Tag Archives: GI Joe

Journal of a new Cobra Recruit


June 18, 1986

Boot camp’s still a lot of fun. And I’m learning a lot. Today we did more mental learning stuff than exercise. We received a lecture about our main enemy, the G.I. Joe team. Seems that Uncle Sam is so nervous about COBRA that he set up an elite team of soldiers just to try to fight us. I couldn’t be more proud. I had no idea I was signing on with a bunch that was this important. I guess the Joes have stopped us at pretty much everything we’ve ever tried to do. But believe me, is that going to change now that Steve Loring is a member of COBRA!

Sarge said all kinds of funny things about how dumb the G.I. Joe team is. Like, they just have one person who’s good at each thing they do. So they just have one guy who can fly a plane, and one guy who knows how to drive a tank, one guy who can fly a helicopter, one guy who can fight in the desert, and so on. They even have a whole aircraft carrier (for their one plane and one helicopter) with just a captain and one sailor to run it! Sarge was like, “What the heck kind of outfit is that?” and we were all just in stitches. Then this one recruit (I think it was Renfro, but I didn’t get a good look at his eyebrows) says, “But if they’re so dumb, how come they always beat us?”

Sarge made Renfro go out and run around the track and yell “COBRA!” for an hour.

June 20, 1986

Real boring day. I was all ready for some more physical training, but instead Sarge led us into a room full of phones and made us cold-call people and ask them if they wanted to switch their long distance to COBRA. During the break, Renfro asked Sarge when we became a long-distance provider. Sarge explained that we had to do something to make money if we were going to afford a private army with hundreds of tanks and planes and a Terrordome, not to mention all the expenses from the Serpentor genetic engineering project. Working the phones was demoralizing, and people were usually pretty mad when we called them, but it felt good to be doing my duty for COBRA. In between calls, I amused myself by thinking of cool one-liners I could say if I ever got the drop on one of those G.I. Joe bums.

June 21, 1986

Awful exciting day today. First we got to do our airborne training. They loaded us up into a plane, and we flew up and then jumped out. Our chutes had the big, scary COBRA symbol on them. It was awesome. But it was hard, because we were supposed to keep yelling “COBRA!” all the way down. It was tough to get enough breath to yell right at first. Sarge says it just takes practice.

After that we finally got to do weapons training. About time! They gave me a rifle and pointed at the target. I held the rifle up to my cheek and sighted down the barrel, just like I did when I went deer hunting with Grampa. Boy, did Sarge go apeshit over that! Got in my face and started yelling at me, asking how I expected to scare someone if I just stood there all quiet-like and shot so carefully. Sarge is a great teacher because he doesn’t just criticize. He showed the right way to shoot. What you do is you start shooting your gun wildly and run towards the target as fast as you can and, in your scariest voice, you yell “COBRA!” We worked on that all afternoon, and just before we broke for dinner, I actually hit the target! Sarge and everyone else were so happy for me that they were about to cry. Told me I’d just set the record for marksmanship in COBRA boot camp. I wanted to call Mom and tell her the good news, but she thinks I work for the phone company.

Of course later he becomes a hardened vet.

June 11, 1987

Another whirlwind day. I found out that Renfro, a buddy of mine from boot camp, is also stationed here at the ‘Drome. That made my day! We had breakfast and caught up—his jaw just about dropped through the table when I told him about the day we had the Joes on the run, only to be stymied by the sudden appearance of Sergeant Slaughter. (Who knew that a pro wrestler would be so devastating in combat? I hate the team he fights for, but that Sergeant Slaughter is a true warrior. He’s a gallant foe, worthy of my steel, and, across the gulf of war, I salute him.) Renfro’s assigned to one of the gun crews on the roof of the complex. He says it’s OK. He sees a lot of action, because Joe planes are always buzzing us and he’s ordered to take potshots at them. That’s fun, he says, but not very satisfying, because he’s almost positive that the Joes in the planes can’t hear him yelling “COBRA!”

After breakfast, I reported for my first duty shift as a guard in the War Room. Should be quite an education. Lieutenant Boyken says I have to stay sharp, because we get Joes invading the compound about once a week. Man, those guys burn me up. Someone really oughta do something about them.

