What were toy makers and parents thinking back in the day with all of the dangerous toys we grew up with? It's a wonder we all made it to adulthood without shooting each other, breaking our necks or burning down the house.
What were toy makers and parents thinking back in the day with all of the dangerous toys we grew up with? It’s a wonder we all made it to adulthood without shooting each other, breaking our necks or burning down the house.
Back in the day, toy guns looked like real guns — and for the most part, they had real ammo. Our love of guns started at an early age.
How about the Bat Masterson Derringer Belt Gun? This looked like something the original actor Gene Barry (who played Masterson) would pull out of his vest or what Maverick AKA James Garner would draw after a contentious poker game.
If you were into war games, how about really hurting your friends with the Johnny Rebel Cannon which shot real cannon balls about the size of a golf ball - up to 35 feet. “Mom, can we play with the cannon ball?” “Sure, here’s some matches, go outside…”
During the 60s, otherwise known as the “decade of bad (toy) ideas,” things like Whammo’s Swing Wing existed , and it was a little plastic beanie with a whirly gig on top with streamers. In the spirit of the Hula Hoop, this toy forced kids to twirl their heads really fast to keep it going. You reckon Baby Boomers have neck problems because of this one? Ask a chiropractor.
Would you like a mini cake or mini pan of brownies cooked by a high wattage light bulb that gets so hot it can melt the plastic doors off of the toy? Sound the sirens, it’s the Easy Bake Oven, my personal favorite.
Hundreds of thousands of little girls had their first baking experiences with this “toy,” or “fire hazard.” Just take the toy in your room, whip up the cake mix with your Suzie Homemaker beaters, take the short cord and make sure you’re by the curtains and fire it up. This thing was almost faster than a microwave, thanks to the 200-watt light bulb that baked your mini-cake at 500 degrees. Yum, yum, those cakes were delish.
Girls and boys enjoyed another fire trap called “Creepy Crawlers,” which featured a hot plate — yes, here’s a kid-friendly toy. Again, a short plug goes into the wall turns the hot plate to 5,000 degrees and then kids poured this goop into a mold that formed into some kind of scary bug. Be sure to wait until the bug cools off before touching.
Oops, a little too anxious? Burns and blisters were a fact of life in the hot plate, hot plastic bug business. “Mom, I need some Bactine.”
Here’s one for the record books – The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab was sold from 1951-52. This thing actually had real uranium ore in the set – really?
Then what about Gilbert’s Chemistry Outfit for Boys? Fifty years ago, you were hard pressed not to find a family without a chemistry set somewhere around the house. This set, which dates back to 1922, instructed the kids to take the experiments outside. Red flag? But seriously, a recent show on PBS about science blames the demise of chemistry sets for the declining interest in science. Hmmm…
And then there were “Lawn Darts,” which were giant darts for the outdoors. Now what kid is actually going to use the handy paper target provided in the box of four 12-inch darts with metal tips. The fact is, these things were pulled from the shelves after a government agency reported that these babies could cause “skull punctures and other serious injuries.”
How about “Clackers?” This was another popular toy/dangerous weapon that we played with in the 60s and 70s. Yes, these lovely glass balls dangling at the end of a string were fun to play with. The idea was to get them going and fast and not to give your friend a concussion if you accidentally lost control. My mom hated this toy and it was one we had to save our allowance to buy, and we did. They were even outlawed at school. These things were never recalled, but they did make the strings nylon and the balls plastic to keep the strings from breaking and hurling the glass balls possibly into someone’s head. Thanks for that extra safety measure, folks.
What about the BB gun rifles? Your father’s father’s father had a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200 shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. And thanks to Ralphie on “A Christmas Story,” this toy gun enjoyed a whole new generation of popularity. One of my Dad’s best buddies used to regale us kids with stories of how he lost an eye to a BB gun and how after the unfortunate accident, he wore a patch and then finally got a glass eye. I never knew whether or not he was just yanking our chains …
But there’s no doubt, the warning was true …
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid …”