Friday, November 01, 2019

Pack Mules, 1963

Remember Mattel's "Hot Wheels"? Well, back in the early 1960's, there was a mule craze that swept the nation, and Mattel made "Hot Mules". Sold in blister packs for only 24 cents, kids loved to collect all of the many variations of mules. "I got the white one!". "I'll trade 'Old Stinky' for your extra 'Goldie'"! What a time that was. To this day I'm trying to find the mule that had a straw hat. Those always got lost.

But I digress; here are three nice photos of some familiar boys as they began their journey through Nature's Wonderland aboard a conga-line of gentle mules. Apparently they were trusted to be able to sit in the saddle without falling off - no straps are holding them there. 

It's OK, buckaroo, don't look so worried! Hardly any kids have been eaten by bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wild pigs, or bobcats. (This kid is definitely strapped in, BTW - maybe his brother is too, but his sport coat hides it).

I especially like this very unusual view as the mules passed the furthest outskirts of Rainbow Ridge - I don't recall ever noticing that cabin that's ahead of us. The brave and trustworthy mule wrangler looks back to make sure everyone is OK!


TokyoMagic! said...

I also don't recall ever seeing that cabin before. It sort of looks like it's full scale. I wonder if Walt had a second "apartment" within the park? Or perhaps it was Lillian's "she shed." Maybe she needed a place to escape to, and to also keep a close eye on her petrified rock and make sure nothing bad happened to it, since she loved it so.

Nanook said...


There's little chance of the first lad falling out of the saddle - as those massive cuffs on his jeans are certain to "lock him in-place"-! As for that 'mystery cabin' - it was actually Lillian's 'shoe shed'. (Oh - you didn't know she was a shoe fashionista-??) And what a great angle that last shot is. Just think... that 'scene' took place smack dab in the middle of Anaheim. Oh, Disneyland of the past - how we miss thee-!

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

The return of the Sport Coat Brothers! Love the look on the kid's face in #2. With the modern craze for more and more high-tech thrill rides, the Pack Mules seem even more quaint and charming by comparison. You can still take a horseback trail ride at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness for a surprisingly reasonable fee, but I've never gotten around to it.

Andrew said...

With the hustle and bustle of Frontierland all around you and these wonderful scenery pieces, I'd love to have given the Pack Mules a ride!

K. Martinez said...

The Redline Hot Mules were the best.

Is that a painting of Cascade Peak on the building facade in the first pic?

Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

My favorite Hot Mules were the Sizzlers - you plugged them into in an electric charger and watched them scream around an orange track at a scale speed of three miles per hour. It usually took three charges to make one circuit around the "Big O" race set...if the mule didn't stubbornly stop and refuse to move. Mattel was a stickler for authenticity.

Ken, yes, it is. You can get a straight-on view of it in this photo of Harry Connnick, Jr. They also repaired wagons. I remember the year we brought my Radio Flyer with the stuck wheel to the Park; they fixed the wheel, rotated the tires, greased the axles, and tuned up the tongue, all for the price of a "D" coupon. Those were the days...

Scott Lane said...

"Hot Mules" - BAhahaha! Thanks I needed that laugh this morning.
Imagine the smell of hot mules sealed in plastic.

JC Shannon said...

The blazer brothers look good in the saddle. Great scans of Rainbow Ridge, love it. Maybe I'll wear a sport coat to work today. Thanks Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, that cabin is Roy’s apartment. Even he needed to get away once in a while! The shed was just the top, the actual apartment was underground, 4,000 square feet of sheer comfort. It had a full bar, a pool table, a jacuzzi, and even a snow-cone machine.

Nanook, those are some pretty impressive cuffs, if only I got some sort of cash reward for “photo with the biggest cuffs”. A “shoe shed” for Lillian makes perfect sense, she especially loved her collection of early Air Jordans (Michael Jordan was born in 1963, so those Nikes are especially rare).

Melissa, I can’t decide if the kid in picture #2 is truly nervous, or if it was just an unfortunate photo. I think I would have enjoyed the Pack Mules; I’ve been lucky enough to have gone horseback riding a few times in my life (I’m sure there are many kids that rarely see a real horse), but for some reason it has never been something that I long to do over and over.

Andrew, I agree with you, what an amazing experience, unlike anything else you could have at an amusement park!

K. Martinez, I especially loved the “spectraflame” colors that were used on the mules! I had a fondness for that bright yellow-green. And yes, that is a painting of Cascade Peak!

Chuck, ha ha, I had a few Sizzlers, they were amazing to me at the time. I used to have a box with all of my old Hot Wheels (and a few unloved Matchbox cars), but haven’t seen it for a while, I wonder where it went. On a side note, remember those spinning tops with the gyroscopes inside, called “Whizzers”? I think that photo you linked to shows Harry Connick Jr.’s brother Larry Connick the fifth.

