Lawn Darts, Clackers and other fun toys

Moody Swings - D. C. Moody

Over the weekend I was surfing the internet and happened to come across a funny article on banned toys in the United States. There were a few from my time in the 1970’s, which is what I began looking for, hoping to see some of my old favorites on the list.

I have to say I was shocked by some I happened to find and it prompted one of those moments where you ask: “What were we thinking?” Then again, some of them I wish I could have played with.

Here are some of the highlights:

In 1997 Mattell had a recall for what could be deemed an error in one of its most successful lines. The Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid was a disaster, equipped with electric jaws to gobble up pretend French fries, among other faux snacks, and it seems no one thought this whole concept through. In the end the adorable little dolls ended up eating hair and anything else it could get its greedy little mouth on, including some fingers.

1985 saw the end of an era in toys, an era composed of equal parts fear and excitement as Clackers were banned from sale in the United States. For those who don’t know, Clackers were a couple of acrylic balls on the opposite ends of a string and the purpose was to swing them up and down and beat them against one another.

Of course, they made a clacking sound when they struck one another, but it seems they should have been called Thudders for the noise they made when striking the bone of your forearm. Or how about Bruisers for the purple knots? Either way I both loved and hated them and if I had a pair of them right now I would undoubtedly be beating myself to death.

1988 was the end of Lawn Darts and I was deeply saddened. Personally I had no knowledge of anyone being injured by such an ingenious toy but according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were over 7,000 such injuries.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, any kid or adult struck by them was nothing more than a victim in active evolution. I still stand behind the idea there’s no way Cornhole makes for a better BBQ than a good game of Lawn Darts. Lawn Darts just adds a certain element of danger that makes American Ninja look like an exercise course for toddlers.

But the one that most likely takes the cake is, of course, a product of the 1950’s brought to children everywhere by the genius who conceived the Erector Set — A. C. Gilbert.

The year was 1951 and the Atomic Age had begun to unfold and just a few years following the first atomic bomb it was time for the first atomic toy.

Complete with “real radioactive materials, one could witness mist trails created by particles of ionizing radiation,” which was a fantastic idea in the hands of children. And no toy is complete without four Uranium-bearing ore samples.

Think about it, it’s what every kid needs and has to be how The Professor on Gilligan’s Island was able to learn all of his MacGyver-esque trickery — all except how to repair a simple hole in a boat, that is.

I could go on and on with dolls saying dirty words, guns shooting flames in the 1940’s, CSI kits with toxic powder, dolls having babies, action figures doing damage, toxic substances in straws, just to name a few. The list is hilariously long when it comes to these things, many I played with as a kid and never knew were harmful, which may explain a lot.

I suppose the thing I took away is kind of funny. It used to be we banned or took toys off the shelves because kids were getting physically injured. Now we take them off the market because someone gets their feelings hurt.

We certainly have come a long way. I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

Moody Swings

D. C. Moody

D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.

D. C. Moody is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.


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