The Nerf Ball… a brief history

The name NERF actually comes from drag racing. In the late ‘60s, foam-covered bars sometimes called “nerf bars” were put on the front of the trucks that pushed racers to the starting line. This prevented damage to cars.

I had many Nerf Footballs and small Nerf basketballs growing up and they were always fun to bonk someone in the head.

In 1968 Reyn Guyer who invented Twister helped invent the Nerf Ball. He was testing a new caveman game with colleagues. The prototype included a bunch of foam-rubber rocks that, the men soon discovered, were more fun to throw at one another than use in the game. He then thought (and probably saved a lot of broken lamps…and spankings) they could be used as balls and played within a home.

In 1969 Reyn tried to sell the idea to Milton Bradley but they didn’t want it, but Parker Brothers did. The first Nerf product as a 4-inch polyurethane foam ball. They marketed it as “world’s first official indoor ball” and soon they had blasters, footballs (Fred Cox, kicker for the Vikings actually invented the Nerf Football), basketballs, living room baseball and a line of Nerf products.

Hasbro

Parker Brothers handed the company off to Kenner Products, a sister company, in 1991, when Hasbro acquired the Nerf line. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the Nerf brand served under the subsidiaries OddzOn and Larami before Hasbro took full control of the brand.

Monkees Nerf Ball Commercial

 

 

Yahtzee History

Saturday night we had some guests over and we all played Yahtzee. It was the first time I’d played it since the 1980s at least. I had a good time and looked up the history of the game.

In 1954 a wealthy anonymous Canadian couple, who called it The Yacht Game invented the game to play aboard their yacht. They would invite friends and teach them. In 1956 they went to toy maker Edwin S. Lowe to make some games for their friends as Christmas gifts. Edwin liked the game so much that he wanted to buy the rights to it. The couple sold the rights for the amount of making them a 1000 games.

When Edwin released it on the market it did not do well in it’s first year. The game could not be explained easily in an ad.  It had many nuances and interesting things about it and they can only be understood if the game was actually played.

Finally, Edwin tried a different approach. He started to have Yahtzee parties hoping to spread the news about the game by word of mouth. That started to work and Yahtzee got extremely popular. During Lowe’s ownership alone, over forty million copies of the game were sold in the United States of America as well as around the globe

In 1973  Milton Bradley Company bought the E.S. Lowe Company and in 1984 Hasbro, Inc. acquires the Milton Bradley Company and the game.

The origins of the game came from the  Puerto Rican game Generala and the English games of Poker Dice and Cheerio. Another game, Yap, shows close similarities to Yahtzee.

 

http://www.twoop.com/yahtzee/

 

Play-Doh…not for consumption.

I’ve been music heavy lately and wanted to live up more to the “eclectic” part of the blog’s name.

In first grade…I found the wonderous invention called Play-Doh. I loved making things and the smell of play-doh… I had a friend in school named Kevin…he would eat Play-Doh at times…I didn’t go that far. Kevin would deny eating it but when he smiled the teacher would see yellow, blue, and red all between his teeth… He would also eat crayons…Lost touch with Kevin after second grade when I assigned to a different school in our area which was closer…maybe that was for the best…

Today if I ever walk by Play-Doh I have to pick it up and do something with it. When my son was a kid we would make all sorts of things. I always loved taking the top off of a new one and trying to keep the colors separated…

Kevin where ever you are now…this post is for you.

In the 1930s Noah McVicker created a substance that looked like putty out of flour, water, salt, boric acid, and mineral oil. His family’s soap company — Kutol Products — in Cincinnati, Ohio, marketed his creation as a wallpaper cleaner.

It wasn’t until after World War II that Noah McVicker’s nephew, Joseph McVicker soon realized that Kutol Products’ wallpaper cleaner also could be used as modeling clay. In 1955, he tested the product in Cincinnati-area schools and daycares. The following year, the Woodward & Lothrop Department Store in Washington, DC, began to sell the clay, which McVicker had named Play-Doh. Noah and Joseph McVicker applied for a patent for Play-Doh in 1958, but the United States Patent Office did not officially patent the clay until January 26, 1965.

Captain Kangaroo had a part in the popularity. 

When it was just a new company with no advertising budget,  Joe McVicker talked his way in to visit Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo. Although the company couldn’t pay the show outright, McVicker offered them two percent of Play-Doh sales for featuring the product once a week. Keeshan loved the compound and began featuring it three times weekly.

Today, Play-Doh is owned by Hasbro that continues to make and sell the product through its Playskool line. In 2003, the Toy Industry Association added Play-Doh to its “Century of Toys List,” which contains the 100 most memorable and creative toys of the last 100 years.

Since its “invention,” over 700 million pounds of Play-Doh have been sold around the world!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Play-Doh

https://www.surfnetkids.com/early/4796/history-of-playdoh

 

 

 

1970s Russ Berrie Sillisculpts

Whenever I go to a yard sale or flea market and I see one…I have to get it. Worlds Greatest Dad, Worlds Greatest Mom, Worlds Greatest Grandpa, “Being Sick is bad for your health” and many more. They have a look that I like and are usually cheap…for two bucks you can have part of the seventies. 

He did more than the statues…he had stuffed animals and bears which in the 80s and 90s really took off…along with trolls.  

Russell Berrie started his business with only $500 and ran it out of a rented garage in Palisades Park, NJ. His first product to reach the shelf was his Fuzzy Wuzzie in 1964.

fuzzywuzzies.jpg

By 1968 Americans were ready for something a little bolder. Russ Berrie and Co. introduced Sillisculpts, plastic message figurines with a little more attitude. Two of the most memorable are the “I love you this much!” statuette and another of an old lawyer crying “Sue the bastards!” (I must find this one). 

