I much enjoy finding out which toys and games made the list of those inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame.
This year the nods went to the Magic 8 Ball, Uno, and pinball.
While the Magic 8 Ball was introduced in the 1950’s, I don’t recall any direct experience it during my childhood. I have a vague memory of some boy bringing one in the day after Christmas vacation in fifth grade, when we were allowed to bring in something we’d gotten as a gift – the one and only “show and tell” of my grammar school years. (For the record, I brought in my Shirley Temple doll, as did my friend Bernadette. Only hers was the bigger version.)
The Magic 8 Ball was, however, much in presence during my business career when, every so often, in the face of management dithering, someone brought one in for use in a skit skewering the folks in charge. (My preferred make-a-decision-gag was the OUIJA Board. I relabeled on S.W.A.M.I. but I no longer remember what my clever acronym stood for. System Which Always Makes Intelligent decisions??? More directly, at one outfit I worked for, we came in one day to find a paper bag taped to the wall with the the message, “Punch your way out of this one, boys.”)
At any rate, the Magic 8 Ball is a lot of fun, even if it is pretty simpleminded and is only as good as the questions you ask it.
I grew up playing cards. By kindergarten, I was playing not just Go Fish, War, Concentration, Old Maid, and Slapjack, but Rummy. From there, on to Crazy Eights, Hearts, I Doubt It, Gin and Canasta (my all time favorite). I played with my friends (we tended to fixate; one summer all we played were raucous rounds of I Doubt It). And I played with my family (mostly Rummy, Canasta and something called Pokeno Royale, some type of combo of Poker and Keno). Cardplaying was a big summertime pastime, and a snowed in one as well. I also liked Solitaire: regular old, clock, and double.
I loved playing cards and would have loved Uno if it had been around. But it wasn’t. I got to know Uno when my husband and I lived upstairs from a family with two kids. Most days, the kids came up to hang out with us, and one of the things we did was play endless rounds of Uno. (I need to ask Sophia, who has two little guys of her own now, whether they play Uno.)
My experience with Pinball is limited. As far as I can tell, it wasn’t much of a thing in Worcester. Or, if it had been, it was available in sordid quarters that we didn’t frequent. (My brother-in-law, growing up in Philadelphia, was something of a pinball wizard, playing a mean pinball. So maybe it was a big city thing.) I did play it on occasion as an adult and, at arcades – when not playing Skee Ball or Wack-a-mole, I will gravitate toward a pinball machine rather than towards any sort of electronic game. I have observed that this is true of most arcade-goers of a certain age.
The other nominated toys/games, this year’s runner up, are:
American Girl dolls, chalk, Chutes & Ladders, Fisher-Price Corn Popper, Masters of the Universe, sled, tic-tac-toe, Tickle Me Elmo, and Tudor Electric Football.
As a doll-loving child, I would have killed for an American Girl doll. But they didn’t exist, and it’s unlikely that I would have been given such a swank toy anyway. (C.f., smaller version of the Shirley Temple doll.) But I got to make up for it when my nieces were little, and I got to buy stuff for their Molly and Kit dolls. American Girl dolls are wholesome, well-made and pricey. And they have outfits and accessories to die for. (Or, in my case I guess, kill for. See above.) The biggest problem with them is that they come with books (a good thing) that provide too much of a detailed backstory (a bad thing). Better to let the kids come up with their own scenarios.
Chalk (for Hopscotch) was a staple of my childhood, as was playing Chutes and Ladders. (In addition to playing cards, kids in my era played a ton of board games.) And, ah, the Fisher-Price Corn Popper. After my personal time, but it came out in 1957, so my younger brother (1955) or younger sister (1959) may have had one. Surely, some kids I’ve known in my life have had one of these most excellent of classic toys. What’s not to like, unless you’re a mother with a migraine, about a toy that makes that glorious popping noise while some gleaming eyed child frenetically pushes it around?
Masters of the Universe? Not for me. But the sled. If there was snow on the ground, we were out sliding. I lived on a hill. Everyone who lived in Worcester lived on a hill. We went sledding, from the corner of our backyard, down through the Daigneaults’ hill and side yard, and out onto Winchester Ave. Somewhere along the line, we all became infatuated with Flying Saucers, but those Flexible Flyers were tried and true. I still remember the excitement of three kids on a sled, trusting someone with the steering, and the thrill of belly-flopping and hoping you wouldn’t run into something and end up with a bloody nose. One of the many downsides of climate change is that there’ll be less snow and fewer opportunities for sledding.
Tic-tac-toe? Yawn. But Tickle-Me-Elmo? A very fun toy. I don’t think my niece M had Tickle-Me, but i do believe she had Sleep-and-Snore Ernie, which would sometimes get itself off in the middle of the night and wake the family up.
I had to laugh when I saw Tudor Electronic Football on the list. What would today’s kids, so used to sophisticated electronics, make of plugging in the board, turning it on, and watch the tiny plastic football players – the quarter back with his tiny felt football in hand - judder up the field. Hah! If the Tudor makes it to the Hall of Fame, I hope it’s a throwback from the early 1960’s rather than some splosh modern game.
Anyway, the National Toy Hall of Fame is on my bucket list. Rochester, NY, ain’t that far. Someday…
Source: Toy Hall of Fame press release. Here’s the full list of inductees since the beginning of time. And here’s my take on last year’s inductees – all excellent picks: Clue, paper airplanes, and the wiffle ball.