Category: Toys Toys Toys

The History of the Ouija Board

Ouija

Toy or device for speaking to the dead? Fun way to spend a slumber party or the deciding factor for what you should do with your life? The Ouija board is many things to many people, but one thing we do know is that for those that like a little mystery in their lives, the Parker Brothers Ouija board has remained on store shelves, and sold quite well, ever since the game manufacturer acquired the rights in the sixties.

In New York, min-nineteenth century, communicating with the dead was big business. Mediums – those people who claimed they could converse with the after-life – were big hits at chic parties across the city. In addition to letting the spirits speak though them, mediums also claimed the spirits could write messages on paper through them.

These mystics would hold a “planchette” (“little plank” in French), which was a heart-shaped board with a pencil attached in the center. The medium held this over a piece of paper and the spirit would “move” it to write a message. Unfortunately, the spirit didn’t always have the best handwriting, and nothing is more disappointing then an illegible message from the dead.

Three Americans – E.C. Reiche, Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard – developed a “talking board” that came with it’s own planchette. It was printed with the alphabet, numbers one through ten, and words ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ It is said that Kennard called the board “Ouija” after an Egyptian word for good luck, but rumor also said that the board itself suggested the word.

In 1892, Kennard’s ex-foreman, William Fuld, took the company over, named it the Ouija Novelty Company, and began producing the board in high volume numbers. Fuld came up with his own version of the Ouija’s genesis – that he had invented the idea himself, and that the word Ouija was actually an amalgam of the French “oui” and the German “ja” (which, incidentally, is the correct way to pronounce the name.)

There were other talking boards on the market at the time (for instance, Milton Bradley’s Genii) but Fuld’s was definitely the most popular. In a strange twist of fate, Fuld was killed in 1927 from a fall from a factory roof in his native Baltimore. Some said it was an accident, and some said it was suicide. (Didn’t anybody ask the Ouiji board?) Fuld’s children took over the company, and in 1966, they were bought out by Parker Brothers.

Today, the board looks almost the same as it did when it first came out, although now it’s made of folding cardboard instead of wood, and the planchette glides on velvet tabs instead of wooden pegs. It still has the alphabet and the numbers in two crescent rows, the words “yes” and “no” at the corners, and “goodbye” at the bottom.

Ouija 2

Atmosphere and mindset are crucial to play. Don’t play it alone. Don’t play it while angry. Play at night, since there’s less psychic static when it’s dark out. Let just one person ask the questions – you don’t want to get the spirits confused while they’re navigating Ouija games. Candlelight helps encourage conversation. It’s best to have two players work the board, with it either on their knees or on a table. Once you warm up the planchette by moving it around, let it rest, and ask a question out loud. If you’re lucky, the spirit in the room will answer the question by moving the planchette around the board to spell out the answer.

Either that or the players minute muscle movements move the planchette. Or some sneaky player moves the planchette to the answer they want to see. It’s never 100% clear – which is what gives the Ouija board its simultaneous coolness and creepiness. It remains an enigma – a game that you’re never certain you’re in control of. As such, it has been a staple of slumber parties and any other place people gather in the dark, intent on summoning the spirits.

Remembering Micro Machines

The 80’s probably spawned more cool toys than all other decades combined.  There were the heavy hitters like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Mask that everyone remembers, but then there are those toys that were totally awesome, but don’t get mentioned nearly as much.  One of those was Micro Machines.

 

micro machines

 

Micro Machines debuted from Galoob Toys in 1986, and hung around through the late 90’s.  Their claim to fame was the fact that they were 1/4 scale of Hot Wheels, and kids loved their extra small size.  Micro Machines came in a wide variety of vehicles that included cars, trucks, emergency vehicles, construction, planes, boats, There were also vehicles based on licensed properties such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Power Rangers, GI Joe, James Bond, and Indiana Jones.  For 3 – 4 years, they were the largest selling toy car line in the country, with dollar sales that exceeded the combined sales of Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and Majorette!

Hot Wheels, only smaller. That’s not exactly true, but it’s what I though when I first saw Micro Machines. A friend of mine brought some to school, and I thought they were so cool, if for nothing else, that they were a lot easier to smuggle out of the house than actual Hot Wheels. But what I found when I got my first “collection” was that these were fine toys in just about any application.

 

Micro Machines

 

What I liked best about them, was that in the early years, you would get five vehicles per package. Instead of having to settle for one fire truck, you got five. Or maybe you got a fire truck plus other emergency vehicles to go along with it. You didn’t have to decide whether to get a bulldozer or a front end loader, but instead you got them both plus a dump truck, a concrete truck, and an excavator. It was a whole construction set in one package. Why settle for one fast corvette when you could get five from varying years. And while the cars may have been small, their play was as big as anything else on the market. They held up just as well as Hot Wheels did under my play conditions.

 

MORE TOYS  |  Five Fun Matchbox Toys

 

The play sets that went along with them were well designed too. They would transform from play sets to normal looking things like a can of car wax, or some other similar product. There were so many sets to choose from too. You had planes, ships, construction equipment, fast cars, service vehicles, army mobiles, and many others. I got older and lost interest in them just before they picked up the Star Wars license, but there were three lines that I favored over all the others.

