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The toys of summers past
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Time marches on, and so do the lives of some of the great ones.

Recently, Richard Knerr made headlines when he passed at the age of 82. Knerr was one of the founders of Wham-O toys.

Most of you are familiar with Wham-O products, like the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, Silly String, Superball, all the fun stuff we played with as kids. Whenever you got hit by one of those toys, or tripped up by one of those toys, that was the sound your body made hittin’ the pavement. Wham-o.

Although Knerr didn’t invent the frisbee, he did buy the rights to it from the inventor who had originally called it a Pluto platter. Sounds like a dish from a Chinese restaurant, doesn’t it? But that’s called a poopoo platter.

When I lived up northward with a buncha Yankees, we’d go out every now and then for dinner and drinks. My roommate and I would order a “poo poo for two.” They’d bring out that big honkin’ tray loaded with fried ... whatever. Some of it was questionable, of course. You never really knew what the heck you were bitin’ into. You could be chewin’ on a deepfried sock and it didn’t matter, as long as there was duck sauce to dip it in and a cold Miller Lite to chase it with.


Any of y’all ever have a superball? You could throw that thing as hard as ever at the sidewalk and it would bounce up past the telephone lines. You didn’t want to be underneath it when it came down, because it sure came down hard and fast. If it clonked you on the head ... wham-o.

I loved finding a Ssuperball under the tree at Christmas, and we usually had quite a few that got stuck to the floor under the bed by the dust bunnies. If you could manage to find a broom (which would have eliminated the dust bunnies in the first place), the superball was within reach. A quick zip under the tap and you were back outside bouncing that thing off the neighbor’s house.

Donk! Donk! Donk!

Superballs were awesome.

YoYos. Danged ol’ yoyos back then were so cool, because they were made well. They didn’t kink up on you until you had it for about a month or so. I never knew anyone that could do tricks with a yoyo, but there were tons around the neighborhood. Kids could ride a bike one handed while doin’ the yoyo with the other, and that was pretty danged cool.

I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, so I wasn’t spectacular with the tricks. I’d have to stand still to yoyo. If someone tried to talk to me, I’d get all goofed up. Duh.

I couldn’t even get away with being called “book smart.” I was just ... “Duh.”

We had a few hula hoops around, and I particularly liked the ‘shick shick’ sound it made as it went round.

Couldn’t do that for squat either, but my sister could. She’d get that hoop goin’ round those birthin’ hips and shick shick for an hour. I’d pull it up to my waist and gyrate that thing flat straight to the ground. Explains why I only have one child.

During the summertime, there was the slip ‘n slide. Honey, you squirt some Palmolive dish soap on that thing and you could slide from Fort Stewart all the way to Ludowici, and at about 40 miles an hour!

That was the Mean Joe Greene of fun during the summertime. Any excuse to get wet and slide all over the place. One of the older kids on the block suggested we try it on the sidewalk, cause we were covered with grass all the time. Looked like those wild wolf boys from Mexico.

We tried it.

“Say it, Forrest, say it!”

“Stupid is as stupid does....”

One of the dumber things we did, forgetting how hard and unforgiving concrete could be. One running jump onto that surface and you were lucky if your front teeth didn’t end up implanted in your chin. Wham-o!

Seems like one of the kids did bust his front teeth tryin’ it on the sidewalk. We just weren’t thinkin’! It really stunk because it could shred up that slip ‘n slide faster on concrete than someone trying to roller skate on it. And yeah, that happened too.

After the concrete faceplant, my mother yanked it up and forbade anyone from using it. Guess she couldn’t go to work braggin’ about how smart her kids were anymore.

She set the little sprinkler out and told us to use that.

I was the only one who did. Like havin’ my own water park. I’d just stand there. Letting the water blip blip blip past my legs. Just lost in my own little world of summertime fun ... yoyo dangling at my side.