OLD TIMERS DISCOVER FUN THING!
By Norris Chambers
I saw a yo-yo for the first time in 1930. We were already familiar with tops that you could wind up with a string and with a certain kind of yank could start them spinning on the ground. A round wooden spool that traveled down a string and then came back up to greet you was something that was new to most of the country kids in our vicinity.
On a Saturday trip to the county seat I entered Woolworth’s five-and-dime store and observed some fellow demonstrating how the yo-yo performed. He had fancy names such as
Walking the Dog and Feeding the Duck, alluding to the different performances he got from the little round toy.
I dug into my possum hide money and purchased one of the miracle machines for only a nickel. By the time I went back to school on Monday I considered myself an accomplished yo-yo player. Many of the kids at school were impressed and wanted to know if I would sell it. I reluctantly parted with it for a dime and five glass marbles. I never could turn down a nice profit! Clifton liked it and he thought we could make one. I agreed with him and we went to the blacksmith shop at the first opportunity to start the project.
Our shop was equipped with a lathe and a cranking drill press so we easily shaped the side pieces and turned a nice little axle for the center. A dip in a paint bucket and the addition of a piece of fishing cord completed the job.
Of course big commercial tycoons couldn’t resist the temptation to start building yo-yos to supply the demand at school. We found that most customers were willing to pay a dime or trade something else of value for one of our pretty toys. We made several of the little gadgets and disposed of them at a profit before the demand disappeared and our yo-yo factory faced bankruptcy.
We did some experimenting with different designs. We tried a square one and it worked well but we didn’t like it as well as the round ones. We also made different sizes. The very small ones apparently weren’t heavy enough and didn’t return well. Larger ones worked well but the size made them a little tight in your pocket. Our most unique model was designed with two regular yo-yos, one on each end of an eight inch wooden rod. The object was to operate both at the same time. This monstrosity worked well but about all you could do with it was let it run up and down he string.
Clifton suggested that we make a big one, maybe two feet in diameter, and operate it from the roof of the barn or from the top of a tall tree. We discussed this project for awhile and finally came to the conclusion that it might be too difficult to operate to make it worthwhile.
One of our masterpieces was the one we made out of lead. It weighed so much that if the string broke and it hit you on the toe you might think an elephant had walked by and been a little careless about where he placed his foot. Building that one was a lot of fun. We took a regular unit apart and used one side to make an impression in a big chunk of clay then poured melted lead in the mold. The bright, shiny metal made a beautiful yo-yo but the weight made it a little impractical for relaxation and fun.
Before we abandoned the yo-yo campaign we found that the sides didn’t have to be rounded and that just about any shape would work.
While we were still experimenting with different types someone asked when we were going to get enough of that yo-yo stuff. Our answer had to be: “Fun is where you find it and we’ve been having fun with yo-yos!”
I recently did a little research on the little round things. The yo-yo dates back as far as 500 B.C. Some researchers claim that they were used as weapons at one time. Other researchers deny this. One story says they were used by our ancestors as a hunting tool. The hunter sat in a tree and threw the yo-yo at small game on the ground. If the attempt was unsuccessful the spool came back and was ready for another try. The little round wooden variety became popular as a toy in this country in 1928.
If you are looking for real fun perhaps you should buy yourself a yo-yo and see how many ways you can improve it. Or maybe you would want to see how far you can throw it!