Image result for russ berrie sue the bastards

These come in every form and shape.

In 1971, as sales passed the $7 million mark, Russ Berrie and Company moved to a new corporate headquarters facility in Oakland, New Jersey. This location would become the center of the company’s worldwide marketing and distribution businesses. In the following year, Russ Berrie and Company opened a second new facility, when a distribution center, in Santa Rosa, California, came online. 

By 1985, Russ Berrie and Company sales had reached $204.6 million, and revenues more than doubled in just two years.

In 1992, Russ Berrie and Company’s fortunes got a lift, when the popularity of one of its oldest products, Trolls, first introduced in the 1960s, escalated dramatically. Although they had not been a big seller for many years, suddenly the company’s trolls—squishy dolls with rubbery faces and hair that stood on end—were experiencing wild demand. To meet this clamor, Russ Berrie and Company’s designers began to churn out hundreds of different troll products, and the company’s Far Eastern suppliers raced to keep output high. By the end of the year, pushed by the troll fad, the company’s earnings had soared to $300 million. 

Image result for 1990s troll russ berrie

In 2001, Russ Berrie had sales of $294.3 million and net income of $40.2 million, selling items like a stuffed dog named Muffin and a stuffed bear known as Honeyfritz. 

In December 2002, Russ Berrie died unexpectedly after having a heart attack in his home. Often named by Fortune magazine as one of America’s most generous philanthropists, Berrie was just 69 years old when he died.

Image result for russ berrie statue dirty men

 

Wiffle Ball was a Blast

I had almost as much fun playing wiffle ball as a kid as I did little league. I was completely into playing baseball with friends or for years in leagues until I was 16. In my front yard, we would play wiffle ball until dark. If only one friend was over that was enough… we could still play. Hit it over the house, a home run…hitting a window, a double, in the creek a triple… etc.

You didn’t have to worry about breaking a window or knocking your buddy out while pitching as fast as you could. You would learn how to grip it and you could make it curve, rise, or sink a ridiculous amount. We would play for hours until night or until the ball was stuck on the roof or in a tree.

In the late 70s and 80s it was a fun alternative to playing baseball when not enough friends were around or you had to play in a neighborhood full of houses with nice big windows.

Image result for Wiffle Ball curve gif

In 1953, David N. Mullany was watching his 12-year-old son and some friends playing a baseball-like game with a perforated plastic golf ball and a broomstick in their backyard. The boys tried throwing curveballs and sliders but with no success. They couldn’t use a baseball because of the trail of broken windows and upset neighbors.

Mullany, who had been a semipro pitcher himself, knew all too well what thousands of Little Leaguers have had to painfully learn. Nothing shreds a young arm quite as effectively as throwing breaking balls. Mullany set about trying to save the boys’ shoulders and elbows by creating a ball that would curve and bend on its own.

He tried a hard plastic ball that served as packaging for Coty perfume. After having the boys experiment with various designs, Mullany hit on the Wiffle Ball we now know and love.

Mullany’s son and his friends referred to strikeouts as “whiffs.” Since the new invention made knee-buckling curveballs a breeze to throw, pitchers started racking up the strikeouts. Mullany named the product the Wiffle Ball to honor its strikeout-friendly breaks.

When they started to advertise them they would use old photographs of MLB players. The Mullanys later explained in interviews that doing actual photo shoots with the players would have been too pricey, so they just negotiated with players’ agents and then used any old photograph.

Image result for first wiffle ball box

 

The slots on one side make the ball curve and rise. Just like a real baseball…the more scuffs a ball has the more it can curve. They have Wiffle Ball leagues now where players play competitively.

 

http://www.wiffle.com/pages/welcome.asp?page=welcome

 

 

 

Clackers

Clackers or… death on a string came out in the 1960s. They were also called Ker-Bangers, Klackers, Click-Clacks, Klik Klaks, Klappers, and Zonkers.

I remember a kid giving me his Clackers. The object I guess was swinging them up and down until they hit each other and made a “clack” sound. The sound I got the most was a thud sound with plastic hitting my skin. They were also known to shatter and the pieces fly in all different directions.

They were similar to Bolas…a weapon used by cowboys to throw at cattle or game to wrap around their legs…sometimes breaking them. Yep…lets redesign this and give it to kids.

I never minded somewhat dangerous toys but I didn’t get too much pleasure out of these.

The toy was recalled in 1985

https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls/1985/dangerous-toys-seized-by-us-marshal-in-phoenix

 

Big Wheel

Now, this was cool. I had a few friends with one but it was one thing I could not get. We lived on a dirt road with a gravel driveway. Big Wheels didn’t really work on gravel and dirt too well. I loved the pull-up brake you could engage on one wheel while you were coming to a stop and spin around.

You were low to the ground and with a good hill, you could really go. If it rained you would pedal that plastic wheel and go nowhere until you caught some traction.

The Big Wheel was developed by Louis Marx and Company in 1969. The toy was hugely popular in the 70s and 80s because of its low cost and partly because consumer groups said it was a safer alternative to the traditional tricycle or bicycle.

Different versions came out as it was copied by other companies. The Green Machine made by Huffy was a version of the Big Wheel.

Image result for 1978 green machine

Just in case you want to own an iconic 1970s Big Wheel…not just a Big Wheel but a Big Wheel Deluxe with the box…no problem just shell out $2,500.

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