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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas gifts then and now

The Slinky

Christmas is coming and many kids are anxiously awaiting their new cell phones, Xbox games, or whatever else may arrive on December 25th that will help them avoid physical exercise.

One present that offers plenty of activity is the Frisbee. The National Toy Hall of Fame lists it as an icon in the toy business and if you have ever thrown and chased one, you will get plenty of exercise. Although invented in 1950, I still see kids throwing Frisbees around occasionally and dogs love to chase them. It’s still a cheap and useful gift.

Another item that kids used to love is the Hula Hoop. My first memory of them is from about 1958. EVERYBODY had one as they sold 25 million of them in the first two months they were available. I still see kids occasionally spinning a Hula Hoop around their waists. In 1994 the Coen Brothers made a good movie about it with Paul Newman called The Hudsucker Proxy.

Do you remember the Slinky? It used to be a popular Christmas gift. It was basically a spring that would walk down a flight of stairs. It was accidently invented in 1945 when a guy dropped a spring on the ground and noticed it move across the floor on it’s own. It even had a catchy advertising jingle:

"What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, And makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing, Everyone knows it’s Slinky…
It's Slinky, it's Slinky, for fun it's a wonderful toy,
It's Slinky, it's Slinky, it's fun for a girl and a boy."

Kids used to love getting Crayola Crayons. My favorite color was "burnt sienna." I didn’t care about the color; I just thought it had a cool name. They also had a color called "flesh" which was changed in 1961 to "Peach" to satisfy the PC crowd. The same applied to "Indian Red" which became "Chestnut" in 1999.

Other gifts like kites, jacks, yo-yo’s, marbles, and checkers have come and gone in popularity but have been around in some form since ancient times. I think I still have a "cat’s eye" marble around here somewhere. Also, don't forget Lionel Electric Trains; they were the mother lode of presents.

Then, there is the skateboard. When I first saw those in the 60's, I thought they would be strictly a fad. It’s hard to be right all the time and I missed the boat on that one. I see kids on skateboards everywhere all these years later. I saw a kid of about 10 a couple of years ago going down the sidewalk on a skateboard while talking on a cell phone. Go figure, huh?

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