Fun book about toys of the '50s, '60s and '70s

There are lots of books about baby boomer toys, but this fun collection is presented from the viewpoint of the kids who played with the toys and includes lots of personal memories and photographs. Sure, there are many interesting facts and histories about well-known toys and their creators. Classic toys and games that are still made today like Tonka trucks, Easy-Bake Oven, G.I. Joe, Matchbox and Hot Wheels, Twister and Mousetrap are featured in loving color photographs and vintage ads. Their stories are well-known, too. For example, writer and artist Johnny Gruelle patented his rag doll design in 1915, the same year his daughter Marcella died after a controversial smallpox vaccination. The Rageddy Ann and Andy dolls and books helped Gruelle keep his memories of his daughter alive.

Famous fads include the '50s Davy Crocket Coonskin Hats, the '60s Troll dolls, and the '70s Pet Rock. Toys always reflect the times they’re from and this book provides plenty of cultural and historical background. Only after the heady 1960s and '70s with women’s liberation, the sexual revolution, and Black Power movement would there be an anatomically correct African American baby boy doll, Mattel’s Baby Tender Love, molded in life-like vinyl skin called Dublon.

Other less well-known toys are long gone from the toy store shelves but live on in the very personal memories (and actual childhood photographs!) featured throughout the book. Home health training specialist Lisa Crawford (b 1963) appropriately recalls the insanely dangerous metal-tipped lawn Jarts. I was delighted to find Make editor and fellow WINK contributor Gareth Branwyn’s (b 1958) recollection of using his own Johnny Horizon Environmental Test Kit to get an A+ on a school project (and to keep tabs on any hometown polluters!). Read the rest

How to win the Soap Box Derby - a high schooler's essay from 1957

My late father-in-law, Joe, was born and raised in Los Angeles, growing up during the heyday of hot rod culture. When I knew him he drove Corvettes and Camaros. In high school, Joe and his brother built Soap Box Derby racers. I recently came across an essay about Soap Box Derby racing that Joe wrote in 1957 when he was a student at Los Angeles High School. His teacher wrote, "This is one of the most *interesting* reports I've ever read!" He received a C+, though, because his spelling was atrocious (It was bad when I knew him, too - I think he had undiagnosed dyslexia) and he neglected to add footnotes or a bibliography. Here's a PDF scan of the essay.

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In 1958 Egyptian audience laughs over proposal for women to wear head scarfs

In 1958 Gamal Abdel Nasser, the second president of Egypt, gave a speech in which he mocked the Muslim Brotherhood for proposing that women be required to cover their heads in public. The audience hooted with laughter at the absurdity of such an idea.

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Watch: DeSotos in space!

A fantastic TV commercial for DeSoto automobiles from 1957. (via Weird Universe)

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The IBM 1620, an affordable “scientific computer” from 1959.

Some users gave it the acronym CADET: "Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try."

The revenge of the lawn

Author Mark Dery charts America's ecocidal obsession with nice grass

Telephone management skills, 1957 edition: Stephen Potter

From the wonderful blog "Vintage Scans," a page from Lifemanship lesson from Stephen Potter, 1957 (11th impression). Potter was a British writer known for dry, mocking, self-help books, and the TV and film projects they inspired. Read the rest