A Krushing Nostalgia: Meaning from a Monster

December 26, 2012 — Today I was supposed to be at the National Museum of Natural History ogling Titanoboa. Instead, bad weather and bad health had me snowbound and Suda-fed at my parents’ house, watching Richard Pryor in The Toy, reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, and playing with a 14-inch-tall piece of X-shaped green rubber.

Maybe it was a better day as a result, I don’t know.

Anyway, I like monsters. That’s why I was really looking forward to seeing Titanoboa. And why I slaver over visiting oddities like this one. Or this one. This one, too. Too many to link to, actually. And the whole thing can probably be blamed on this guy:

His name is Krusher, and he was put out in 1979 by Mattel. He’s about 14 inches tall and made of a thick, soft rubber than you can compress (“krush”). A valve on his orange plastic belt allows you to freeze him in krushed form or automatically reinflate him to his original impressive size. Here’s the commercial:

Of course, it was also the Eighties, a time when 3 3/4-inch action figures and heavy TV tie-ins began taking over the metal shelves of toy stores. So Krusher found himself at the end of an era and without a chance. He didn’t sell well, and, to some reports, only 3,000 were made.

That’s too much for you to know about this toy.

But I got one of them. When I was three. At a Christmas long past. Krusher cost $17.95 according to this toy catalog advert that grouped him with such other toys as Gre-Gory, a vampire bat with a chest full of pumping blood, and Suckerman, a glow-in-the-dark creature that stuck to whatever surface you threw him at (God-damn childhood is so much better than adulthood). I’m not sure what $17.95 translates to in today’s money, but mom apparently thought the reptiloid was a worthwhile investment for a kid showing a burgeoning interest in lizards, snakes, and turtles.

I don’t remember that Christmas, but I do remember carrying Krusher around. He was about a third as big as me and a constant companion, one of the many “rubber uglies” of my youth and a precursor to my fascination with all monsters of myth and movie today.

At some point not too long after I got him, Krusher broke in half at the belt and mom tossed him.

For scale, an original 1977 Kenner
Chewbacca, one of the Davids
that slew this Goliath.
This year, some three decades later, thirty years of guilt boiled over and she got him for me for Christmas again. Because I’ve gotten to the end of the gift cycle and have to start all the way from the beginning.

Krusher has always been a loose end in my life. For some reason, he’s popped into my thoughts more regularly than any actual person from my past and, unlike just about every one from age 23 on, is a memory that just won’t go away. I’ve come close to getting my hands on him again a few times. Once as a child, two other times in the Wild West early days of eBay. But he always eluded me.

The thing’s actually in better condition than I am after all this time, and that seems to be about the norm. The few forward-thinking mavericks who’ve written about Krusher online talk about his amazing durability and still-working gimmick.

The soft rubber, solid weight, and nice texture of scales makes holding him a real pleasure and his subtle paint application is more or less intact. Two of his scales have been charmingly colored in with an ink pen by his original owner who is now undoubtedly an adult and undoubtedly wishing he never got rid of his Krusher.

Unfortunately, the seal is broken on mine, so he doesn’t krush, but that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with an open Saturday, some sealant, and a small bit of initiative. And I regularly have two out of three of those.

Anyway, it’s a gift way better than the latest tech or fashion. One that I’ll treasure long after everybody else has moved on to the iPad 27.

Most important, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I can’t wait to break my own kid’s most beloved toys to give her a better Christmas in a few decades.

So, thanks, Mom and Dad and my older brother who helped track the thing down. Perfect gift.

Merry Krush-mas