The Semi Trucks they had were awesome. They came out a few years into the line and were a great addition, as you could round out your “city” with these.  There were flat beds, box trailers, and tankers of all different kinds.  Coming from a family whose Father drove a truck on occasion, it was cool to have these to mimic his job with.

 

Micro Machines Semi Trucks

 

Another was the addition of Micro Machines train sets. They were in scale with the rest of the line, and even came with their own tracks.  There were several different sets to choose from, each in their own color scheme and type of train.  I always wanted multiple sets just to have enough track to actually do more than a circle loop with.

 

Micro machines Trains

 

And last but not least were the monster trucks. All the popular ones of the day were available in either two or three packs, I can’t remember which, but I had a ton of them. Grave Digger, Carolina Crusher, Equalizer, Mad Dog, and many others were available for your car crushing needs. And again, these were in scale with the rest of the line, so you could line your cars up and run over them with the monster trucks.

 

Micro Machines Tuff Trax

 

Micro Machines was an awesome toy line, and a fun part of my childhood.  It doesn’t get the nostalgic attention that other popular lines from the 80’s do, but it will forever be one of my favorites.

 

Opening a pack of Jaws 3-D Trading Cards from 1983

Since it’s Shark Week, I thought it would be a good time to open an old pack of Jaws 3-D trading cards from 1983.  These cards came out in conjunction with the movie, Jaws 3-D, which starred Louis Gossett Jr. and Dennis Quaid, and was shot in 3-D.  The cards likewise featured the 3-D technology to give them quite a gimmick.  Watch the video below and check them out!

Listen to Me on Banzai Retro Club’s Podcast on Old Trading Cards

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in with Dave on an episode of his Banzai Retro Club Podcast to talk about old non-sports trading cards.  As you know, I’m a big fan of old cards, so I was ecstatic when I got the invite.  We spend well over an hour discussing everything from Marvel Universe cards to New Kids on the Block cards, and all the way back to Smurfs Super Cards.  There’s a lot of fun talk and plenty of informative discussion that you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from if you ever collected any kind of cards.  Check it out by clicking on the graphic below.

Then head on over to my Twitter page to enter the contest we mention on the show where YOU can win a grab bag full of old unopened packs of cards!  Just head over to @yesterdayville for all the details.

Lawn Darts – One of the Most Dangerous Toys of All Time

Lawn Darts

Starting in the 1970’s, people began to cast a suspicious eye on the safety standards used in making toys. Parents and lawmakers began voicing their concerns and this led to new legal standards for what could and could not be sold to children at the toy store. Toys have become much safer over the years as a result of this, but a hazardous toy slips through the cracks every now and then and makes it to the market. One of the most notorious examples in recent memory is the case of Lawn Darts. These outdoor leisure items enjoyed a lengthy period of popularity, but quickly got yanked from the marketplace when its potential for danger became too obvious.

More Toys  |  Things I Always Wanted but Never Had

Lawn Darts began to appear in sporting goods and toy stores in the 1960’s and were made by various manufacturers (Sears Department Stores had their own Sears Lawn Darts, and so on). Also sold under the name ‘Jarts,’ these items were 12 inches long, with a heavy tip made of metal on one end and decorative plastic fins at the other end. The metal tips were blunt so they wouldn’t cut the hands of the person tossing them, but remained pointy and heavy enough to stick in the ground they were thrown at.

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Five Fun Matchbox Toys

Matchbox

Growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were a big part of my play time.  Both lines produced a lot of really fun cars and play sets, and here are just five of my favorites from the Matchbox side of things through the years.  Don’t worry, I’ll cover the Hot Wheels side of things at some point in the near future.

 

Matchbox Car Wash

Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash

After a long day of play in the dirt and mud of the hills around our house, a good car wash was just what the cars and trucks needed.  This car wash was kind of automatic…as in you had to get the car in the wash and then turn a crank and it would go all the way through.  It featured real water jets, a foam roller “scrub” brush, and a spin dry feature.  The perfect play set for getting all of your cars clean before packing them away for another day.

Watch the commercial for the Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash HERE

 

Days of Thunder

Days of Thunder Cars from Hardees

In 1990, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Days of Thunder movie starring Tom Cruise hit theaters to a great reaction, and merchandise based on the movie started to flow.  One of the better pieces of merchandise to come along were the replica cars from Hardees based on the stock cars from the movie.  The five main cars featured in the movie were in the set, which allowed us younger viewers of the film to recreate all the action at home.

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Was Dark Tower the Best Board Game of the 1980’s?

Dark Tower Board Game

“A Fantasy Adventure Born of Electronic Wizardry”

It was like every planet in the game universe had suddenly aligned. It was a board game, it was an electronic game, it was Dungeons & Dragons, all rolled into one. Milton Bradley called it Dark Tower; we called it “Dear God, I promise I’ll never ever do anything bad ever ever again if you make sure I get this game, and please make world peace, amen.”

The center of this 1981 game was the Dark Tower itself—not only did the big edifice loom over the circular game board, it was also the engine that made the whole game run. The object was to work your warrior’s way around the circular board, all the while building up armies, finding three needed keys and hoarding supplies of gold and food. Individual gamecards with red and white pegs kept track of your current physical and financial status, but the real action took place inside the tower itself.

Continue reading “Was Dark Tower the Best Board Game of the 1980’s?”