Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., April 4, 5 or 6
A year ago this week, I’d already partially tore an Achilles tendon playing softball, but this spring has been so wintry my back still aches from shoveling wet snow off the driveway and sidewalk.
So, I’m coping with the delayed change of seasons by retreating to springs of my youth:
Do 21st century kids still have wonderful junk marketed to them when the weather warms?
Recent snows have seemed like Christmas in March, with more front-yard snowmen than sandlot ballgames, but surely there are local merchants, besides the big-box behemoths, somewhere with end-cap displays of kites ready to go.
Do kids still struggle with such magnificent airborne nonsense, running breathlessly through neighborhood after tying tails out of rags?
(Do parents still keep rags?)
What about yo-yos?
Besides 1960s elementary teachers rolling in TVs to watch space launches, I remember occasional grade school assemblies with experts from Duncan or some other yo-yo corporation demonstrating their yo-yo talent. For days, five-and-dime stores couldn't keep yo-yos stocked.
(Are there still such yo-yo professionals? Where are they credentialed, anyway?)
And, hey: “Five-and-dime?” your kid might ask, like looking at a vinyl LP record and exclaiming, “That’s the biggest CD I ever saw!”
Will this week finally be warm enough for squirt guns?
What about cap pistols? Are cap guns still popular in this post-Columbine, -Newtown era?
And jackknives. Not the Swiss Army type, but small- and medium-sized beauties with plastic sides molded to appear to be tree bark. Are they common or endangered in today’s zero-tolerance climate?
Do kids whittle?
How about bubble bottles – remember the smell, somewhere between dish soap and sugar?
Or bicycle handlebar streamers? Are those a bit too … lame at a time when kids go straight from playing the “Grand Theft Auto V” video game to recklessly roaring on ATVs down fence rows to Harleys with mufflers that don’t muffle?
Back to quieter, simpler times: Are wax lips made in the USA – and still chewable?
Speaking of chewable wax, what about those odd little paraffin snacks with super-sweet syrups squeezed into weird-shaped receptacles? I thought I saw a package in a convenience store, but they looked different. Cheap.
Were they always tacky?
Remember the bubble-gum or chalky-candy cigarettes with satiric names like “Lucky Lights” and “L&N”?
Where do we go to find out? A five-and-dime won’t buy a coffee or a phone call – if you can even find a pay phone.
The classic dime store chain Ben Franklin survives, barely, rarely, as a sort of mini-Hobby Lobby crafts joint, a few generations removed from kid customers. A web search turned up Illinois Ben Franklin stores in Carthage, Quincy and Moline.
I know, I know: “Spring forward.”
My Achilles feels better. Maybe I can find a decent kite.
[PICTURED: A balsa-wood glider from retrotoys.com]