My Stretch Armstrong doll ended his life in a sad, lonely way something akin to the most pathetic character in a Thomas Hardy novel; he was exiled to the basement, the "toy graveyard" of our house, as it were--a place where things were tossed that we weren't sure what to do with but weren't ready to throw away...maybe they'd have SOME use again, someday? Or maybe not.
Stretch lay there leaking onto the concrete for many years before my mom and dad found him while cleaning for a move out of my childhood home. Mom claims she felt deep pity for the poor, deflated, rotting latex creature she found in a flat pool of hardened red goo; the only comfort any of us took was from knowing Stretch had been loved well and often; his injuries were a testament to how much fun we'd had with the toy in the 70s.
I was pleased to find the "Stretch" brand revived in the 90s. While I personally still felt sensitive on the subject and didn't think about my once-beloved toy much, I liked seeing the name and character resurrected.
The "new" stretch had more of a cartoony face and seemed modeled after Hulk Hogan, minus the trademark handlebar moustache, but the "spirit" of the thing was the same, and my young nephews eventually got one for Christmas.
Beyond the original "Stretch Armstrong" there were related stretchy cousins in the late 70s: a green Stretch "Monster," Stretch "X-Ray" (its skin was clear), Stretch Hulk, an ultra-rare stretch "snake" and two cute stretch octopi--a blue boy and seductive-eyed pink girl. The 90s "stretchers" included a kind of "vacuum-packed" monster filled with plastic Styrofoam balls and, as if coming full circle, a Stretch Reed Richards (an elastic man super hero like "Plasticman") to tie in with 2005's "Fantastic Four" movie.
These toys, being rather delicate in nature and somewhat rare, command incredibly high resale prices between private collectors and on eBay. The odds of finding an intact stretcher are small indeed; even if you never played with the toy the elements might have gotten to it; Stretch's "blood" could freeze and harden if he got too cold and break down into thin fluid if he was warmed too much.
Stretch has such a fan base a movie version of the character has been planned for 2014; while it's all still under discussion as of this writing, the mere fact that anyone would even THINK to make a film based on a single toy from 1976 lets you know that Stretch's...umm...arms...have...(oh boy, here it comes) "stretched" long and wide (many apologies for that last "groaner!").
Stretch Armstrong was a landmark toy for anyone who remembers it in the mid-70s and it's comforting to me to know that ol' Stretch has gotten the respect he so rightly deserves in contrast to the neglectful way I treated my most beloved and cherished favorite-of-all-time childhood toy!