn't happen, either. But if anyone is looking for hardcover volumes of the erotic art of H.R. Giger I know a certain antique mall in Pompano Beach you need to check out.

(this may be)Coral Springs-the last Playworld ever built

The Fountains location-the last Broward Playworld

After the initial burst of three Broward stores in 1970, three additional Playworlds would open up in Broward County from 1973 through 1988. There was the Hollywood location in 1973 followed by the Coral Springs Mall store in 1986 and then the one at the Fountains Shopping Center in 1988. The Hollywood location lasted for 10 years before closing in 1984 but the other two stayed open until the chain's demise. The Coral Springs store is notable (according to this message board post) for being the very last Playworld built by the Lionel Corporation. If this is true, Playworlds opened after 1986 all moved into existing buildings. I am not 100% certain that the empty building I took a picture of is the exact location of the Lionel Playworld because I have no eyewitness testimony to back me up unlike all the other buildings I've taken pictures of. But I'm pretty confident that it was.

Speaking of existing buildings, the Lauderhill location in the Fountains shopping center is also significant as being the last Lionel Playworld opened in Florida. The chain died 5 years after this store opened its doors. It was later converted to a SteinMart but it remains unoccupied to this day. One of my native Floridian friends told me that there used to be big lion statues at the entrance to that building when it was a Playworld but they've since been taken down. The Fountains store most closely resembles the brown bricky exterior of the Playworld built near my home in El Paso. I never knew Playworlds of the early seventies with their creamy white exteriors that looked like long giant soap bars. My Playworld looked like it was a castle and when I saw the Fountains store I instinctively knew it used to be a Playworld because it looked so much like the one by my house when I was a kid.

Lionel Playworld 07 October 1970
Lionel Playworld 24 June 1981


Well that wraps up this 20 years too late tour of the Lionel Playworlds of Broward County. I would like to summarize the comings and goings of Playworld stores in this area so I made a list of all the southern Florida Playworlds including the years they opened and closed. Since I'm not a native I don't know if this information is 100% accurate but it's the best I've been able to piece together from the sources I have. So now I present to you...

A chronological listing of the opening and closings of Lionel Playworld stores in southern Florida (Broward and Miami Dade counties) based on newspaper ads and news reports:

1970-LAUDERHILL (closed 1993) 1621 N. State Rd No. 7 (Now an abandoned building)
1970-OAKLAND PARK (closed 1971) 1033 E. Oakland Park Blvd (Now a Pearl discount art supplies)
1970-HIALEAH (closed 1993) 1170 West 49th Street (Now a La Ideal baby store)
1970-POMPANO BEACH closed (1993) 960 North Federal Highway (Now the Sugar Chest Antique Mall)
1970-WEST PALM BEACH closed (1993) 1722 Military Trail North (Now AutoZone/Aaron's/Deals)
1971-An ad from 1971
1971-CORAL WAY (closed 1993) Shopping Ctr. 8621 Coral Way (Now Party City)
1971-NORTH MIAMI (closed 1993) Biscayne Blvd at 123rd (unconfirmed as a present day Ross store)
1973-An ad from 1973
1973-HOLLYWOOD (closed 1984) Pembroke & 441 (Now a D&B Tile)
1980-CUTLER RIDGE (closed 1985) 20805 S Dixie Highway
1986-CORAL SPRINGS (closed 1993) W. Atlantic Blvd & Riverside Dr. (Now abandoned)
1988-An ad from 1988
1988-PLANTATION (closed 1993) 801 S. University Drive The Fountains Shopping Center (Now abandoned)
1993-The closings hit Florida

D&B Tile coming soon to this location!


  • Welcome to the Playworldocalypse!
  • Donald Saypol & the genesis of Playworld
  • The vintage Broward Playworld abandoned buildings tour
  • Live from (possibly) the last Playworld ever built
  • Desperately staring at faded store facades
  • Old mommy memories and the mystery of Coral Square mall
  • Play it again world
  • It would be easier to visit Playworld if they weren't extinct
  • Playworld's traditional late Autumn grand openings
  • Playworld is my arc rector
  • Wishing I had some of that Playworld cream
  • Nostalgia driven trespassing is not without its risks
  • Playworld made me a robot fan
  • Interview with William Hamby
  • Growing up a Lionel Playworld kid
  • The universality of Playworld floorplans
  • Seeing Playworld Star Wars displays in 1977
  • Pedaling 6 miles to Playworld daily to annoy the managers
  • Modern stores still using Playworld fixtures
  • Being an action figure fan working at Playworld
  • Watching GI Joe and Transformers die on the shelves
  • The bitter demise of Kaycee Kangaroo
  • Toystore inventory management in the 1980s
  • Finding '83 Joes and '84 Transformers at Zayre in 1991
  • Storage Wars GI Joe edition
  • Neil Young keeps on rockin' in the Play World
  • Holding the negatives of a 30 year old photograph of Playworld
  • Remembering long lost retail chains
  • Get your Playworld pictures out, people!
  • Imagining the ideal Lionel toystore website
  • Wiliam's project geotracking every Lionel store location ever
  • Risking your life at Dixie Square Mall
  • TRU is the Cthulhu of toystores
  • labelscar
  • On the deathwatch-Palm Beach Mall
  • Last call for Playworld memories!
  • The Kiddie City fan Facebook Page
12 November 1978

27 November 1986

I can still see the scars


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.