Pink Slip is always interested in seeing what toys are inducted each year into the National Toy Hall of Fame. Make that almost always interested. Last year, we missed the induction ceremonies, so failed to congratulate the 2015 winners: the puppet, Twister, and Super Soaker – all okay choices, but nothing spectacular.
Twister, I have to admit, was something that got boring fast. And I’m too old to have enjoyed Super Soaker. We had to be content ourselves with squirt guns and hoses.
When it comes to puppets, I have mixed feelings, as so many of them are out-and-out clown creepy. But my favorite childhood mittens were dragon hand puppets, knit for me and my sister by a neighbor my father drove to work each day. And I did like Kukla, Fran and Ollie – okay, Fran was a human, and Sharie Lewis’ Lambchop. And what Baby Boomer didn’t watch Howdy Doody, even though, in retrospect, there was something perv-creepy about Howdy (and his mentor? pal? dad? boss? Buffalo Bob).
This year, the toys that got the nod were Dungeons and Dragons, Fisher-Price Little People, and the swing!
I couldn’t care less about Dungeons and Dragons. Yawn! (Almost did a New England there and write: I could care less…) The Fisher-Price Little People were past my toy-playing time, but plenty cute.
But, ahhh, the swing! What a pure source of childhood fun – and exercise without knowing you were getting exercise. I loved swinging.
In the press release announcing this year’s inductees, it says:
In the mid-20th century, many Americans put freestanding, family-sized swing sets on their own sunny suburban lots.
Well, ours was a shady urban lot, but we did have a family-sized swing set. Although we had a third seat-swing, rather than that pull-up swing, this picture is more or less what our backyard swing set looked like.
Unlike most of the swing sets in our neighborhood, which were two-seaters, ours had three swings plus the glider. Plus it was marginally sturdier. The diameter of the legs was maybe 3 inches, rather than 2. We also had a bigger yard than most, and a sandbox, so we were more or less playground central. (And in winter, two of the best sledding – flying saucer trails led out of our yard, so my parents’ liability engine was always in full swing, back in the day before parents sued when their kids were injured. They just yelled at their kids, went to the ER as required, and that was that.)
My father never bothered to cement the legs in – he just pushed them into the ground – so one of the most fun things we could do was get all three swings and the glider going in one direction, and that sucker would just leap out of its footings. We never went fully airborne, but what a satisfying thud when those legs went crashing back down to earth. No wonder that:
After the 1970s, public concern for children’s safety urged parents to replace the tubular metal sets for smaller swings of woods and resins suited to children of different ages and development.
How much simpler and out-and-out more fun to grow up in an era before “public concern for children’s safety.”
Anyway, whether there were other kids around or not, I loved playing on the swing set. One of my favorite things – lazy-arse that I was – was twirling the chains around and then letting them untwirl. Much easier than pumping. I also liked just hanging over the seat, or over the struts, and observing the world from an upside down vantage point.
Over its many years in operation, our swing set was plenty battered. We stood on the seats and they bent. All that bouncing out of the footings took its toll. The elements got to it and it rusted up a bit. But boy, did I love that swing set.
And swings in general: old wooden swings on big old trees, tire swings, swing sets in public parks. Bennett Field, Hadwen Park, the odd little park on Merchant and Apricot Streets – parks all had swing sets. (And slides – the wooden kind that gave your slivers eventually giving way to the aluminum ones that burnt the back of your legs.)
Not to over-intellectualize swinging, but:
“Though the equipment has evolved with the centuries, the pleasure children and adults find in swinging has hardly changed at all,” says [Toy Museum] Curator Patricia Hogan. “Swinging requires physical exertion, muscle coordination, and a rudimentary instinct for, if not understanding of, kinetic energy, inertia, and gravity. It’s the perfect vehicle for outdoor play.
Plus it’s fun.
Even if I never achieved the ultimate - swinging so high that you went all the way over and around – what an exhilarating adventure it was to go swinging.
An excellent choice for the Toy Hall of Fame!
I would be remiss not to mention at least a couple of the finalists that did not make the induction cut: bubble wrap, Clue, and the coloring book. I’m for all three, especially the coloring book – to indoor fun what the swing is to outdoor fun. Wait until next year!
I may have missed the Hall of Fame 2015, but here’s Pink Slip on it in 2014.