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Retro-graphic Evidence: Red Rider BB Guns

Retro-graphic Evidence is a series I used to write based on old family pictures and videos. I always loved rummaging through my old photos, looking for inspiration for new articles. When I started writing for 80sXchange, I knew this subject, above all others, was one I had to revisit. Toys, video games, childish exploits, video stores, horror, and Halloween: it’ll all be here, related back to you in technicolor and a pure ‘80s sheen. Join me on this exploration of the past in Retro-graphic Evidence.

In 1988, my father came home with an entire display of 50th anniversary Red Ryder BB Guns, including the cardboard standee, boxes of extra ammo, Daisy target traps, and more. Due to legality issues, he had to order everything direct from Daisy and have it shipped to a store in New Jersey [1]. No doubt this purchase was partially fueled by my father’s own nostalgia for a toy he remembered from childhood. Of course, added to that potent memory was the 1983 release of A Christmas Story.

Though the movie was only a moderate success [3], by 1985, HBO was showing it, and around that same time the movie had come out on VHS. Through the late '80s into early '90s the movie was shown on other television stations, including TBS and local affiliates. It wasn't until 1995 that TNT began its 24-hour marathon, but long before that point A Christmas Story had found its audience.

The thing I love about entertainment like A Christmas Story is that it creates a sense of recollection for a decade before my time. When the movie was released, it depicted an earlier era, no doubt feeding the ever-hungry nostalgia beast for our parents. But now we’ve grown older, which in turn has created a peculiar pseudo nostalgia for years we hadn’t even been alive for. It’s the same cyclical nostalgia we have for The Wonder Years, a television show that aired when we were kids but took place in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Even though I didn’t grow up in the ‘60s, I have this strange sentimentality for a generation I only experienced vicariously.

In this way, my father, my brother, and I could enjoy the history of Red Ryder together, even though our childhoods were separated by decades. Not to mention the obvious: BB guns are fun. Living in Brooklyn, we had to be pretty careful about where and how we shot them. We didn’t exactly have a sprawling backyard or a vast expanse of forest to disappear into with our, “Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time.” [2]

In the years since 1988, Daisy has released a number of limited edition and anniversary edition Red Ryders. You can even get them with the compass in the stock now, which I have to admit, is pretty tempting. Along with the BB gun merchandise, we also got some swiss army knives and hunting knives. I still own all of this stuff of course, including the standee, promotional comic, and BB guns. Every summer I break out my “oiled blue steel beauty” and set up some tin cans in the yard.

Luckily, I never did shoot my eye out.


[1] He bought two full displays and sold all of the extra merchandise to friends.

[2] The 50th anniversary BB gun actually didn’t have either, though later anniversary editions would be made to include both the compass and the etched sundial in the stock.

[3] Roger Ebert called it a "sleeper hit" and added it to his greatest movies list, citing the a general disinterest holiday movies at the time of its release as the cause of its mediocre reception.


2 תגובות

Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
11 באפר׳ 2022

Have to say, I do have an affinity for the '50s (though Christmas Story takes place in the '40s). Maybe it just seems like such an idyllic time period full of greasers, poodle skirts, and family values. I don't know. But I feel like if I had to choose another decade to grow up in, it would be the '50s (minus the racism and bigotry).

Anyway, that Red Rider BB gun is one of a very exclusive set of items that transcends decades and generational differences. I imagine 100 years from now, it will still be doing that.

Candy Corn Apocalypse
Candy Corn Apocalypse
11 באפר׳ 2022
בתשובה לפוסט של

Yeah, I agree. I think through my parents' and grandparents' eyes, I've grown fond of the 50s-70s, even though I wasn't alive yet. From listening to their music, watching their movies and television shows, all when I was still young enough for it to leave a lasting impression. In the same way that the 80s and 90s are still alive today for so many of us, the 50s-70s were very much part of the 80s for me.

The BB Gun definitely feels like a timeless thing. Even with cell phones, the internet, and video games, how could any kid resist a BB gun?

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