June 19, 1987

Ugly day in the War Room. Today I saw an operation fall completely apart. The Commander and Destro had this great plan where they could infiltrate America by starting a chain of fast-food restaurants called Red Rocket. Unbeknownst to the public, the giant red rocket on the top of each franchise would actually be a real missile, and all the restaurant employees would be undercover COBRA troops. (Major Bludd was excited about the additional revenue the Red Rocket joints would provide; COBRA’s long-distance-phone arm is having an off year, and our operating budgets are way down.) Of course, those darned Joes somehow twigged to the plan, and the whole thing came crashing down. It was pretty disheartening to see the COBRA brass arguing about where the project went wrong. Destro was so upset he even broke protocol and called the Commander “fool” a couple of times. I could tell the Commander was hurt by this, but, being the great leader he is, he wisely understood that it was just Destro’s passion for the mission speaking.

June 24, 1987

Got one of my fondest wishes granted today when I was ordered to stand guard in a conference room where the COBRA brain trust was having a strategy meeting. Wow, what a gathering of the minds. The Commander, Destro, Major Bludd, the Baroness, and Dr. Mindbender, all throwing out ideas. It was fascinating, just watching the process. They talked for hours and hours, mostly about reviving the Serpentor project; the Commander and Destro were getting pretty hoarse by the end. There was a fridge full of sodas in there, but those two couldn’t drink through their masks. Poor guys. I can relate; same thing happens to me all the time with my uniform mask. Nobody said COBRA was easy.

Through the meeting, Dr. Mindbender kept glancing over at me … I think he was winking, but it was tough to tell because of his monocle.

June 28, 1987

We sure seem to have a lot of ninjas on the COBRA payroll.

July 4, 1987

DISASTER. I was back in the War Room today, standing guard during the afternoon shift. Major Bludd was using the giant telescreen to talk to the COBRA satellite crew when suddenly the wall exploded and a whole mess of Joes came running in.

We fought ‘em hard. I was squaring off with that silly sailor they keep on the team, the one who brings his parrot into battle with him. I pretty much had him on the ropes, because he insisted on fighting with a pirate pistol and a set of grappling hooks. That’s no match for a laser rifle and a good set of lungs to yell “COBRA!”

But then this huge guy in a Chicago Bears jersey runs in, swinging around a giant iron football. He’d knocked out a couple of the boys before I recognized him: William “the Refrigerator” Perry! I’m ashamed to say this, but I turned and ran. I remembered what the Fridge did to my Packers last September, and I’d be darned if that was going to happen to me. Everyone else must have been thinking the same thing, because we all retreated, and the Joes have possession of the ’Drome for a little while, at least. Dang it! Why, Fridge, why?

So now we’ve retreated back to COBRA Island, and everyone’s hard at work figuring out how we’re going to get even with those rotten Joes. I’ll leave the planning to the brain trust, but you’d better believe that, whatever they come up with, I’ll be right on the front line yelling “COBRA!”

Retro Christmas Gift Guide: Toys of Christmas Catalog’s Past

I don’t know if you remember Consumers Distributing but when their catalog came to the house in the 80s, it was chaos as we all went through it to decide what we wanted for Christmas.  I don’t know why I was thinking about that today but I remember really wanting some really bizarre stuff for Christmas over the years.  In honor of the Ghost of Christmas Catalog Past, here is my list of things that I wanted for Christmas but never, ever got.  Some for good reason.  Actually all for good reason.  If you have any gifts that you wanted as a kid but never got, let me know in the comments.

Tomy OmnibotTomy Omnibot :: In reality these probably were not that cool but back in the 80s, the promise of real life working robot kept me awake at night just dreaming of the awesomeness.   Having just mentioned it now, I won’t be able to sleep tonight just thinking about the awesomeness that I missed out of.  I had so many plans for this thing.  A couple of years ago Market Mall had a retro toy place in it and one of these things sat in the window.  Even as an adult it inspired some retro lust.

