The year was 1989 and a phenomenon had just began – four fearless fighting green machines quickly took over this ten year old boys life and an obsession quickly ensued!
Their names: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Turtle Mania was massive. In every store window, on every high street would be Turtles merchandise, shop keepers praying and rubbing their hands waiting for whiney kids to nag their parents to buy, posters, toys, pencil cases or colouring books. My parents would avoid taking me past such places for obvious reasons.
I could only dream of the day when I’d finally work for a place that sold such things – Backpacks, T-shirts, Loungepants, Socks and Mugs; I’m wearing my Turtles Boxers Shorts right now!
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Backpack £44.99
My teacher at year four of Junior School was a kind, white haired, gentle old man by the name of Mr May and he had a somewhat relaxed approach to teaching. Some would say his class room was chaotic, sure it was noisy but a lot of great creative things would be happening. In one corner someone would be building a space ship out of boxes and tin foil ready for mission to mars. On a small round table, a group of over enthusiastic children would be discussing the merits of Jeremiah Obadiah Jackanory Jones, someone would be playing the recorder and one kid would be boinging a ruler on desk.
Meanwhile my friends, Jamie, Alan, Mark, Kieran and I would be plotting what to do with our day. As there was no real structure or timetable, our discussion soon turned into talking about Ninja turtles – all it really took was someone to say “cowabunga” and we’d be off! Sensing that some mischief was a rife Mr May swiftly intervened, noticing our obvious obsession and hyper furtiveness he suggested we do something with our energy and just like that a grand scheme of events started:
Firstly we thought about putting on a play, this just led to us making home made weapons, all of us made nunchucks out of toilet roll tubes and paper clips which quickly led to them being banned!
Second was learning about actual turtles, their nature and such facts. We figured reading books was boring so we quietly snuck out of school and ran to Kieran’s house where his neighbour kept newts (because no one had turtles, newts were the next best thing!) Kieran dashed into his house while we waited outside on lookout duty. Kieren appeared five minutes later with a sealed box with holes poked in and four newts inside which at that precise second we named Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. We Stomped back to school pretty sharpish and pleased as punch with our new slimy pets. When Mr. May asked us of our whereabouts “the Library” really didn’t explain the box of newts we’d acquired. All we’d really achieved was a new way to scare the girls as Leonardo and Raphael inexplicably disappeared.
Thirdly I’ve always been a good at drawing and at ten years old I wasn’t all that bad. I’d often get asked to draw random stuff for kids, cars, dwarfs with top hats, a cat on a go-kart…….. etc! Jamie my best friend/partner in crime at the time produced from his desk a Turtles colouring book, he knew my skills were good as we were desk buddies for life. Jamie asked if I could draw the images in the book? Always plotting a quick way to make a buck – Jamie’s plan was simple!
- Get me to copy the images from the book
- Advertise Turtles Posters for sale
- Send our friends around school to gain interest
- Get the innocent little scamps to give us money
Unfortunately, as my skills weren’t perfect Jamie realized no one would be interested in a part turtle, part donkey drawing so we did the next best thing! As access to a photocopier was impossible we started tracing the images. Word soon spread and demand was high for hand drawn images of The Turtles, we were getting requests for Splinter, Shredder even April O’Neil! It didn’t take long to trace an image and we shifted maybe 15 to 20 images at maybe 10 to 20 pence each in one afternoon!
We were Dons, we were grand schemers and forgers of art, proper shifty little gangsters living large and in charge. Our dreams of spending the ill gotten gains on sweets and fizzy drinks was short lived as it wasn’t long until one of the parents questioned her son on why he’d paid money for some drawing of a Turtle that had clearly been traced and poorly at that 🙁
The finger of blame was pointed right at us and we were swiftly marched to the headmasters office. Our poor attempt to convince Mr Buckley, our headmaster (no relation) that it was all for charity failed and we were forced to pay back each little blighter. Needless to say I felt pretty bad and promised not to do it again.
I guess the moral of the story is, if you’re going buy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise, buy it from your officially awesome officially retro online retailer Truffleshuffle.com
Later on in my teenage years, my friend Nick would discover that I could draw whatever was put in front of me and proceeded to show me teachers signatures – guess who got a lot of merits that year? 😉