A funny thing about working in the toy industry: as an adult, you can find yourself working with the people who made the toys you played with as a child. In the last company, I worked at, one of the very opinionated sales team members, was commenting about the age of our young, but the very talented digital manager. “You are such a baby! I can’t believe how young you are.” Knowing the age of the salesperson and not appreciating her taunting of our digital manager, I went ahead and asked her, “So, just curious, what toys did you play with as a child.” She thought it was an innocent enough question, so she relayed a short list including: “Rainbow Brite.” “Really,” I replied, “I worked on the toys for ‘Rainbow Brite.’ You are such a baby!” She was not amused once the shoe was on the other foot.
When I was young (not quite a baby) and working at Mattel, I offhandedly referenced Kenner’s Boy Scouts of America figures “Steve Scout” and “Bob Scout” that I had as a child. “Oh, that was a fun line to design,” she said. It was sad that it did not last.” It turned out that she was the inventor who created the line and sold the concept to Kenner Toys in the 1970s.
If you are not familiar with this line, it will be a fun surprise. If you remember it, there may be some added pieces that you never saw. I only had Steve Scout as a child and later as a collector obtained Bob Scout. In 1974, Steve Scout was one of the few lines Kenner chose to spend television advertising (along with Duke, The Super Action Dog). So, I remember seeing the commercial with the High Adventure Scout Base but never had any of the sets.
The 1974 Kenner catalog shows a fully developed line with two figures, four sets of low-priced adventure gear, five sets of mid-priced adventure sets, a high-priced vehicle, and large playsets. It did not occur to me how closely it was marketed like GI Joe. The lines overlapped in toy shelf timing with 1974 being the year Hasbro launched the Kung Fu Grip. Both lines were adventure based, and both even had comic book style adventures included in their sets. It truly appeared as if Steve Scout and Bob Scout, were younger brothers of Adventure Team members getting early training. Yes, I did occasionally use Steve Scout as Joe’s younger brother in my backyard adventures. (He is also just the right size to date Barbie’s younger sister Skipper – you know girls often go for guys in uniform.)
The Scout figures are sized just right to be younger brothers. They are a little taller than Mattel’s “Big Jim” and proportioned like teenagers. The feature designed into each figure is the Boy Scout salute. Their right hands were specifically made in the 100+-year-old Boy Scout salute. The arms are also linked so you can move the left arm forward and the right arm will flip up into a salute (if you bend the elbow and wrist into the right position). I remember taking it one night to one of my Boy Scout troop meetings (around 1977). Most had not seen it before and thought it was pretty funny. They kept making him salute the rest of the night each time the scouts were supposed to.
High Adventure Gear
During the 1970s, the selling proposition was still “Razors and Blades.” If you sell them the razor (the figure), they will purchase the blades (the accessory sets). These are the lowest priced set. Most are backpack type sets with a feature in each. These sets are Metal Detector, Fire Fighter (that squirts), Mountain Medic, and a signal launcher to shoot off a flying disk. They were sold in a PDQ display.
Danger at Snake River Adventure Set
One aspect of these toys to appreciate is their great packaging. They show the real figures and accessories in a realistic adventure setting right on the box. For all of us who love to make diaramas, that would have been a fun assignment.
Each of these mid-priced set focus on more activities that a Scout could do… or would at least want to do. The play pattern on this set is a very typical wilderness first aid situation. With this set, the scouts can be prepared with a stretcher, crutches, backpack first aid kit, rope, grappling hook, splints, bandages, walkie talkie, and lantern. The one odd piece of equipment is an oxygen tank. Even on trips with our current scoutmaster who is a physician, I have never seen an oxygen tank, but I guess if they are climbing high enough altitudes, it could happen.
Search for the Spanish Galleon Adventure Set
While big brother Joe has learned not to get caught in his black “Mission to Spy Island” raft, these scouts have a safety yellow raft. Also included are a dive mask, air tanks, fins, oar, rope, weight belt, and swim trunks. The fun part on this set is the pirate chest of Spanish doubloons, which if found, the leaders would make the scouts turn over to the park service or appropriate authorities. However, it’s not as Scouts never thought of those things while doing scuba off the Florida Keys at the real Florida Sea Base.
Warning from Thunderhead Weather Station Adventure Set
This set has the scouts watching for emergency weather situations – a very real situation. They are equipped with a makeshift weather station built into a tree, with a desk and a radar dish and wind speed indicator. There is even a tree stump seat. Smaller gear includes radio with microphone and headset, binocular, walkie talkie and signal flags so they can use a semaphore message to send the news in case both radios stop working. The catalog also notes a “working code key” which I suspect would be a Morse code and/or semaphore alphabet chart.
Lost in the High Country Adventure Set
Even though the Scouts are lost, they are eating well. Maybe what is lost is all the food and cooking gear, and all the other scouts are looking for it. It has a campfire, grill, frying pan, utensils, Vit-L-Kit, cooking pot, a slab of meat, canteen, and coffee pot (a true necessity to avoid having a grumpy Scoutmaster.) Other non-food, yet very helpful accessories are the: backpack, pickax, bow saw, hand ax, flashlight, lantern, compass, and even a log to sit on. To me, it looks like the scouts are doing their “Wilderness Survival” merit badge. But then it was, we would have to wonder if they hid the steak in their backpacks or if what type of steak it truly is.
Avalanche on Blizzard Ridge Adventure Set
This set has a mini snowmobile and all the gear for a snow rescue. It contains skis, ski poles, ski boots, jumpsuit, mittens, knit cap, snow goggles, backpack, rope, and a cargo sled. The sled and rope can be used to haul back an injured climber. But it could also transport the diminutive GI Joe Abominable snowman and possibly earn a “Legendary Beasts” merit badge.
This set is a small scaled Jeep with a trailer to carry a canoe. So, it really is two vehicles. The Jeep has a working winch available for rescue situations. It also includes other small parts so a scout can be prepared with the appropriate gear of a fire extinguisher, a camp shovel, and a pickaxe.
High Adventure Scout Base
This tall tower is very reminiscent of the GI Joe training center. If you have ever been to a Boy Scout summer camp, a version of these is usually on site. This set comes with a signal light, a flag, a pulley, a telescope, and a tent. The platform on top creates a fun area for signaling and watching for people to rescue. On the real ones, they are used primarily to teach the “Climbing” merit badge with scouts climbing up and repelling down. There is always someone at the bottom belaying with the rope by holding the other end of it to stop you in case you start to fall. (It can also be used to stop the progress of a middle-aged assistant scoutmaster when a young twenty-ish assistant scoutmaster wants to suddenly stop the rope, leaving you hanging in mid-air until you answer the question “Can I have your permission to date your daughter?”
Since I was left hanging, I am going to leave you hanging also to hear about year two with more sets and two cub scout figures? Stay tuned for part 2! (In the meantime, don’t forget to keep practicing your knots.)