When I was a kid, we played lots of games.
Toys went in and out of popularity. Some things had a “season”, like football and cricket, some things were around all the time like marbles and skipping. Then there the things that came in “crazes”.
“Crazes” were fuelled by advertising on the radio and in the newspaper. Super peppy jingles and banner advertisements told us how much fun the newest craze was and how much we wanted to be part of the it. This was especially true of the yo yo.
Apparently the yo yo has been around for hundreds of years, but my first encounter was when I was about eight.
A troupe of yo yo experts sponsored by a well known soft drink company toured schools demonstrating all manner of tricks with the specially branded yo yos. These yo yos had special strings, double wound and slightly heavier and therefore twice as expensive. The special yo yo and the special strings were, we were told, essential to expert yo yo trick mastery.
Naturally, everyone had to have the special yo yo and the special strings. Without them, one was not cool. An ordinary yo yo bought in the toy section at Woolworths was not acceptable. It was not the right weight, shape, colour etc. to be able to perform the tricks…or at least, to perform them expertly.
I craved the Russell Coca Cola yo yo. It was expensive but I had to have one. I asked my parents for one. I was told, if I wanted one so badly, I could buy one using my pocket money. I checked my money box. I had enough to buy the yo yo but doing so would leave me with nothing. What to do?
Answer…split the cost. Brilliant!
I convinced my brother that he should buy a yo yo with me. We would share it, I told him. He was four and an easy mark for a con-artist like myself. The yo yo was purchased.
I started practising the tricks. I quickly mastered “Walk the Dog” and was soon working towards “Around the World”. I knew I could become a yo yo expert. My brother had trouble just making the yo yo go up and down, and became frustrated easily, as I had known he would. That meant I had almost exclusive use of the treasured item. My evil genius had paid off again.
Eventually, however, my conscience got the better of me and I gave my brother his money back. It may have had something to do with the incessant reminders from Mum and Dad that I was supposed to be sharing the yo yo not monopolising it.
The yo yo craze only lasted a couple of months. We were soon entranced by some new, even more fun activity thanks to the advertising arm of the toy industry. I kept my yo yo and practised occasionally because Dad said that yo yos would come back into fashion. They did too…only it was a new, improved yo yo…far better than the one I had…far cooler…and, not surprisingly, even more expensive.
I craved that yo yo too but I did not buy it. It was a valuable lesson in life, my father told me. Just because something has a snazzy new coat of paint, it doesn’t mean it is any different underneath.
Here are some yo yo tricks for you to watch. How many can you do?