Backyard Toy of Yesteryear Provokes a Torrent of Comments

Vintage Playgrounds

A few days ago, I posted an ad of a backyard roller coaster on a Facebook page dedicated to advertisements from the 1960’s-1970’s. This ad and another photo were shared by a reader on my Toys from the 1960s-1970s blog.

Backyard Roller Coaster Ad

I know nostalgia strikes a chord with many people, but that blog has elicited far more comments and views than anything else I have ever written. Published in December 2013, the blog still generates a good deal of interest. What is even more amazing is that the Facebook post has evoked a torrent of comments, some of which I will share further on in this blog. Reader Robert Jaye shared information about this backyard roller coaster in June 2014:

We had a backyard roller coaster set from Montgomery Ward. It was little more than a tubular slide set. The tubes slipped over one another and one climbed to the top of the slide, and sat on a cart with wheels that were molded to ride the tubes.

You pushed a release and down you went, all of five or six feet at a gentle slide angle. You rolled on for another five feet before encountering two small bumps that slowed you down before you rolled off into the grass.

Backyard Roller Coaster

The Facebook comments run the gamut from downright rude to funny, with a few that read like personal attacks on other people’s posts. Here is a selection reflective of the emotional reactions evoked by this ad, which was accompanied by accurate and factual words: A backyard toy that would definitely not pass today’s safety standards.

  • Fuck today’s safety standards
  • I would’ve risked finger amputation and a concussion to have this as a kid!
  • Designed by doctors to bring in the injured lol
  • People had more common sense back then and there were fewer lawyers.
  • Had one of these! Most fun I ever had as a kid AND no one got injured!!!!
  • Back when kids had brains, used common sense, listened to their parents and weren’t encased in bubble wrap like they are today. Of course there were injuries, but because they were inevitable. Skinned knees, broken bones, stitches and getting your clock cleaned for mouthing off were all part of growing up back then. Looks fun. I would have loved it, bumps bruises and all.
  • I’m a survivor! And, played with even MORE ‘dangerous’ things! Had a dirt bike, BB gun, sling shot, roller skates used on the road, no such thing as bike helmets back then, clankers, lawn darts, horse shoes, home made tire swing hung from a DEAD tree branch with a rope, didn’t wear shoes in the summer, learned to ride a bike with no brakes & I could barely reach the pedals (on a gravel road), OH! The list can go on & on, but you get the idea…
  • Kristin, as a child, I once was trying to shoot a rubber band off of a pencil, and instead it snapped back and hit me in the eye. I was ok after a couple days, but I guess pencils and rubber bands should be banned too. And when I was better, my parents asked how I could be so stupid!
  • This toy is much safer than all the Ritalin and like drugs being given to children today…

I am not going to pass judgement on any of the people who posted comments – everyone has the right to voice his or her own opinion. However, I feel the need to share a few facts that shed some light on a subject that seems to have riled up a lot of people.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) didn’t exist before 1972, so late Baby Boomers got away with playing with a lot of toys in the 1960s-early 1970s that would never pass muster today. School and park playgrounds were also dangerous – my friends and I played on monkey bars and very tall metal slides on gravel surfaces – no protective material below. My little sister, who was just 2 or 3 at the time, survived a fall from about seven feet up on a huge metal slide in a park across the street from where my aunt and uncle lived in Akron.

For all of the wisecracks about kids being tougher back then, I beg to differ – we were certainly more carefree and decidedly less jaded. Guess what, injuries occurred, we just didn’t hear about them since the media was a whole different ball game. The Internet did not exist and there were no injury surveillance systems in place such as the one that the CPSC governs. Nowadays, kids are sustaining far more injuries from things like scooters, skateboards, and ATVs. Quite frankly, I think many kids these days are spoiled by the latest gadgets and technology, but that is an entirely different discussion. There are exceptions – these enterprising Idaho teenagers built a backyard roller coaster for just $50.00.

Homemade Backyard Roller Coaster

Here are just a few 2014 injury statistics from the CPSC, which are estimates of the number of people treated only at U.S. hospital emergency rooms:

  • Playground equipment (all categories): 182,905
  • Of these, the highest number of injuries were attributed to monkey bars and climbing apparatus with 79,935 injuries.
  • Of the 79,935 injuries, there were 38,095 fractures and 2,115 concussions.
  • Skateboards: 119,760 (one fatality to a 16-year-old male)
  • Scooters (unpowered): 55,975

Safety comes with a price – the Extreme Coaster pictured below and in this YouTube video will set parents back nearly $300.00!

The Extreme Coaster

Playgrounds have come a long way since the early 1900’s, as evidenced by a few photos I found among the wonderful digitized photographs available at the Library of Congress, from 1905 to 2010.

Girls Playground Minnesota 1905

5 Comments

Filed under Amusement Parks, Human Behavior, Nostalgia

5 Responses to Backyard Toy of Yesteryear Provokes a Torrent of Comments

  1. Robert Casares

    I’m happy to see that the roller coaster posts have been interesting to so many. I must correct my earlier post about our family buying the toy at Montgomery Ward.

    The Montgomery Ward toy and the one we owned were slightly different than the toy in the color photograph. Ours used the same wheeled cart and release mechanism, and we climbed a ladder at the rear to mount the car.

    Our toy, purchased at the Kiddie City (Lionel) on NE Loop 410 in San Antonio, featured track that just went straight down to the ground, w/o the extra dip. It rolled five or six feet before encountering two slight bumps in the tubes and then went into the grass. These are similar to what is seen in the extra track option for the toy in the B&W ad.

    I do not remember anything about the packaging or about additional track being available. It would have been nice to have rolled along for a few more feet.

    I have seen the set our family owned in a early 60’s Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog. I guess the search is still on for an image of our toy.

    Happy Hunting!

    RJ

  2. Ken Denney

    I have a 1969 Blazon roller coaster in excellent condition. I also have the extension set that give three more sections. Both set have their original boxes and original instruction pamphlets. I have pictures and a video of our Grandson riding it on 27August 2016.

  3. Bernie DuClos

    I remember a two seater toy that looked much like a teeter totter only it spun around as each of the two riders pushed and pulled a lever, with their hands, and feet. This lever was connected to the center with metal tubing or stamped flat metal bars and caused the device to spin faster and faster

    Do you recall this and if so what is it called.

    • Betsy

      Hi Bernie – It sounds like you are describing the Whirly-Bird. It was manufactured by Hedstrom and I had the four-seat version. You sat in the seat and put your feet on a bar below. There was a handle in front that you would pull towards you and then push towards the person sitting across from you to make the Whirly-Bird spin. I wrote about this in another toy=related blog: http://consumergrouch.com/?p=6087. Thanks for reading and posting.

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