When I took the free week membership on newspapers.com and started looking up Billy Blastoff I didn't expect to go so far down the rabbit hole and end up pulling 176 images from newspapers in 34 US states, Canada and England. Most of the images were from toy store advertisements which were often repeated week after week and after slogging through so many of these I'm left with the impession that Billy was perpefutally "On Sale this week only!"
I also found references in articles annoncing the release of Billy then mentions about it being the must have toy for this Christmas season into some really sweet mentions of kids writing to the local newspaper listing asking Santa Claus for Billy Blastoff toys for Christmas all the way to mentions in "looking back" articles decades after and people looking to find their old set in classified adds. In one artcle, the plight of Billy losing his Space Gun in the generation 2 upgrade of the Space Scout is set in the context of the scrutiny of gun toys in Vietnam war era US is lamented giving us a hint of the politics of the time and how it affected toy offerings.
The toy store advertisements take us through the release of the various sets from the first Space Scout set to the final Snowmobile set showing the context with other toys of the time along with relative prices and finally with the mark-downs final clearance sales all the way into late 1973 which is the date of the latest advertisement I found for the Snowmobile set 2 years after it was released.
Seeing the use of the Billy Blastoff as names of things like a sandblasing company, a band, a biker and a race horse illustrate how the toy became a part of pop culture at the time.
Newspaper articles range from announcements of Billy Blastoff toys,
The earliest article I found announcing the release of Billy Blastoff stoking interest at a toy show in Saint Petersburg, Florida.
Article discussing the technology used to measure kids' reactions to new toys like Billy Blastoff.
Pre-Christmas round-up of toy offerings with a mention of the de-emphasizing of gun and war toys with a slight mention of Billy Blastoff.
Same article as before a week later now available via AP.
The same article as above now syndicated by the Associated Press with some of the later paragraphs removed from the end.
Same AP article again with a picture and a few more paragraphs removed from the end.
Early 1969 article going over new toy offerings with a mention of Billy Blastoff and his new companion Robbie Robot but nothing about the other new sets like the Cargo Jet set in the featured picture.
Grand Opening of Zody's department store n Carson, CA Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher, AKA Princess Leia's mother) cutting the ribbon and Billy Blastoff "Space Command?" as a prize.
Finally a mention of a non-space set Scuba Scout gets an introduction.
In the middle of the US war in Vietnam and taking aim at the Voice of Women protesting war toys, the writer makes the point that kids' aggression is inate kids all want space toys like Billy Blastoff anyway.
Billy is featured in the article and there are mentions of the Space Scout and Deluxe set but still no mention of non-space Billy.
By now - early 1971 - Billy Blastoff seems to be a household name as this reporter spices up his article recounting an incident on the plane when an "elderly gentleman with his youngster's Billy Blastoff gun rushes the cockpit."
Another case of pop culture immersion, this writer recounting the woes of fatherhood includes a mention of his responsibility to keep Billy Blastoff armed with fresh batteries.
And later that same year Billy Blastoff is on this writer's short list of toys his subject mentions.
There are many more advertisements seen across the country and many duplicates throughout the week. Here are some of them that I liked best for one reason or another. Some of these have been reformatted a bit and cropped to feature the Billy Blastoff items. Some I've left the full advertisement intact just to show context.
The earliest advertisement that I came accross.
Did everyone have Lite-Brite? That was a favorite in our house. Gun toys still front and center. That skeet shooter looks like a lot of fun!
Cargo Jet and Fire Fighter now available.
Billy and Robbie in context with other space toys of the time. First Christmas season since the moon landing.
Robbie "the" Robot now available.
Image includes the Space Base store display.
Full page advertisement for space toys - and the Billy Blastoff Construction Set...
Earliest advertisement seen with Scuba Scout.
Santa will be at Simpsons and Billy Blastoff Space Scout Set with 2 Billys and Deluxe Space Set will be on-hand.
One of the only advertisements from the UK is from the venerable toy store Hamley's.
An excellent example of context - Billy Blastoff Scuba Scout included with an outdoor pool focussed advertisement.
Scuba Scout makes the short list of pool accessories.
Great image of the Space Base store display and doesn't Lay-Away with prices under $10 sound quaint these days?
Earliest advertisement seen with the re-styled Walking Billy Blastoff Space Scout set and restyled Robbie Robot but no mention of the new Walking Vehicle. Already on sale for half price. "As seen on TV."
Second generation Robbie Robot set with his Walking Vehicle.
First advertisement for the Walking Billy Blastoff sold alone.
At David's in Wichita, Scuba Scout, second generation Space Scout and Robbie Robot AND Santa!
Later at David's in Wichita's "Christmas in July" we see the same sets on sale from $5.97 down to $3.88. Not sure if the first generation picture is what was actually available.
