January 20, 2013

Old games new to some today


---- — “Everything old is new again” is an old phrase and an old song. 

My favorite version was sung by Anne Murray on “The Muppet Show” years ago. The Muppet Orchestra played while Muppets performed on skateboards. Murray sang beautifully.

My friend Jack Glasgow of Virginia asked if I had ever written about old toys and games that are still available today. I opined that I have probably touched on that subject in the past, but agreed that it is time for a reprise.

The yo-yo is a perfect example. It’s been around for at least 2,500 years and is continually reinvented. In 18th century England it was called a bandalore. Don’t ask me why. It enjoyed a revival here in America during the 1920s and brings back fond memories of my own sometimes misguided childhood. All of our children and their children have played with yo-yos, and a quick check of every toy box in our “Little” house reveals at least one yo-yo.

Is there a Slinky in your house? Sure, and in ours as well. They even make them out of plastic these days. The Slinky cost just a buck when it was first produced in the early ‘40s, and my simple mind was so fascinated with the toy that I stayed by the stairs in our house for hours, watching it “walk” down from top to bottom. They’re about $10 these days.

I’ve often written about Raggedy Ann and Andy and my love for them as a little Little. They’re still very much around.

Kaye and I both remember jacks when we were very young. Same with marbles and pick-up sticks. I also loved those tin tops with the spiral handle you pulled up and pushed down to make them spin and play tunes. You can still buy them today.

We all had jack-in-the-boxes with the crank on the side and giggled just as much the millionth time the top popped up as we did in the beginning.

We called another toy “chattering teeth.” You know what we mean. I first remember them in the early 1950s when they were called Yakity-Yak Talking Teeth. You wound them up and they chattered and clattered and made us all laugh.

I just looked around our house for another of my childhood favorites: the famous cup-and-ball. You remember it, too. Made of wood, it had a handle with a cup on top. A string was attached to a ball that barely fit into the cup. You held the handle and tried to flip the ball into the air, catching it in the cup. It pre-dates me by about 500 years and supposedly had its origins in Mexico. You can still buy them today.

Next on my favorite old/new toy list would be the paddle and ball. You held the paddle handle and tried to hit the rubber ball attached with an elastic band. You were really good if you could do it more than 100 times. I don’t think I ever made it past 10. We no longer have one here, but I’ve seen them lately for sale.

I always called them click-clacks, but you might recall them as “Jacob’s ladders.” The wooden blocks were somehow connected by ribbons, and when you held the top block, the rest began to flip over and created an optical illusion that kept us mesmerized for hours at a time, then and now. I asked Kaye to help me search for one here, and we came up empty. I think one of our great-grandchildren ended up with it.

Of course, there are many board games that are still going strong. I’ll name a few: Parcheesi, Uncle Wiggily, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue and don’t forget the carom board with its many games. The caroms were originally made of wood and would sometimes shatter. Remember?

There are more toys and games we grew up with that still elicit smiles while we watch another generation getting enjoyment out of them.

Have a great day talking about old things that are still new and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at