Who knew that when Lonnie Johnson created the Super Soaker line of water toys, he would spur a massive movement to put guns in the hands of children. The Super Soaker craze started in the late ‘80’s with the release of the Super Soaker SS 100. The SS 100 was to water guns what the Russian AK-47 was to the world of real guns, a revolutionary machine that would change the landscape of liquid warfare for years to come. I’ll never forget my first experience dealing with this formidable weapon. The year was 1989. At six years old, I was still trying to work through the intricacies of the world that I lived in, let alone contemplate strategic battle plans. I had always been a moderate water gun collector, frequently asking my mother to purchase them for me at the dollar store. I was an economically sound collector, choosing quantity over quality.
One hot August day, I lay in wait, concealing myself in the bushes outside of my friend Kurt’s house, preparing an ambush. I knocked on his door and yelled for him to come outside and play. Little did he know I was clutching a red, translucent plastic water gun. The handle was still wet from when I filled the “clip” up from the hose in my backyard causing my aim to be slightly less accurate than usual. No matter though, I could pick off a G.I. Joe with this thing from probably 5 feet away. I had another fully loaded green revolver-style water gun tucked away on the inside of my pants, in case I ran out of ammo. I dove behind the bushes and positioned myself for an attack. The screen door creaked faintly, indicating to my delicate ears that Kurt would soon emerge from his house. He stepped outside with an odd smile on his face. The bushes obstructed my view; if I could have seen what he held in his hands, I wouldn’t have dared to attempt this ambush. Nevertheless, I sprang from the bushes with my gun poised, but I saw a look of disturbing confidence wash over Kurt’s face; I had fallen into his trap instead. With a swing of his arm, he produced a massive object that resembled some type of de-lousing mechanism that police would use on transients who were brought into the station. With a cackle, he pulled the trigger. Before I could say “Regan Administration”, he had completely soaked my purple Body Glove T-shirt. I tried to run, but the ground was so wet that any attempt at escape was futile; my L.A. Light’s shoes had developed a poor tread from all the “laser light shows” I had put on for my parents. He kept pumping and pumping until I heard what would become the familiar sputter of someone who used all of their water ammunition. I looked at him, dumbfounded, still in shock of my failed attack.
“What IS that thing!?!” I excitedly queried. The object had soaked me. It had soaked me in a more super manner than any other water gun. “It’s a Super Soaker,” he explained. Well, the name didn’t leave much to the imagination but nevertheless, I had just witnessed an evolution in childhood war games.
As the years progressed, summertime became increasingly about who had the most devastating arsenal of Super Soakers. In my lifetime, I had a nice collection: the smaller, more portable Super Soaker 50; the covert Super Soaker 100, which offered a tunable nozzle, capable of hitting any target in a 180-degree range; and finally the heavier Super Soaker 200, which was my all-purpose weapon of choice. I learned something important about human nature in those days: every time one kid would come outside to dominate playtime with a big Super Soaker, someone else would come back with an even bigger one. It was like the U.S. and the Russia during the Cold War; everyone was scrambling for bigger and better weapons. Finally, the warfare reached the point where kids my age were handling the Super Soaker XP with backpack tank. If you were unfortunate enough to be hit with the XP’s stinging, highly pressurized stream in the face or other tender area, the game became instantly not fun. Nothing like being blasted by the neighborhood rich kid in the face with a stream of water running at 60 PSI to ruin your day.
Over the years – much like any old girlfriend – the guns changed names and numbers. The SS 100 was now the CPS 1000. The SS 50 was the Max-D 5000. By the time sophomore year of college rolled around, my parents finally decided stop buying me water guns, something about having to grow up and get a job. I may be too old, but I still sleep with a fully loaded SS 50 underneath my pillow every night, knowing that should my friend Kurt come knocking at my door; I’ll be the one doing the ambushing.