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Sea monkeys and other such stuff

Growing up in Branch in the 1950s, we did have some access to comic books. With lots of buddies on the Hill, someone or other was always lending or borrowing the latest editions.

Most of us had relatives living away who freely contributed to our collections. Every time my mother made a medical visit to Placentia, she came home with an ample supply. Besides the exciting adventures of the likes of Roy Rogers, Superman and Archie, those colorful little publications contained advertisements. Comic ads! Therein lies my story.

The first time I answered one of those ads was for a package of sea monkeys. Between my mother and my uncle and my grandmother and the proceeds of a few beer bottles, I scraped up enough money. The ad said to send $1.25 (a fortune to a 10 year old in those days). By the time the little creatures made their way from New York City to Branch, the whole shebang cost a lot more.

The long trek proved to be detrimental for my precious cargo because by the time I opened the package, they looked like a plastic bag full of mushy potato eyes. Although I followed the directions to a tee, the finished product looked no more like the happy little sea creatures pictured on the comic page than our old tomcat looked like Sylvester. Although I tended their container diligently for weeks, they didn’t even come close to resembling as much as a sardine, let alone a sea monkey.

A few months later, I was again trying to put together enough cash to respond to an enticing ad that offered a Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio. The ad said “No batteries, no electricity, no tubes.” No ifs, ands or buts about it, I had to have that radio. Never mind that it was hard enough to get a reception on our big Rogers Majestic radio at the best of times. I must have waited six weeks, posting myself outside the Post Office door day after day. When the package finally came from Chicago, the gadget worked no better than two Carnation milk cans with a length of sudline attached to both ends. Again, my outport gullibility fell to the wiles of a USA toy company.

If you think I might have had enough sense not to get fleeced a third time by smart American advertising, think again. X-ray glasses! With those amazing X-ray glasses I’d be able to see through walls like Superman.

I can’t imagine where I came up with the money for this commodity and I can’t imagine why my mother gave in. Then again, Mommy was never the kind to put a damper on my imagination. Maybe I asked for it as a Christmas present and she didn’t want to disappoint me. However it was, I remember being in possession of those X-ray glasses.

Of all the duds that resulted from my mail ordering, this one took the cake. It was such a useless gimmick that you couldn’t even use it as sunglasses. My dreams of being the Superwoman of Branch were quickly dashed to the ground. To my credit, I did not send away for the live sea horses or the amazing ant farm. There were times however that I looked longingly at the pictures of those cute little horses of the sea. Oh to be back to the fantasies and dreams of childhood.

If this article does nothing else, I hope it stirs some memories for all the comic book readers of my generation.


Marina Power Gambin was born and raised in her beloved Branch, St. Mary’s Bay. She now lives in Placentia where she taught school for almost three decades. She can be reached at

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