The Joys of Youth, Revisited

December 1961-

Three brothers are anxiously awaiting Christmas and the gifts it will bring. The oldest has only one gift on his list; Mattel's Sonar Sub Hunt. The boys find the Christmas gift stash, but come the 25th, things don't go as expected....

The three Kelley brothers are waiting for Christmas and oldest brother, Mike, wants only one gift - A Mattel Sonar Sub Hunt Game.

Early in December the boys discover Mom's hiding place for Christmas gifts and find the new Sub Hunt game. Mike is quick to gloat over his new toy and lords it over his younger brothers Kevin and Charles, "You guys are going to be able to play ONLY when I say so!"

During the next few weeks, whenever mom leaves the house the boys pull out the game and play some fast rounds while keeping watch for mom's return.

Things are great until Christmas Eve when mom notices a dispartiy in the number of gifts going to each son. Trying to be fair she wraps the Sub Hunt game and addresses the gift tag to "Kevin".

Christmas morning brings much grief to Mike as he sees his beloved gift go to his brother. Mike spends the next 40 years mourning the loss of the one gift he really wanted.


In the summer of 2003, Charles finds the Sonar Sub Hunt website and the Kelley family purchases a top-of-line game to present to Mike at Christmas. The following is Charles' account of the presentation to Mike.

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OK, here is the good news that you have been waiting for. The Sonar Sub Hunt gift to my brother Michael was a success beyond all our imagining (and,as you know, a HUGE saving in mental health costs!)

Here's how it unfolded........

Prelude: In the summer of 2003, clever brother Charles (yours truly) finds an occasion at the family summer home when the entire family and in-laws are gathered together to play the Sonar Sub Hunt television ad on his laptop computer for all to see (downloaded from the Sonar Sub Hunt website). This, of course, results in continued gloating by evil brother Kevin, expressions of hurt and regret by good brother Mike, and complaints from Mike's wife, Christine, on how ill-treated her husband was, and how much trauma it has caused in their marriage. (All their children think we are absolutely nuts, but that's another story). We are careful to hide all the razor blades before showing the video -- not only from traumatized Mike, but also from guilt-ridden mother.

On Christmas Eve we all gather at our mother's house where we all spent Christmas as a children (propitious, since she finally decided to sell the house at age 80, so it was the last Christmas we will ever spend there.) Missing only is my brother Kevin and his family, who live in D.C. and generally do not make the long drive to Boston for Christmas. Also with us are Mike's in-laws; they have spent every Christmas with us since Mike and his wife starting dating in high school (1965). Everyone present is WELL versed in the trauma of the Sonar Sub Hunt that was snatched away from the good brother, Mike, and taken by the evil brother, Kevin, through the agency of a kind but unwitting mother.

Clever brother Charles makes sure that early in the gift exchange good brother Mike opens a package for him under the tree from Santa (from an early age we noticed the uncanny resemblance between "Santa's handwriting and our mother's). It's a set of D-Cell batteries (who uses D-Cell batteries these days?). He smiles, a bit puzzled, but takes no further note. A little later in the gift exchange, he opens a package from Santa that turns out to be a "Submarine Veteran" cap. Good brother Michael scratches his head and begins to question whether our 80 yo mother (aka Santa) is finally losing it, given that his own military service was in Air Force ROTC. He starts to worry: "why is she giving me these whacko gifts?"

All the gifts are exchanged. There is nothing left under the tree. People are ready to get up and get coffee or another drink......when, suspected-of- dementia, mother says "Oh wait, I think there is a present missing. There should have been another for you, Mike." At which point she heads down to the laundry room off the foyer (where evil brother Kevin and good brother Mike found the original hidden game more than 40 years ago, and clever brother Charles kept watch for them while they played). She retrieves a wrapped box in the shape of a Sonar Sub Hunt game. Before she even enters the room, good brother Mike, seeing it in her hand, quickly puts video-in-the-summer & D-cell batteries & submarine hat together and comes up with... (you guessed it!), figuring out the contents before he opened it (well his degree is in aerospace engineering, so you would hope it would be worth SOMETHING).

The rest is as may be expected. He was moved, even to a some weepiness and a tear or two. He said things like the best Christmas gift ever, couldn't believe how we ever found it, etc.. His wife thanks us for saving their marriage and all those bills for therapy. Mike insists that he and clever brother Charles head out immediately to the kitchen to play a game. We gather his son and daughters to watch and become a part of the experience. Dutiful sister Tricia takes LOADS of pictures. Mike waits for the usual Christmas call from evil brother Kevin, then gets on the phone and says (as any 54 yo brother would say to his 52 year old brother) "NA-NA-NA-NA-NA. Guess what I got for Christmas and YOU didn't. And guess what Charlie and I are playing right now, and you're NOT!" We had a blast.

And when you visit Mike's office now, the place of honor, for all to see who (and who have had to listen to the STORY), is given to the Sonar Sub Hunt game.

The best Christmas gift I ever gave, and one that helped us all not just reminisce, but remember the bonds that keep us together and what's really important in our lives. Thanks for helping to make it happen!

I keep thinking I need to get the pictures from my sister and send a couple to you, but keep forgetting. So hound me!

Thanks again VERY MUCH. You were an answer to a prayer. Hope you continue to enjoy the restoration -- and bringing joy and fun to others who benefit from it.

The Kelley Family


Kelley Brothers Story
Copyright © 2004
Charles Kelley
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Jeff Popp
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Sonar Sub Hunt ™ 1961
Mattel Inc.