First showing of the second generation Space Base set. G.I. Joe action "doll".
First showing of the Robbie Robot individual figure on sale for $1.88.
Second generation Space Scout box image and selling for a mere $2.44.
Prices at David's are back up since the last sale but still a deal at $4.99.
It's Billy vs. Matt in this Chirstmas push even though none of the Billy space sets are shown. Cargo Jet, Fire Fighter, Scuba Scout and Construction. No Snowmobile but maybe that's just not a hot selling in Hawaii.
First showing of the Snowmobile set in Ottawa, Canada. Probably a little more relatable to kids there.
Snowmobile also sold in Alberta, Canada.
Tacoma, Washington (almost Canada) also selling the snowmobile set.
My father did paste up art in the 60's and 70's so I sympathize with the people putting these advertisements together. But, some of these...
Nice layout on this one but the descriptions and images are swapped for Space Base and Space Scout.
Aparently an advertisement for the first generation Robbie Robot set (#9435) the Construction set image, mention of "Billy Walks alone" and some bad grammar confuse this one a bit.
"Robot-Robbie" and the wrong set image. Heavy fail.
Touch Command Sub image is not part of the Billy Blastoff line. $2.97 for a Cargo Jet set? I'll take it!
Billy Blastoff was not a Mattel product.
Wrong image for the Space Base set.
Image is for the non-walking Billy Blastoff.
Billy made a lot of kids' Santa wish lists. I wonder how many of them got what they wished for or if any of these now adults will see their wish posted here.
My money is on Chris being a good boy and getting his wish.
3 1/2 year old Martin McCoy is one helluva writer!
Randy plying Santa with cake on the table is prescious but Jill and Cindy Smith's wish for their brother and his friends to come home from Vietnam literally brings tears to my eyes.
My brother came home from Vietnam less his right arm in August of 1969. I hope their brother and his friends made it home safely.
Hightlighted request for Billy Blastoff up top, a store advertisement for the second generation Space Scout and an example of a full page of Dear Santa letters.
Another full page of letters with a massive cigarette advertisement. Billy letter highlighted on the right.
Highlights from the previous read.
Manny Montwell has to be the sweetest kid asking for nothing but a crib for his baby brother.
Hopefully Jeff got his Billy Blastoff and sleigh.
These ones are pretty awesome.
It seems like Billy was perpetually marked down but these clearance sales stood out.
$1.99 for either Robbie Robot, Space Scout, Construction or Scuba Scout.
Anual Lay-A-Way sale. Lowest price item - 25 cents. "Here's a nickle. I want to put this on lay-a-way."
"Toyland Opens", "slashed up to 50% and more" and this kid's mind is blown! Image of Construction dealer display.
Second generation Robbie Robot on sale but Matt Mason is much cheaper.
This is from my home town and may very well be where my parents bought my first Space Base set.
The last advertisement I found for Billy Blastoff toys is a Simpsons-Sears ad from 1973. Snowmobile set is all that's left. Canada of course.
Evidence of Billy Blastoff's impact on pop culture.
Billy Blastoff in the third!
A Third for Billy Blastoff.
When recapping past Christmas toy seasons typically included Billy.
Writer uses Billy Blastoff as an example a toy that was "THE thing about 5 years ago" but no longer.
A 10 year look back has Billy Blastoff on the short list of toys related to the moon landing.
Calling out each decade back to early 1900's Billy Blastoff is the one toy mentioned by name in for the 1960's.
A year-by-year lookback from 1967 to 1984 mentions Billy Blastoff in 1969 and Japan capturing 90% of the toy market that year.
Only part look back, this rebuff of the anti-war toys sentiment briefly mentions Billy Blastoff as an anchor point of the space toy era before a seque into a G.I. Joe war toy example of a war toy through a child's viewpoint.
More of a personal lookback at the effect of the Space Race on young boys, the writer recounts his personal memories with his best friend Billy "Blastoff" Forrester.
Another personal lookback. The writer described bumping into his former department store Santa who remebers his name and that he wanted Billy Blastoff in 1966. Maybe a little off in the year but not bad.
The Branford city mayor recounts his fond memories of Chrsitmas including his "walking robot called Billy Blastoff."
Girl and boy Dear Santa letters featured every 5 years from 1925 to 1999. 1970's boy letter asks for Billy Blastoff.
Feture on locally owned toy store the writer draws parallels with the store owner as having grown up in the age of toys like Billy Blastoff.
The writer laments his shopping trip as a parent looking for a cowboy toy when space toys like Billy Blastoff took over the market.
Classified ads showed people looking for their old Billy Blastoff toy or auctions houses selling them.