Well, I saw it coming. Many of I Remember JFK’s fans are of the female persuasion, and there has been enough clamor for memories that THEY had that boys didn’t, that, well, in the spirit of Sky King, baking powder submarines, and coonskin caps (i.e. I didn’t personally experience them), I hereby present my first “girlie” nostalgic memory: Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven.
My first discovery, which surprised me greatly, was that many BOYS had Easy Bake Ovens. In fact, many great chefs say they developed a love for cooking by playing with them in their childhoods.
Even though an old commercial at YouTube shows a girl AND a boy cooking with one, there’s no doubt that my crowd considered them for girls ONLY. So it’s natural that any of my friends who had one would probably have kept it hidden away.
But this column is not about the sad tale of peer pressure keeping us from revealing our true personalities. No, it’s about a toy that debuted the same year JFK was taken away from us, and which continues to be produced today, after having changed hands and designs a few times.
The original Easy Bake looked like a miniature oven. It had a stove top which was just for looks. It came in any color you liked, as long as it was turquoise. There were a whole bunch of us Boomer kids out there, of course, so selling 500,000 units at $15.95 a pop its first year was achieved handily.
Sales remained brisk, driven by loads of Saturday morning commercials. The one I remember best (and which I couldn’t find on YouTube) started off “Easy Bake, Easy Bake, fast as you can!” By 1965, Kenner had released other Easy Bake toys, including a popcorn popper, Bubble Gum set, Birthday Cake, Party set and Kid Dinners. That last one let you create your own TV dinners. Yum.
In 1968, Betty Crocker joined in on the fun. They sold cake mixes and such in just the right size for the Easy Bake’s light bulb to bake miniature versions of the same cakes mom made.
The oven got a redesign late in the 60’s, when a hood was added. It also became available in beautiful avocado green and harvest gold, just in time for the 70’s.
The new Easy Bake’s kept coming. Another one that helped sum up the 70’s was the potato chip maker. In 1978, a “microwave” version was released. It didn’t really bombard your cake mix with radiation, but its look fit the times.
Kenner was bought out by Hasbro, and the ovens continued to change with the times. Litigation had a lot to do with that, of course, as kids burning themselves accidentally, instead of teaching the tots that they needed to be careful, now meant that it was time for mommy and daddy to call a TV-advertised lawyer. Sigh.
The version for sale today looks nothing like the turquoise original. But it’s much safer. However, even though the box clearly states it’s for kids eight years of age and older, the fact that FIVE children considerably younger than that age were burned by them forced a recall this year of 985,000 units to be refitted to make them more idiot-parent-proof.
But, thankfully, they continue to be manufactured, unlike many of the toys we enjoyed in the 60’s and 70’s that have been declared to be too dangerous for poor, stupid, helpless kids to play with today.