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Looking Back Dec. 12

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or

Santa is making his list and checking it twice! Here is a look back at just some of the toys that have made their way into his bag and sleigh in years past.

* The yo-yo is believed to be the second-oldest toy (dolls are ranked as the oldest) in the world. The name yo-yo comes from a Filipino expression meaning "come come". In 1985, astronaut David Griggs used a Duncan Imperial yo-yo on live television from the deck of the space shuttle.

* Barbie's full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

* The first toy advertised on television was Mr. Potato Head. From 1952 to 1963, parents had to provide a real potato. The 50-cent price tag of this toy included 50 parts but no body.

* The first patent for Monopoly was issued December 31, 1935. Until 1937, game players had to use household items (button, coins, dry beans), as tokens.

* The kid on Play-Doh made his debut in 1960, four years after the product was introduced. His name is Play-Doh Pete.

* More than 400 billion Lego bricks have been produced since 1958.

* Rock collections were popular in the 1950s and 1960s. Parents could buy small pieces of various rocks, often glued to a board. One of the samples usually included was asbestos.

* The name "Crayola" means oily chalk in French.

* It takes 63 feet of wire to make a Slinky.

* "Clue: The Movie" was the first film based on a board game.

* There have been approximately five billion Monopoly houses built since 1935.

* In 1968, the Hot Wheels Corvette, a reproduction of the real one, was on store shelves before Chevrolet had the new '68 model at its dealers' car lots.

* Kenner, a well-known name in toys, started in 1947 making soap and soft drinks.

* The Magic 8-Ball has 20 standard answers. Ten of the answers are affirmative (positive), five are negative and five are non-committal.

* Fortunate female baby boomers found the Suzy Homemaker toys, made by Topper, under the Christmas tree. There was a vacuum cleaner, a mixer, a doll with a beauty parlor, cooking equipment and even a washing machine. They were all bright green.

* The first video game was Pong, introduced by Atari in 1972.

* Since 1959, an estimated 125 million yards of fabric have gone into creating outfits for Barbie and her friends/family.

* Charles Pajeau created Tinkertoys in 1913 after watching children play with pencils, sticks and empty thread spools. Hasbro now owns the Tinkertoy brand and produced both plastic sets and the classic wooden sets and parts.

* During World War II, the U.s. Armed Forces commissioned ViewMaster reels for training purposes.

* Play-Doh was originally formulated in 1956 to clean wallpaper. The full list of ingredients remains a secret.

* Binney & Smith, maker of Crayola Crayons, produces an average of five million crayons per day. An average American child will wear down 730 crayons by his or her 10th birthday.

* The game of Checkers was depicted on ancient Egyptian tombs.

* Silly Putty went to the moon on Apollo 8. Astronauts used it to relieve boredom and to stabilize their tools during zero-gravity periods.

* The standard Monopoly game includes $15,140 in play money.

* The first Pogo Sticks were manufactured in Germany and shipped to Gimble's Department Store in New York City. Unfortunately, they were constructed of wood and many suffered rot along the voyage. George Hansburg redesigned them with an all-metal construction and patented the toy in 1919.

* The shape of Gumby's head was inspired by the hair of creator Art Clokey's father.

* Flubber was introduced in 1962. Tied to the movie "Son of Flubber," it was made from synthetic rubber and mineral oil. Unfortunately, the stuff made more than 1,600 people sick with sore throats, rashes or other reactions from contact and it was recalled. Legend has it that all the Flubber was buried and a parking lot poured over it and that on really hot days, Flubber oozes through the cracks in the pavement.

* G.I. Joe was inspired by the 1963-64 TV show called "The Lieutenant," which was created by Gene Roddenberry (as in "Star Trek").

* Based on the character Elmo from "Sesame Street," Tickle Me Elmo was the must-have toy in 1996. The short supply, due to the unexpected demand, caused chaos in some stores between parents as they fought for one of the coveted toys. The demand also meant that some stores jacked up the price drastically. Newspaper classified ads saw the $28.99 Elmo sell for as high as $1,500.

* COLORFORMS was a pioneer in the realm of licensed characters with a 1957 Popeye kit. Other sets include KISS, Gumby, Addams Family, the Beatles and Star Wars.

* Donald and James Herzog of the Smethport Specialty Company, Pennsylvania created Wooly Willy in 1955. Artist Leonard Mackowski designed Wooly Willy. He hid his name in the artwork, to the right of the mushroom on the back of every package. The original Wooly Willy cost 29 cents.

* William Gruber, an organ maker from Portland, Oregon, invented the View-Master. While visiting the Oregon Caves, he met Harold Graves, the president of Sawyer's Inc. His company specialized in picture post cards. Together, they created the successful company that exists today. In 1939, View-Master was first introduced at the New York World's Fair. Intended as a souvenir, it was originally marketed through photo shops and stationary stores.

* Reyn Guyer, the creator of the game Twister, invented the NERF ball in 1968.

* The Remco Toy Company introduced the Mighty Matilda in 1961. This 33-inch long, battery-operated ship was a replica of an atomic aircraft carrier. It came with 100 Naval officers, crewmen and frog- men and featured two working elevators, a working catapult and a rotating radar.

* The board game Candyland was invented by Eleanor Abbott while she was recovering from polio and was marketed by Milton Bradley for the first time in 1949.

* Although there had been attempts at "talking" dolls for many years, Chatty Cathy was the first sure-fire talking doll hit. With her pull-string talking mechanism and phrases such as "Please brush my hair," she captured the hearts of an entire generation of little girls. Chatty Cathy was produced from 1960 to 1964.