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 50s.
Marbles are traced back to their competitive origins in the 1500s, but their modern-day place in the playground was during the 50s and 60s. These glass, clay and steel spheres provided a harmless battleground for thousands of children, with traditional and homemade rules intertwining to create truly individual competitions each time the game was played.
These treasured die-cast vehicles are sought-after for a reason; their intensive use on 50s concrete schoolyards rendered many chipped, dented and scratched. That’s the sign of a toy being enjoyed though, right? It’s no use telling that to their biggest fans, though – many would lose an arm and/or a leg to go back in time and leave them in their packaging in a cold, dark room, ready to sell right now.
Magic 8 Ball
Many of life’s questions that required a yes or no answer were deferred to the Magic 8 Ball back in the 50s and 60s. This Mattel-produced fortune teller offered 20 responses from its icosahedral problem-solver; half of them were positive, meaning it encouraged many to act out their desires. Of course, many would keep shaking it until they got the answer they needed.
In the 1950s, war wasn’t just in recent memory – it was still happening. The Korean War and plenty of other Cold War conflicts were taking place around the world, giving very real storylines for these small green plastic men in the playground. Lucky kids had miniature figures with plastic parachutes; the less fortunate had to make do with an army of minesweepers. Either way, Army Men encouraged imagination at its finest – as well as many laugh-like gunfire sounds.
Still seen today as the most majestic means of navigating a set of stairs, the Slinky operated on the basic principles of periods of oscillation. However, in the playground – where children will (rightfully) go out of their way to avoid institutionalised scientific learning – it was simply a toy that enjoyed popularity in pretty much every decade up to present day, starting in the 1950s.
Invented for consumers in the 1950s before becoming an instant hit around the world, the hula hoop drew upon traditional dances of the Native Americans. In playgrounds in the UK and all over the globe, it was simply a nice way to make hips wiggle. And wiggle they did – it continued to have intermittent popularity in subsequent decades.
Named after a 1958 song by Sacha Distel and not the gluttonous, ghost-chasing dog of Hanna Barbera fame, Scoubidou is an oft-forgotten or at least much-overlooked plastic crafting material that crossed the Channel from France. The hollow PVC – at times (if not usually) in bright colours – was used to create keyrings, friendship bracelets and much more. It’s still pretty darn popular, and sometimes comes back to playgrounds across the country.
If you have any further ideas, let us know.
Next week we will take a look at the 60s.