Some of those old toys were not designed for us full-figured kids


Steve Eighinger

by Steve Eighinger

Fellow baby boomers, think back to your formative years and how much fun it was growing up without cell phones and only two or three channels available on that primitive — and cumbersome — black-and-white TV set in your living room. We actually went outside and played, rather than staring at a TV screen for hours with a game console in our hands. Ahh … those truly were the days.And when we went outside, there was a good chance we were playing with some of the following:

Super Balls: Those crazy things were amazing. Wham-O produced many of the baby boomers’ most memorable children’s toys and the Super Ball was one of the most popular. The company’s “super” rubber ball contained polybutadiene, hydrated silica, zinc oxide and stearic acid. I really don’t know what any of those properties are, but those things sure could bounce. We used to be able to bounce them over two-story structures with relative ease. (In all honesty, not all of those bounces were successful, but occasional broken windows were just part of growing up, right?)

Hot Wheels: I remember many a summer day with dozens of these things covering the sidewalk in front of our home in Ashland, Ohio. Matchbox had been selling the popular little cars for more than a decade when Mattel jumped in the game with Hot Wheels in the 1960s. The first line of Hot Wheels included classic American muscle and sports cars like Camaro, Corvette, Firebird and Mustang.

Hula Hoop: These things were always a challenge for the full-figured kids like myself, but I never let that stand in the way of my Chubby Checker let’s-do-the-twist imitation. In 1958, the lightweight, plastic design of the hula hoop hit the market and kids were spinning around and around for the next decade.

Pogo Stick: I never really mastered the art of using this thing, but it was not for lack of trying. The modern design of the pogo stick came about in 1957, “and kids (and adults) have been injuring themselves atop them ever since,” one writer observed.

Play-Doh: Thanks to television advertisements, Play-Doh became a must-have product among the nation’s youngsters. Surprisingly, Play-Doh was originally marketed as a wallpaper cleaner. 

Mr. Potato Head: Known by most kids today as the character from Toy Story,” Mr. Potato Head was once all the rage for kids in the 1950s and 1960s. In the beginning, a real potato was required to use with all the interchangeable toy parts.So I won’t be accused of being chauvinistic (at least today …), here are some of the attractions that were popular among girls during the same time period:

Easy-Bake Oven: The original Easy-Bake Ovens were designed to introduce young girls to the baking experience. The Easy-Bake Oven utilized two light bulbs and came in two colors — yellow and light blue.

Barbie: Arguably the most famous toy of an entire generation, the first Barbie doll was introduced in March 1959. In the beginning, you could purchase either a blonde or brunette version of Barbie in her classic black-and-white striped bathing suit.

Barbie’s Dream House: In 1962, some prime real estate opened up for Barbie, a cardboard ranch complete with mid-century modern furniture.

Ken: Ah yes, Ken … when sweet Barbie made her debut in 1959, she went without a companion for two years before Ken arrived in 1961. The original Ken had “real” hair (made of felt) its first year on the market before getting a more permanent plastic hairdo.

Overrated, underrated, part trois

Picking up where we left off last week, here are a few more thoughts on this subject:

Overrated: E-mail. Yes, it’s quick and we couldn’t live without it, but it seems so lifeless, blah and impersonal.

Underrated: Snail mail. There’s still a thrill in getting an unexpected card or letter in ye olde mailbox (or especially a check!). The anticipation of opening the envelope is the best part.

Overrated: Vacation trips. “You get caught up in where you are going for your trips, when in fact you should be more concerned about who you’re going with,” according to writer Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya.

Underrated: A one-day trip to a relatively nearby destination that allows you and your significant other the opportunity to enjoy not only the destination but the going and coming. When you arrive back home, and both of you get out of the car and simultaneously say, “That was fun,” you know the day was a success.

Found on Facebook

Speaking of vacations, Facebook never takes a vacation. Here’s ample proof:

“Does pineapple belong on pizza?” (I always love these open-ended questions on Facebook. And, for the record, yes.)

“Did you know replacing your potato chips with grapefruit as a snack that you can lose up to 90 percent of what little joy you have left in your life?” (Well, as a matter of fact, yes.)

“I’m the type of husband who helps his wife look for her missing chocolate — that I ate.” (What? Doesn’t every guy do this?)

Putting things in perspective

Just in case you weren’t feeling old today, these were the top 10 songs in 1971… that’s 50 years ago. F-i-f-t-y.

1. “Joy to the World,” Three Dog Night.

2. “Maggie May,” Rod Stewart.

3. It’s Too Late,” Carole King.

4. “One Bad Apple,” Osmonds.

5. “How Do You Mend a Broken Heart,” Bee Gees.

6. “Indian reservation,” Raiders.7

. “Go Away Little Girl,” Donny Osmond.

8. “Take Me Home, Country Road,” John Denver.

9. “Just My Imagination,” Temptations.

10. Knock Three Times,” Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Happy birthday

Time to send out some more cards for these celebrities with July birthdays:

Pamela Anderson: The woman who helped put the “watch” in “Baywatch” turned 54 this month.

Ringo Starr: The former Beatles drummer turned 81 this month and continues to rock on.

Louise Mandrell: One of the famous singing Mandrell Sisters, Louise turned 67 this month. She’s five years younger than the star of the family, Barbara Mandrell. I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for Barbara, we wouldn’t care much that it’s Louise’s birthday.

Scott Duffy Gough: The youngest of Bob and Ellen Duffy-Gough’s children turns 18 today. (PUBLISHER’S ADDITION TO THE LIST. JRG)

And in the gone, but not forgotten category:

Dave Thomas: The founder of Wendy’s died at age 70 this month, back in 2002. I’ll be forever grateful to Dave for giving us those square hamburgers and those chocolate Frosties.

Merv Griffin: Merv was 82 when he passed away in 2007. At the time of such iconic talk-show hosts as Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett, Merv was arguably the least popular.

John Pemberton: We will always owe John, a former chemist who dies in 1888, a huge debt. He’s the man who invented Coca-Cola. 

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