There were the toys of infancy: the Rock-A-Stack and the Shape-O Toy Ball and the telephone and the corn popper. There were the toys of pre-teenhood: G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe and dozens of other action figures. And then there were the toys that fall somewhere inbetween, the toys that filled the playtimes of my toddler years. One of the most memorable of these was Kenner’s Tree Tots Tree House.
The Tree Tots Tree House came out in 1975 (at which time I would have been one year old). A first glance it was just a tree, just a hard plastic green and brown tree. But a push of the square button under the thin handle at the tree top caused the boughs to bounce up and reveal a very 70s-ish little home complete with a kitchen, living room, and bed room. In this home lived Treemont, Willow, Honey, and Chip Treetot, along with their dog Barky and cat Chesnut. A staircase could extend from the floor of the Treetots home to the ground below and an elevator ran up the tree trunk. There was also a tree swing beneath the home and Barky’s house (inside a bush, of course) on the floor.
And as I said, this toy was very memorable, but not for good reasons. I was afraid of this toy. I’m not exactly sure why today. Part of it had to do with the fact that it was very difficult for me to push the button at the top with my chubby little fingers, and when I finally did get it, the tree top popped up so fast that it scared me. Another part of it came from the fact that when the tree top was pushed down over the Treetots, it appeared as if the tree was eating them (the kite-eating tree from Peanuts probably contributed to this notion)! And I think we can all agree that Barky’s house is fairly reminiscent of Audrey II from Little Shop Of Horrors. That’s just too creepy for a kids toy.
But despite that creepiness (or perhaps because of it), the Tree Tots Tree House made a sizeable impression on me, sizeable enough that I still remember it today. In fact, there are times when I wish I could get my hands on the tree house again and push that square button one more time. Umm, well, maybe not actually push it. That’s too frightening But I would like to at least see it again.