Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fun for 15 Cents

I'm probably repeating myself with this blog, but I'm too lazy to look at past blogs for confirmation. If this copy sounds familiar, just chalk it up to creeping senility and cut me a little slack. When I look at how much it costs to entertain a kid these days I can only marvel at how 1950s kids engaged in pastimes that cost virtually nothing. I share these memories of those games just to try to keep alive the idea that fun never had to be expensive. My generation was so much closer to my father's than to my son's. We grew up playing pretty much the same games as our video, no electronics, no computers...just the simplest games that had probably been amusing kids for a century. They were cheap to buy, durable enough to be handed down, and most important, could keep a kid entertained day in and day out.

"People have been playing marble games for thousands of years.  Clay balls have been found in the tombs of Egypt, in Native American burial grounds and ancient Aztec pyramids. In 1815 the earliest book on marbles and rules for playing marbles games was written in England."  Marble History            /Marble%20History.html )  We played in the street where we would carve a "shimmy" out of the asphalt near the curb. Each player would then, from a distance of about ten feet (and while avoiding cars speeding by), try to roll his marble into the shimmy. Whoever rolled his marble into the shimmy or was closest to doing so, would go first. The object was to shoot your marble at the others and try to hit them. Those you hit you won. If you missed the next kid would have a go. Time playing marbles entertained us in an average day: 4 hours; cost: about 5 cents. 

"Spinning tops have been around so long that no one knows who spun the first one. It is likely that the first spinning top was a nut or acorn spun by a curious child. The Chinese have spun tsa lin (tops) and the ko-en-gen (diabolo) for centuries. The peg top is spun by winding a string around the top and throwing the top to unwind the string and make the top spin." History of the Spinning Top   We were masters of the spinning top. The simplest throw was underhand while snapping the wrist to impart the force needed to get the top to spin. Then came the overhand throw which could be delivered with more force, hence a longer spinning time. Pros could pick up the spinning top and have it spin in the palm of their hand, or suspend it from a tautly held string while it continued to spin.  Time spinning tops entertained us in an average day: 3 hours; cost: about 15 cents. 

"D.F. Duncan was not the inventor of the yo-yo; they have been around for over twenty-five hundred years. In fact the yo-yo is considered the second oldest toy in history, the oldest being the doll. In ancient Greece, they decorated the two halves of the yo-yo with pictures of their gods. Duncan's contribution to yo-yo technology was the slip string, consisting of a sliding loop around the axle instead of a knot, allowing the yo-yo to 'sleep' without coming back to the thrower's hand. This property facilitated many of the tricks that could be done with the yo-yo."   With our wooden Duncan or Cheerio Yo-Yos, we executed such tricks as Walk the Dog, Rock the Cradle, and Around the World. The Duncan Company would periodically send yo-yo champs into the neighborhoods to perform and promote interest in their product. History of the Yo-Yo,  
Time throwing yo-yos entertained us in an average day: 6 hours; cost: about 15 cents.

Of course I have written often about the magical Spaldeen ball that was perhaps the most versatile 15 cent toy of them all. The 1950s child was adept at finding fun games that could be played for the price of redeeming the deposit on two large soda bottles. I fear that gift of imagination is fading with each succeeding generation.


Children's Craniofacial Association

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