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Remember When: A Nostalgic Trip Through the Consumer Era    by Robert Opie & Mitchell Beazley order for
Remember When
by Robert Opie
Order:  USA  Can
Mitchell Beazley, 2002 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

When I was a young whippersnapper, I read a lot of science fiction, and the thing that always got my mind a-wanderin' was time travel. Oh, how glorious it would be, I thought, if I could hop in a machine, zip back in time, and see all the stuff I've only read about in books. I still feel like that.

Well, until somebody gives me my time machine, here's the next best thing: Remember When. Robert Opie began collecting toys, product packaging, and advertisements when he was sixteen; his collection now contains half a million items. (Note to Mr. Opie: I would dearly love to see your collection, hint hint.) This gorgeous, thrilling book contains about 2500 photos of wonderful books and toys and consumer products dating back to the late nineteenth century.

I remember when I was a little kid, like eight or nine, we'd get the Sears Christmas Wishbook catalogue, and I'd sit there, pawing through the toy section, thinking: I want this, I want that, oh, wow, that'd be so neat to have. I wasn't being greedy, you understand; the stuff just looked so nifty I wanted to hold it, touch it, see how keen it really was.

Remember When had me doing it all over again. That box of Lifebuoy soup from the late 1800s? I want that. The Meccano set from 1908? I want it. The Surf detergent from 1952? Please can I have? And, oh, what I wouldn't give to get my hands on candy cigarettes from the 1960s, with Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Flintstones on their boxes.

See, I'm a collector, too. I have an original Man From U.N.C.L.E. car (the white one), a 1973 Planet of the Apes snap-together puzzle from Addar Products Corp., a Sorry! Game from 1938, game tie-ins to the Barney Miller and All in the Family television series, original Dinky Toys from the Gerry Anderson puppet series Captain Scarlet and Joe 90, a promotional souvenir program from the first release of Star Wars, even a plastic German Cornflakes box (from 1989) made in the shape of a bust of Batman.

I look through this wondrous book, and I feel like here's a guy I would really get along with. He's collecting things from the past, preserving them, treasuring them, keeping them alive. I've never met the man, but I like him very much. And I will never tire of his time-traveling book.

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