The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Monday, June 30, 2014

"What the Heck Were They Thinking" Toys I Grew Up With ...

In the mad rush to create the new "hit" toy, manufacturers have made some wonderful toys ... and then again there are toys that you have to wonder what they were thinking ... or smoking ... when they designed them. 

Pictured here is a surviving set of "Clackers," that incredibly bad combination of spheres ready to shatter attached by cord to each other. The object was to get the two spheres to bang together. If you gained enough speed with them, those fragile balls would smack together both at the bottom and tops of their arcs ... until they shattered, scattering fragments far and wide among your admiring friends. Or the cord could snap, sending hard balls in unpredictable directions. AAAIIIEEEE!!! As Jonny Quest bad guys used to say when doom was immanent. 

Then there were various sets designed to create plastic figures all by yourself. Liquid plastic, an open heat source, unvented fumes .... What could possibly go wrong???

Lawn darts ... or Jarts ... those potentially lethal weighted darts with metal pointed tips designed to penetrate your yard turf when you threw the darts like horseshoes. Disaster could ensue ... Standing beside the ring aimed for or even off to one side anywhere down field was a very bad idea. Of course if you stood behind the kid who accidentally let go on the back swing like a bad bowler ... well, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time! 

Cap gun cap rolls ... little pockets of flash powder in paper (50 to a roll) intended to go off with a bang as they were fed through your metal cap pistol for that "authentic" bang as you took out "Commies" or "Nazis" or whatever evil lurked in your bushes. Of course, get a couple of bored kids, a rock, some matches, or a bare foot slamming down on a roll of these babies ... and dumbness and possible injuries ensued. 

Chemistry sets ... need I say more???

"Wire controlled" airplanes with little, heavy gas engines that somehow regularly managed to head right back toward the controller along those guide wires ... especially if you spent some time going around and around in circles keeping your plane going.

Spinning, flying fireworks ... I believe the ones we had were called something like "lotus blossoms." Circular in shape, with a little cone shape underneath, and a fuse sticking out one side. Light these babies, step back, and "lift off," up they went into the sky shooting sparks in all directions. Of course, they also could come down as hot glowing embers into dry brush ...  or your house's roof. Excitement ensued. 

One I never saw personally, but heard about later, was the "candy dispensing pistol." You load the pistol with candy pellets, stick the barrel in your mouth, and fire. Now there's a learning experience for you! 

Sit and Spin ... get the little tykes going around and around until they get off and topple over dizzily against some hard piece of furniture or lose breakfast all over the shag rug. 

The jet black Super Ball (not because it didn't work well, which it really really did, but for a lamentable feature of its dark form) ... that energetic black ball that bounced everywhere and could break everything as it ricocheted off walls, ceilings, floors, stairs, lamps, your head, etc. When driven outside with your Super Ball, a couple of good bounces and that black ball quickly disappeared into the shadows, never to be seen again ... unless your Dad ran over it later with the lawn mower, which could be pretty exciting! 

Growing up was often exciting. With the heavy duty bikes I rode unhelmeted as well, barreling down hills in excess of 30 mph, I guess I'm (and all my colleagues and confederates of the latter half of the twentieth century) lucky to be here! 



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