Wednesday, May 7, 2014



Stories of Childhood Toy Triumph and Tragedy



Age: 9 years
Date: 1982
Place: King's
Location: Watertown, Massachusetts

While driving home with my mother after a long day of shopping at Bradlees, she decided to make a pit stop at King's down the street to get some groceries. What was interesting to me about this was that my mom usually went to the Stop n Shop in the next town of Waltham where I lived. I didn't have a clue why she stopped here. I guess it doesn't really matter, food shopping was food shopping... but little did I know, I was in for another adventure (in my mind anyway).

Walking in with my mom I noticed that King's wasn't like any super market I've ever seen before. I was used to places like Star Market, Waltham Super Market or Stop n Shop but King's was way different than those typical grocery stores. It was like a giant warehouse with food, produce and canned goods all in open cardboard boxes on the shelves for cheap prices. I guess you could say it was like a smaller BJ's or Cosco from what I can remember. But what was even more intriguing to me was that King's had food products I've never seen before.

Enter: PDQ Chocolate Milk Flavoring by Ovaltine. Now, I've seen and drank Nestle Quick chocolate mix with milk many times before, but never PDQ. Maybe this wouldn't have left such a big impression on my young mind, but when my sharp eye noticed a little Spider-man picture on the front of the bottle, I immediately walked over to investigate it.

Taking the jar off the shelf, I looked at it closely and read that "free" inside was one of ten Marvel Super Hero Stickers. As I turned the jar, I saw on the back was a picture of the Spidey sticker available in the set and... gulp... my favorite superhero of all -- The Incredible Hulk! My heart soon began to race. As I looked at the bottom of the bottle, I noticed you could only see the back of the sticker so there was no way I could tell who was on it... ARRGGHHH! I then started to look at the bottom of all the jars on the shelf with no luck, every sticker was face up in the bottle. The only way to see what superhero on each sticker was, was to open the jar and dig for it. But honestly, how could I do that? I guess when you're a super hero child addict like myself, you have to find a way. And I certainly would...

Once I saw the Hulk on the back of this jar it was all over for me.

First thing I did was ask my mother if I could get a jar of this chocolate drink mix. Predictably she said "no." So there was no way I could take a one in ten chance at luck to get the Hulk sticker. What else could I do? Then it hit me -- I will go looking for the Hulk sticker myself. And I won't be playing by societies rules. Today little Johnny Cimino will be playing by his own rules even if it gets him into trouble. He's going to go digging for that Hulk sticker and take him home -- at any cost!!

As my mother walked off I told her I would catch up to her later (it's the early eighties so nobody watches their children). Then I surveyed the area. I noticed there was a small gap between each shelf section. If I was going to go digging through these containers, I had to put the chocolate flavored mix somewhere. That gap was the perfect place to dump it in so I could get to the sticker at the bottom. The biggest problem (besides getting caught) was that I had to dump the ENTIRE contents of the jar on the floor in that space. Oh boy, oh boy... I better get that Hulk sticker as soon as possible because there was going to be a huge mess... gulp!

I had a 1 in 10 chance to get the Hulk sticker...and I was going to get him no matter what the odds were!

I looked around and noticed nobody was in the aisle with me, the moment of truth was at hand. I thought to myself; "Once I get the Hulk sticker, I'm outta here..." I grabbed my first PDQ jar off the shelf and twisted the cap off and then ripped the protective paper seal underneath it (I can clearly remember smelling the fresh chocolate mix). I took another look around before I leaned myself next to the gap between the shelves and poured out the entire chocolate mix into it. I have to say, the fact that the mix were these little chunky pellets/beads made it easier for it to fall between the gap. If it was a powdered mix then it would've been harder to control and it might've fallen anywhere and everywhere (oh, lucky me). Anyway, the first jar was completely empty as the sticker trickled down into my hand. I looked with anticipation -- it was Spider-Man!!! Damn it!! I shoved the sticker in my pocket with frustration. Now I had to do the entire process again. As scared as I was, nothing was going to stop me from getting that Hulk sticker.

I managed to repeat this process again. As the sticker came trickling down it was Captain America... ARRGGH! I did it again, it was Storm... ARRRGGGHHH!! And again, it was another Spider-man... ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! I couldn't keep this up. I was starting to become more nervous than before because even though I managed to hide the empty jars behind the unopened ones, the pile of PDQ mix was getting so high between the shelves that it was starting to seep into the aisle. What a disaster!! Time was also running out, my mother had to be close to finishing up her shopping so I had to move faster.

I grabbed another jar, repeated the dastardly process and got -- Spider-man again!!!! I loved Spidey, I always will. But honestly, I HATED him that day! I was getting so mad that I began to cry and pray to God to help me out (in my haste I didn't notice the contradiction that was -- hey, I was only nine years old). Now I was starting to tremble in rage and fear because this was honestly getting ridiculous with all the open jars and chocolate mix on the floor.

I needed a small break to regroup so I quickly ran out of the aisle to see where my mother was and I noticed that she was still shopping gleefully. When she saw me she told me she was almost done and we would be leaving soon. I said okay and as I raced back to the aisle, I knew I had only one more chance.

As I nonchalantly walked to the section, I saw an elderly couple walking in the aisle shopping for stuff. I froze with fear because if they saw the enormous pile of PDQ mix they would let the manager of the store know about it and put an end to this outrageously obsessive quest I was on. But luckily they never saw it and walked right past it. I then scooted pass them and returned to the heinous ritual. As I did the starting process of twisting off the cap and then ripping off the paper seal, the couple was still shopping in the aisle. I was pressured for time so I went about the dumping as usual (this time the pile was spilled over and easy to see by everyone) and wouldn't you know it, here comes ol' Jade Jaws himself trickling down the jar and into my hand -- The Incredible Hulk sticker!!! What perfect timing! I couldn't believe it! After emptying six bottles of PDQ mix, I got the sticker I craved and I was back with my mom walking to the checkout line.

When I got home I proudly put the stickers in my sticker book and the Hulk, was of course, the crown jewel of my collection. I made my peace with Spider-man and the next day I stuck one of the Spidey stickers on my pencil box at school. I looked at it everyday like a badge of honor (yes, I was deranged and I'm going to hell). I eventually lost those stickers and my sticker book as well. Years later, scrolling through EBay auctions I saw the entire set of the stickers for sale and I hastily bought them and still have them to this day.


It's funny that I never went back to King's again and it was eventually torn down. Looking back I have to wonder how I managed to get away with this debacle. Back then many stores didn't have high-tech security cameras, but I was so naively blind to everything around me when it came to superheroes that I just got lucky. And I have to wonder what became of that pile of PDQ chocolate mix. It had to be such a shock for the manager to see and I really do feel bad for the person who had to clean it up... sorry (did I say I was going to hell).

to be continued...

Other Tales From the Toy Chest:










John Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, RETRO FAN, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing, runs the Roy Thomas Appreciation Board on Facebook and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John likes to think he's the real Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at or follow him on Instagram at megostretchhulk.