If you bought comics as a kid then you know that frequently the best part of that comic book wasn't the story or the art. Sometimes the best part of that comic book was the ad - the only advertising aimed squarely at you, the kid with a little allowance money to spare and a hankering for some excitement. And like the candy counter at the local mini-mart or that block of afterschool cartoon reruns, it meant something that somebody somewhere felt that YOU were important enough to want to pitch to. So what kind of products did the comic book barons think needed to be sold to America's children, and the distressing number of Americans reading at the child level? THESE kinds.

Mystery cigarettes! Smoking Pets! Magnetic pets! Hilarious pop-up ties! Seemingly distressing light-up bow ties! Big dancing skeletons that perform various gyrations & movements while the operator may be some distance from it! And of course the scientific wonder of the age, X-Ray Spex! Also, twelve ivory elephants in a bean, who would want that. Who would think children would want this? Who would use these wonders in an attempt to separate children from their pocket money?

Why, the Johnson Smith Company of Detroit Michigan, that's who. America's foremost purveyor of the hard to describe, the incredibly cheap, the weirdly shoddy, and all the You Go Figures the world needs. And if you were canny enough a kid to send them a dollar for their catalog, this is what they'd be trying to sell you. Minature saddles, midget playing cards (they prefer the term LITTLE PLAYING CARDS, thank you), brain buster puzzles... and much much more!

Every kind of cheap magic trick, orientalist conjuration, practical joke, chemical deception, mild explosive, and possibly harmful flammable device you can think of, at prices that will stun you like an electrical shocking book or an exploding cigar. But wait, there's more!

Get hep to the beat world, or get "Help" becoming a Beatle, and then slip those glow in the dark fangs - you know the ones, they were handed out by the millions every Halloween everywhere- and your transformation into a confused amalgamation of mid-century pop culture is now complete.

Looks like New Coke got started a few decades early with the Johnson Smith Company's secret formula for an awful tasting cola! It's so awful that it's made famous Belgian comic strip character Tintin hurl the gloppiest hurl ever!

But is this company nothing but disgusting pranks and cheap magic tricks? No sir. They have SCIENCE.

Get your own Van de Graaff Generator and blast your friends with lightning! It's all perfectly safe as long as everything's constructed properly, and why wouldn't we expect scientific precision from the outfit that sells vampire fangs and fake vomit? Then fire up your Atomic Energy Lab and blast alpha particles through your very own cloud chamber! You'll "learn considerable" about atomic energy!

And if you're in any way not completely satisfied with the safety of the preceding product, just buy a radiation counter and make sure your dosages are safe.

Radio's the wave of the future - or at least it was when Johnson Smith first started selling merch - and the later catalogs kept the tradition alive with loads of radio gadgets ranging from the useful Police Band radio, the fun radio-controlled Corvette, the slightly privacy-invading Big Ear, the VERY privacy-invading Electronic Super Snooper, and the wrist radio transmitter that makes all your friends grab you, throw you against the wall, shove a pistol under your chin and scream ARE YOU WEARIN' A WIRE?!

You'll need the Head Light Lantern when you're using the knowledge you gleaned from "Experiments With Microphone" to install the Midget Microphone in the house or apartment you've broken into in the middle of the night.

So many options to break wiretapping laws! You can use the easily concealed Telephone Pickup, the "Bug" Secret Telephone Transmitter, or the Telephone Electronic Snooper - take your pick! Just make sure your first call is to a good lawyer.

And what's the point of tapping phones without a record of the conversation? Use this portable Transistor Tape Recorder to record every second of whatever conversation you're snooping on, you creepy deviant you.

Let's face it, recording your mark's conversation is only one part of the full surveillance package. You're going to need direct visual observation, either surreptitiously with the "right angle glasses" -it says SPY right there in the description! - or the 5-power binoculars, and then photograph them secretly with your miniature and midget cameras! THEN you can develop your photos in the privacy of your own home, without any snoopy Kodak employees nosing around in your business!

And we can think of two or three occasions where this one-way spy mirror might come in handy. But why not distract yourself from your obsessive creepy stalking with the "scientific walking spring" which walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, everyone knows it's a Scientific Walking Spring, it's fun for a girl or a boy.

Sure, you can spy on people with this periscope, and then they notice the periscope sticking around the corner and they come around the corner all pissed off and they belt you a good one right in the kisser. But joke's on them because YOU had the foresight to spend a mere ninety-eight cents on a rubber mouth guard!

It's right here in this catalog, right here with the ad for the set of master keys allowing you to open half the common locks in the world, AND a freaking CATTLE PROD, that I start to think their target market is "stalker creeps," "wannabe thugs," and good old garden-variety juvenile delinquents.

