Big Wheels keep on rollin’: Toys he never had still a sticking point

By SCOTT SAALMAN

I read a Hbig-wheelerald story about this year’s finalists vying for induction into the National Toy Hall of Fame — yes, there is such a thing.

2016 contenders include Care Bears, the board game Clue, Uno, Dungeons and Dragons, Fisher-Price Little People, the Nerf ball, the pinball machine, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots and Transformers.

Also in the running: the coloring book, the swing and Bubble Wrap, the latter for the entertainment value provided over the decades for kids — and grownups! — who just can’t get enough of those popping sounds beneath their feet (sort of the Pop Rocks for toes).

Only three will be selected to join the current 59 toys in the Hall, which already includes the Hula Hoop (1999), Slinky (2000), G.I. Joe (2004), the rubber duck (2013), the bicycle (2000) and the stick (2008).

Yes, the stick. The Hall claims the stick could be “the world’s oldest toy” (unless you were born a boy). Imagine how less complicated Christmas shopping would be if kids bought into this stick concept. If in a pinch, all you need to do is pull one off your Christmas tree.

The Big Wheel (2009) is in the Hall, though never was I gifted with one, despite my undying wish to be a Big Wheel owner. “Play with your stick, Scotty!” my parents likely replied, while then trying to convince me that, with the right imagination, one could push a tennis shoe around on the floor and pretend it was one of the Hot Wheels (2011) that I also wanted.

I was envious of my spoiled cousins in town. They had a Big Wheel. They also had the aforementioned Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, which featured two plastic, boxing robots — one red, one blue — in a boxing ring. I loved watching my cousins battle each other with their robots, especially when the bouts got so heated that they ended up swinging at each other with their own fists, delivering more blows than The Rumble in the Jungle — but this was usually what happened no matter what toy or game was at their disposal. Leave it to my two cousins to turn Candy Land (inducted in 2005) into barbaric bloodshed. While I envied them for their toys (not bruises), I think they actually envied me for my weapon-like stick.

That purveyor of endless nightmares, the Jack-in-the-Box, is in the Hall (2005). My parents made sure I had plenty of those around the house. I hated them. I cautiously stepped through the minefield of Jack-in-the-Boxes but still those damn things would pop out at me as if triggered by motion detectors instead of hand cranks. My parents found this funny, even though the Jack-in-the-Box was a big reason they had to change my diapers at an unusually high frequency. I don’t think they ever realized the cause and effect.

Play-Doh (1998) is in the Hall. Rightly so. To reduce stress, I recently kept a container of Play-Doh on my work desk, sniffing it madly like a police dog at a high school locker, the time-travel scent taking me back to my carefree kindergarten days. Unfortunately, too many co-workers borrowed it when I wasn’t around. Finding their nose prints in my Play-Doh induced my stress. This can’t be sanitary. Buy your own Play-Doh, people. 

Unfortunately, Scrabble is in the Hall, a discovery that caused my blood pressure to rise to near stroke level. Its inclusion in 2004 basically put my sacred Scrabble board on the same level as the rocking horse, also inducted that year. Scrabble is not a toy! Scrabble is not frivolous play! It is not a rocking horse! Scrabble is life! It is the thinking man’s chess (2013). How dare the Hall belittle Scrabble! Quick, get me some Play-Doh!

Puppet is on the list. I had a hand puppet named “Georgie.” I took Georgie everywhere. We were inseparable. He was this lonely rural route boy’s best friend. He and I talked to each other a lot, which ultimately freaked out my parents. One day, Georgie went missing. I’m pretty sure the disappearance was my parents’ doing. I think I was in high school by that time, probably the right time to do away with Georgie anyway. (Georgie did pose problems landing a date; sharing popcorn three ways at a movie never goes over well.)

Monopoly (1998) is in the Hall, but Jarts is not. This lawn dart game was a popular backyard pastime in the ’70s, often heralded in newspaper stories for its maiming qualities. It came with two yellow rings for you to land your darts in. Of course, my cousins had a Jarts set. Forget the yellow rings; they had more fun seeing how close a toss could come to the other’s toes. A little known fact is Jarts was ultimately banned from stores after striking several nearby parked Ford Pintos and causing explosions. Hijackers brandished Jarts to divert planes to new destinations. Jarts inspired al-Qaeda, at least that’s what my cousin Four-Toed Tim tells me.

Anyway, come Nov. 10, three more toys will be added to the Toy Hall of Fame, thus raising the total to a walloping 62 — more toys than you can shake a stick at.