Vic 20Vic-20 :: In grade 4, our teacher at Queensland Downs Elementary School was a bit of a computer geek and our classroom filled up with one Apple II, a bunch of Commodore PETs, an Atari 400 and other computers that we geeked out on.  He had a Commodore 64 with a revolutionary floppy drive and gave this lecture once about if we worked hard, got a good education, made good investment decisions and had some luck, we too could afford a Commodore 64.  While I had a Commodore 64 later in life (and I loved it), at the time, the Vic-20 was what we played with and I really wanted one.  It was actually the star of our class Christmas play (it also crashed during the finale, wrecking everything)  You know, after the spring of 1984, I don’t think I ever even saw one, let alone ever used one again.

Speaking of Mr. Taylor’s Grade 4 class, he was the one that brought in a robot into class.  I think it was called Adam and it could be programmed to do a couple of things which seemed cool at the time.  It probably explains that why I was so fascinated with Mr. Omnibot up there as well.

Sinclair ZX81Timex Sinclair :: These may have been the cheapest personal computers that I have ever seen and I pestered my mom daily for one in 1985.  Radio Shack at the Mall of Lawson Heights sold them.  I think what sunk my quest to convince mom to get me one was she actually saw how crappy it was.  Like Steve Jobs has taught us, the demo is really, really important.  Of course if I had a Tomy Omnibot, it could have demoed it for me.  For the record, that Christmas I got a Cooper XL7 helmet which despite what everyone said, looked pretty cool in it’s time.

IMG_7927 Tony Hawk Skateboard :: Now I had bought a Dominion Firefly skateboard a couple of years earlier.  For those of you who remember Dominion Skateboards, they were skateboards sold at Zellers and other big box retailers that were pretty cheap.  Looking back at it, it took a lot of abuse and over the years I put some new wheels and trucks on it and it wasn’t a bad board.  Of course it wasn’t a Powell Peralta and there was no way I was going to be accepted as a member of the Bones Brigade without one (I also had no really moves but that is irrelevant) A Tony Hawk Skateboard was a long ways out of the budget back in 1987 but I got a great generic skateboard for Christmas that year and with some really great old school stickers and some parts off my old deck, life was good.  I was going to skate forever or at least until I discovered high school football.   Tony Hawk BMX glovesWhat cracks me up now is that I bought some Tony Hawk biking gloves this summer, Mark plays Tony Hawk games and refuses to accept that Tony Hawk was even alive when I was a kid.  20 years later I am still buying Tony Hawk products.  When I am 80 I may be asking for the Tony Hawk Motorized Wheelchair.

4AF006_1 GI Joe Skystriker :: I had a lot of GI-Joe toys over the years but I also thought the coolest toy was the F-14 Skystriker.  I never ever had one but I had the GI Joe attack helicopter, a missile shooting jeep, the snowmobile, and a couple other really cool vehicles as seen on the page below.  A couple of friends of mine had them and we never really played with it, it was like we were in awe of it’s greatness.

Page from the 1984 Consumers Distributing Catalog

Metal Detector :: I totally forgot about this until Mark posted his Christmas wish list, I wanted a metal detector.  I am not sure what I was hoping to get.  Lawson Heights was still a new neighborhood so the likelihood of buried treasure or even spare change being found was slim but I remember thinking how cool it would be to have one.  My grandfather had one so maybe that is where I got my inspiration from.

Sharp Wizard Sharp Wizard Organizer :: Continuing the computer geek fest, how cool would a pocket computer have been to my life.  It included a memo pad, a telephone pad, calendar and scheduling with alarms and repeating events, multi-time zone clocks, and a calculator.  I am not sure how useful it would have been in real life as a kid but then again, all of those Palm devices I owned were not that much more useful.

Gateway Handbook 486 running Linux Gateway Handbook 286 :: In high school I was pretty much a nerd (which is different than now how?) and we used to love going through computer magazines as a group of nerds and talk computers.  I remember the day when we first saw an ad in Computer Shopper for the Gateway Handbook.  It was too expensive (I think it started out at $995 USD when it came out) to ask for but my heart beat a little faster every time I saw an ad for one.

I later owned a Gateway 486 and loved it.  In a lot of ways, it was the world’s first netbook but it was before it’s time (and the web).

So what Christmas gifts did you miss out on?  EZ Bake ovenCabbage Patch KidsIntellivision? Coleco Adam?