Scott Lane, :-D

Jonathan, just think, after a few rides both brothers looked so cool and confident, each with a cowboy hat pulled low over their eyes, each chewing on a piece of straw, and each ready to pull out their bedrolls and sleep beneath the stars by a crackling campfire.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Those boys have a movie-star "air" to them . . . they look sort-of like a young Gregory Peck and Dana Andrews. They probably grew up to be real heart-throbs with the young ladies!

Did this Hot Wheels mule team have a track loop, too?


P.S. Wow, a lot of folks either stayed up real late last night or were up real early today! (Probably all that sugar.)

K. Martinez said...

Major, I remember "Whizzers". Quite a few kids in my class would bring those to school and play with them on their desktop (furniture kind) before class started. I had a couple of "Whizzers" as well.

Anonymous said...

I love the mule commentary, and the blazer brothers. Great stuff.

Like Ken and Major, I recall Sizzlers and Whizzers. Both interesting technology applications. With the great strides in rechargable technology, I'm surprised the Sizzlers don't make a comeback. Mine all stopped holding a charge in fairly short order. :(

I had a Whizzer with a clear dome top and there was a kind of kaleidoscope inside that spun patterns as the top wound down. It didn't spin as long as the sort-of wedge shaped one.

Also had all the original 12 Hot Wheels in the tire-shaped case. I think that's still in the garage. Probably worth $10 on EBay, because it's missing one of the surfboards from the Deora.


Chuck said...

They brought repro Sizzlers back (with better batteries) as a Target exclusive for Christmas 2006 (stu2983 had the foresight and ready cash to buy some; I waited until the next year...when they weren't available anymore) and again in 2011 with Cars 2 theming (which I did buy). I had a lot of fun with my kids and those cars, even if the Cars cars have such a wide wheelbase that they can only run on the black "fat track."

There's a whole community of Sizzlerheads out there, and they've found ways to replace the original batteries and soup up the engines. Would love to join in, but money doesn't grow on trees (and the moneyplants out back, while lovely, aren't legal tender anywhere in North America).

Sadly, I have no recollection of Whizzers. I feel somehow incomplete.

Dean Finder said...

I only remember whizzers as the devices my older brother used to inflict Indian burns on me, and occasionally get caught in my hair, requiring our mom to cut it out.

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, I think it’s the sport coats that make the kids look a little more “adult” than the usual striped t-shirts and dungarees. They just look like regular boys to me! Hot Mules can’t do loops, silly! But they did have a special parachute version that you could throw off of your roof or some other high point.

K. Martinez, I was fascinated by the gyroscopic effect, it seemed like magic to me. I still have my yellow and green “Whizzer” top - somewhere.

JG, It’s kind of fun to think of toy developers trying to figure out a way to make playthings out of actual physics or technology. There’s a famous Gilbert “Nuclear Physics Energy Lab” that is very rare, it had some sort of real uranium, and you could make things such as a cloud chamber. Such a cool idea! Also cool that you have your tire-shaped case with all 12 original red-line Hot Wheels; it’s amazing to think that the cars and the case probably only cost a few bucks back in the day. Now, if everything was mint, it could easily bring hundreds!

Chuck, I used to buy Hot Wheels for my youngest nephew, who loved them, but at a certain point he moved on to other toys, and I pretty much stopped looking at the at “Toys R Us”. In my memory the old Sizzlers ran on the orange track - mostly because I don’t remember having any black track. Like many kids, we tried to make an incredibly long track run for our Hot Wheels to race on, but they either ran out of momentum, or our drop was too steep and they would fly off of the first bump or curve. Sounds like you had some pretty cool toys, it was not a big loss to be unaware of Whizzers.

Dean Finder, YES! I know I had to have at least one Whizzer cut out of my hair. Luckily I was not subjected to Indian burns, ouch.

Anonymous said...

@Major, I wanted that Nuclear Energy Lab! I did have a Gilbert Microscope and a Chemistry set, with lots of cool poison chemicals, and a rock collection with a piece of Uranium. No way to tell if it was really radioactive though. None of this would be legal today. Now we can barely supply real chemicals in classrooms for use under supervision.

After my comment, I checked on the case on-line, there were apparently 16 original cars, so that must be what I have. I know I lost some of the collector buttons along the way. I don't know how much the case cost, but I remember the cars were 99 cents because I bought some with my own money earned from mowing the lawn. Some of the rare cars, like the VW bug go for hundreds if in good condition. Which is nuts.

Sizzlers would run on the orange track, but the wide black track was made especially for them since they didn't need the gravity run-down like the others. The self-powered cars would jockey around the black track almost as if they had drivers.

@Dean Finder, oh I remember the dangers of those whizzers. I did that once by accident, because that is how you learn.

@Chuck, I am sure that a long and fulfilling life is possible without having had the full complement of 70's toys. Hot-rodding Sizzlers does sound like a lot of fun, far more than a whizzer.