Forestall those screams of terror and the odd shotgun blast with these fake police badges. Sure, it's a felony rap if you're caught, but they gotta catch you first!

Sometimes all the wiretapping and spy-glassing in the world won't solve your problems, and that's where the firearms come in. Sure, these are BB guns, but check out the gas-operated semi-auto rifle or the one that looks like a M-1 Carbine! That'll shut them up fast. Then hose 'em down with the "Silent Defender Gas Gun" and they won't give you any more trouble. IMPORTANT: check local and state laws to avoid delay or inconvenience, says the disclaimer nobody reads!

Think rifles are for hayseeds? Throw one of these in your overcoat and you're good to go, if where you're going is "the beating of your life after you made somebody think you were shooting at them but it was only blanks." Or why not use the .22 caliber pen pistol? Who wouldn't want a tiny cylinder exploding in their hand? And these things take "tear gas cartridges" too, which will... surround your gun hand in a cloud of tear gas. Take that, hand! What are you supposed to do, start fanning the stuff into your assailant's face? Maybe we should just take self-defense into our own hands without relying on complex mechanical devices. Can you help us out, Johnson Smith?

Yes they can, because it's knife time! Get your 12-inch Bowie knife, your imported psycho killer stiletto knife, your 14-inch machete, and your "Jap Hara Kiri Sword" for use when all else fails and you have to kill yourself. Or just get the two foot long "Big Bertha" carbide cannon and annoy the hell out of a three mile radius.

Have thrilling sword fights! Take the tips off of the points for extra thrills! Also darts, slingshots, and pencils with knives for all your school suspension and expulsion needs.

Or why not shell out four bucks for an actual "Civil War Muzzle Loader" that is the cap gun you see sold at historical sites? Because you want the Drover's Whip instead, that's why. Whips don't need reloading. But hey. Violence and the threat of violence is only one path for our future degenerates. Does the Johnson Smith catalog have any alternatives for future disreputable elements?

Here we go, these are DEFINITELY gonna get you a five to ten stretch in the pen, or a solid pipe beating like John Cusack got in "The Grifters". Maybe both!

I wish I could be there on delivery day when the young wanna-be gambling king opened his box from the Johnson Smith Company, ready to set himself up as the neighborhood's big time casino boss, and then he discovers these things are about four inches in diameter. The house always wins, kid, and that house is the Johnson Smith Company!

Here in the "for fun or magic only, illegal to use fraudulently" department we have our pre-marked bingo cards, our two-headed pennies and nickels, and our trick spinning coin, our loaded dice and our marked cards that will make you the big winner next Saturday night, for at least fifteen or twenty minutes. And then... and I know we keep coming back to this, but the Johnson Smith Company should really be warning their customers about the severe beatings they're gonna get. Because those beatings are coming.

But perhaps more intellectual pursuits are to your liking. What cosmic truths and hidden mysteries lie in wait for us on the next page?

Masonic secrets! The Key To Yoga! Hindoo And Oriental Methods Of Seership! The Wizards Manual! Secrets Of Hypnotism Explained! AND the legendary, all-important SEVEN KEYS TO POWER, the classic tome of esoteric occult wisdom that's still in print! Perfect gifts for the moody teenage goth queen in everybody's life.

That's how awesome the Johnson Smith Company is, they don't just offer the actual world famous Ouija Board for the low price of $4.95, they offer the cheap no-name knockoff "Spirit Talking Board" for only a dollar ninety-five! Buy both and let the ghosts battle it out. Your hands might get tired, but that's a small price to pay for witnessing supernatural marvels.

Don't let the spirit world distract you from your Christian obligations, satisfied here by purchasing the Lord's Prayer engraved on a pinhead, the 18th century Pennsylvania Dutch grimoire purporting to be the lost books of Moses, and the world's smallest Spanish-language Bible, for those times when you need a teeny-tiny Bible in Spanish.

Here's the part of the catalog where we look at the wide variety of pocket adders, vest pocket adding machines, mechanical pencil calculators, slide rules, and miracle TV remote controls, and we thank goodness we live in an age where all these useful tools can be contained in one handy gadget that fits in our pocket, makes phone calls, connects to an international network of information and entertainment systems, and can easily fall in a toilet.

Remember how we all bought this book and everybody followed the simple exercises and nobody needed glasses any more? That was awesome.

We love seeing the kinds of gags and jokes that wouldn't cut it in today's polite society- the exploding toilet seat, the comic whiskey bottles, the exploding pop balls, the bloody tooth on toothpick to really distress your friends and make them really think about the need for good dental care.

But what we all really need in this crazy mixed up world is a big catalog full of goofs and wonders, of science and magic, of a pleasant, smiling Chia Bobby Hill. Send $1.50 and forty cents postage and handling to the Johnson Smith Company, Detroit Michigan!

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