Happiness was a Survival Knife

The movie First Blood was a big hit in my neighborhood growing up, especially on VHS. I do not think that we were old enough to understand the social commentary or any of the subtext. We were more interested in this apparently super human Rambo and his ability to evade capture. This movie created all sorts of “survival” games that we would play in the swamps and meadows near the river that ran through town. Maybe we called that “playing Rambo”, I am not sure, but the tagline for those days of play would have been “one man was the hunted…”

Being young boys we also fixated on one particular prop in the movie, Rambo’s Knife. And why wouldn’t we, that thing was a lifesaver. With just a knife to start off with, Rambo was able to single-handedly take on the entire world. This was something that appealed to us. One by one we all acquired knives of similar qualities (although most were just cheap reproductions). I was able to talk my Mom into buying me one at a Swap Meet while we were on vacation in Florida. I think it was 14 bucks — it was far from authentic (oddly enough the price for about the same knife remains almost unchanged). I am not sure what she was thinking, but I guess she trusted me and that trust was not misplaced. I would use the knife for fort building and other mundane “survival skills” and never for anything that dangerous.

I cannot imagine kids toting survival knives around the suburbs today without getting arrested, but we walked proudly through yards and vacant lots with these monstrous blades strapped to our legs and never heard a peep from anyone. Your thinking perhaps people wanted to say something, but were terrified by this armed group of kids? More likely people just though we were kids being kids. Plus we did much more unusual and often louder stuff in our area. So a fixation on dangerous looking, but relatively quiet knives, must have been a relief.

Recently I stumbled across this commercial that ran on television for the knife online:

That was my exact knife! Even down to all the accessories. I made a mental note to try and track down the knife when I went home to visit my family. Surprisingly the knife was still in one piece, although the loops to make the wire saw were missing and the sheath was long gone. It also was well buckled from my constant, but inefficient sharpening. My nephew was over at the house at the time and I asked my Sister if it would be okay if I gave him the knife. Her look was one of horror — a resounding NO!

I guess times change. But I can tell you this, from the look on my nephew’s face when he saw that knife, kids do not.

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9 thoughts on “Happiness was a Survival Knife

  1. Doug says:

    I had this knife as well. I took it on a family vacation and boasted to my grandpa that it could even cut wood. I showed him the metal rope that supposedly cut wood and he laughed at me. He promised to give me 5 dollars if I would cut down a small tree near the campsite. I didn’t try, but I didn’t take the knife off my side, either.

  2. I tried using that rope. It sorta cut through small things, but the pressure you needed to put on the ring holders was pretty intense and mine just snapped off in mid cut.

  3. vinvectrex says:

    I had no idea the popularity of this knife. I still have mine – packed away amongst the family camp gear. I only used the rope on a small branch once, and remember the deep imprints the rings left in my fingers. Never ran into a reason to use the waterproof matches…..yet.

  4. Patrick J. Doody says:

    I was given one of these by a good, yet crazy, friend when I turned 12. My mother’s eyes nearly fell out of her head when I opened it.

    Needless to say, it ended up hidden in my dad’s closet until they probably just threw it away. I used to sneak in there, take it out of the package and sharpen the blade while staring at the knife’s pure awesomeness.

  5. Patrick J. Doody says:

    “Nothing creepy at all about sitting in your parent’s darkened closet sharpening your knife.”

    Hey, I really wanted to play with my knife!

  6. plcary says:

    I remember my Mother buying me, my brother and my cousins one of those at the peak of their popularity one Christmas. I remember thinking how fun it would be if i got lost in the woods and survived with my trusty Rambo knife. My first viewing of First Blood was on RCA Selectavision video disc!

  7. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I was in high school when the First Blood survival knife craze was going on.
    So many grungy and rocker dudes would carry these on their belts that the school clamped down and either confiscated the weapons or expelled the repeat offenders (who seemingly never went to classes anyway).

    Maybe if they had put pencils inside the handle it could’ve counted as school supply.

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