A light-hearted feature series looking at those crazes that used to occupy us in the playground and beyond. Inspired by the website Amazing Crazes.
This week we look at the 60s.
Dating back to 500BC, the yo-yo became legendary in the 1960s, following widespread production two decades previously. Reintroduced to captive audiences in the following years – and still popular today – the yo-yo now incorporates ball bearings and transaxles, allowing trick-makers to take their time crafting a fine art as the contraption spins furiously at its lowest point.
Is there anything as perfect as a school craze crafted from something fortuitously found under a tree during the autumn? Many would say no – indeed, the conker has enjoyed appeal since its widespread use in playgrounds since the 50s. Vinegar, ovens and much more have been deviously employed to harden championship-quality conkers, but no-one has ever owned a 62er, despite their claims – unless they’re cleverly-disguised lumps of metal, at least. Still, the playground is well-known for tall tales.
Much like the act of whipping a towel, clackers were often associated with the possibility of taking one’s eye out. While no examples of such an occurrence have been documented, these wooden balls attached to one another with a piece of string were, looking back, as lethal as they were loud. Indeed, they bear a lot of similarities to bolas – an Argentinean weapon used to hunt wild animals.
Jacks – or “knucklebones”, to many others – is an ancient game appropriated by schoolchildren in the 60s. However, its popularity barely stemmed past the decade. These six-knobbed creations were scooped up between the bounces of a ball, though rules varied widely. It continues to be popular in Korea, Turkey and any American TV show that depicts gambling between purportedly less-fortunate members of society in scene-setting camera-panning ahead of heroes or villains entering, or leaving, a nearby establishment.
The greatest hero of them all started out in 1966, courtesy of UK company Palitoy – a subsidiary of its US cousin, Hasbro, which created GI Joe. A true Commonwealth hero, Action Man eventually reflected its target British audience, before cashing out to the increasingly technologically-minded audience in the 90s with principal antagonists Cobra Commander and Dr X.