#1032: 1984


The day before my entire world changed forever was December 25, 1984.  The day before I discovered Iron Maiden for the first time.  December 26 1984 would alter the trajectory of my life forever, but just as memorable was the day before.  The infamous Christmas Day when I received the GI Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft from my parents.

My parents kept up the “Santa” charade for a few years longer because my sister was still young.  Our Christmas tradition was that after we went to bed, mom and dad would get our “fun” gifts (the toys and games) out of the attic and leave them around the tree from “Santa”.  They were unwrapped and ready for us when we woke up in the mornings.  Truly, the happiest mornings of my life were waking up (always early) and turning on the lights to see what treasures awaited us.  Atari games, GI Joes, Transformers, and more.  Christmas of ’84 was the year I knew I was getting the GI Joe hovercraft from “Santa”.

I could not sleep, a problem I still suffer from today.  On that Christmas Eve, I decided it wasn’t worth trying to fall asleep.  So I laid there in bed, waiting for the parents to go to sleep and turn off the lights.  Eventually they did.  I’m not sure how long I waited after that.  Ten minutes?  Fifteen?  An hour?  At some point in the wee hours of the morning I got out of bed, went downstairs, and turned on the lights.

There it was – the Killer W.H.A.L.E., the big item up for sale that year and the star of two issues of the Marvel comic.  It came with a pilot figure named Cutter, an essential member of the Joe nautical forces.  I ripped open the box and began assembling. What a beast of a vehicle it was! It had two elevating side cannons, two missile boxes with four missiles in each, two manned machine gun turrets, a rack of depth charges, an escape motorcycle, and a launchable water sled for covert operations.  On the pilot’s upper deck there was room for two Joes including Cutter.  Below the opening top hatch was room for several more passengers.  Fully loaded with the two gunners, you could carry 10-12 Joes into battle.  At the back, triggered by a hidden button, you could spin the massive fans.  In the front, a ramp opened up so your Joes could take the beach and save the day.  It was a complex build with lots of parts and stickers and windows.

There arose such a clatter that my dad came downstairs to see what the hell was up.  He was shocked to see me there with my hovercraft at about 1:00 in the morning.

“Santa came,” I said stupidly with no better excuse.

He left me to assemble my new hovercraft and I tried to keep it as quiet as possible.

What a Christmas.  Could that have been peak Christmas for me?  The next year I got a dual tape deck, but I didn’t wake up at 1 AM to open it.  Considering the extreme early morning, the epic gift, and the transformative Boxing Day, that could indeed have been peak Christmas.  Music would slowly begin to dominate, changing things forever, but leaving memories just as sweet.



  1. I think I got the W.H.A.L.E. the same Christmas. What an amazing toy. I even took it to the lake where my grandma lived the next summer and played with it in the water. It did float, but I kind of regretted putting it out to sea, so to speak. I never got that nasty lake smell out of it.


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