Ah, the metal cap bomb toy. An affordable and convenient favorite of many of us ’70s kids. I played with these a lot in the mid- to late ’70s, relishing in each and every loud “BANG!” which emitted from the tiny but hefty warhead. I probably spent as much time appreciating the overall simplistic yet highly efficient and functional design of the toy, pulling the warhead with my fingers to watch the coiled spring compress then snap back into place when I let it go.
The fact that it was pure metal also added to the appeal. Just the weight of it alone made it so satisfying to throw and watch it arc and plummet to the pavement, with a guaranteed explosion each and every time. The ones I had used paper caps though, the ones that came in a roll. But they were still cool.
Did you ever notice the small circular holes at the rear of the fins? Even the modern reproductions of this timeless classic have them. Did you know that these holes were used to attach a parachute to the bomb? It’s true. I know, because that’s the way I bought them in the ’70s.
I don’t know what it is about the American flag parachute that makes me laugh. There’s something about it that just screams ’70s. Maybe because of the association with 1976, our country’s Bicentennial year. That year I saw stars and stripes everywhere.
I loved parachuted toys as a kid. It was always a thrill to watch something float gently to Earth from high up in the atmosphere, just like the space capsules returning home from their missions. But this toy had an unrivaled bonus: it would float down, but then EXPLODE on contact! Oh, the thrill of it all.
I must’ve been about 6–7 years old when I first played with these. My most vivid memory is that of frustration, as I didn’t know how to wrap or fold the parachute strategically well enough so that it would open swiftly during the bomb’s trajectory, and slow its descent with a majestic, patriotic canopy. I tied and threw it so many different ways, but each bomb run resulted in a tangled and crumpled mess, with the parachute trailing uselessly behind the bomb like a pathetic, broken tail. Sure, the bomb exploded on impact, but the parachute never worked.
Finally I got my dad to help me, and he showed me how to do it correctly. He carefully folded the parachute neatly around the fins then secured it—but not too tightly—with the strings. Afterwards, he launched it high in the air with his grown-up arms, and I watched in awe with my mouth open wide as the strings unwound, setting Old Glory free to unfurl in mid-air. The sun blinded me for a brief instant as the bomb arced majestically, the chute (barely) slowing its descent and landing with a satisfying, block-echoing BANG!
That may have been one of the only successful parachuted missions that cap bomb ever had, but it was totally worth it—so impressionable that I still remember it vividly to this day. Unfortunately though, for my young little hands and arms, the parachuted bomb was just too complicated for me to enjoy on my own, as I could never pack and launch it as well as my dad could. So eventually, I took a pair of scissors and snipped the lines away. Luckily though, the bomb was still fun to play with on its own, so it remained a favorite toy of mine for a long time.
Meanwhile, I’m sure hundreds of kids my age experienced the same frustrating parachute predicament, which most likely prompted the manufacturers to get rid of the parachute altogether in later releases. But they never got rid of the holes, and each time I see them, I recall that sunny ’70s day with a smile.