Tuesday, August 4, 2015

For the baby boomers

The period immediately after the end of WWII marked the start of the “baby boom” generation, which included all of the children born between 1946 and 1964. Growth was the most dramatic between 1946 and 1955, when the Leading-Edge Boomers were born. Those born between 1956 and 1964 are called Late Bloomers or Trailing Edge Boomers. Those born from 1957 on are also called Generation Jones. Although the size of both the leading edge and trailing edge boomers is about the same (at about 38,000,000 people) the birth rate dropped sharply after 1956.The highest birthrate for all baby boomers was 1947, the year that I was born.

American society has changed radically since the date of my birth, and listing all of the remarkable events that have occurred in the last 67 years could fill several volumes.

To keep things simple, though, I’d like to focus only on the toys that came into being during my lifetime.

The slinky was introduced in 1945

The hula hoop was introduced in 1958

The Lego brick was introduced in 1958

Barbie was born in 1959,

G.I. Joe was introduced in 1964

All of us also played with Lincoln logs, Erector sets, and Lionel trains, but all them were actually invented much earlier. Lionel trains were made from 1900 to 1969, but you can still buy new sets today if you know where to shop. Erector sets were introduced in 1913, and Lincoln logs (which were created by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son) date back to 1916

One of THE best known toys of the Baby Boom era was the Etch A Sketch. It was invented in France in the late 1950’s, and introduced to the world at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany in 1959. The rights to the toy were quickly purchased by The Ohio Art Company, and it was released in America in time for the 1960 Christmas season. For many years, it was produced in Bryan, Ohio, but all production was shifted to Shenzhnen, China in 2001.

Although you can still buy the original Etch A Sketch, it’s also possible to buy one that has computer memory and a speaker. The Etch A Sketch Animator was introduced in 1986, and an updated version was released in 1988. The purchase price of the Animator is $139,99, considerably cheaper than an I-Pad, but more than a Kindle or a Nook.

The bast majority of us never got much beyond producing a bunch of squiggles on the screen, but there ARE a few talented people among us who have produced remarkably life-like art, like the picture shown below.

Although the Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, and was added to the Century of Toys list in 2003, it may not qualify as the best toy EVER, However, for the harried parents of all those kids who were born during the Baby Boom generation, it offered three clear advantages:

1) it could keep kids occupied for hours on end

2) it didn’t require batteries

3) it didn’t make any noise.

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