Mar 31, 2012

Vintage is More than Just Stuff

It's been so long since I have blogged here, i am not sure anyone is still around to read this. I found an amazing site today and i will be sharing articles that i am reading there. They will be very nostalgic for you Baby Boomers and i hope they will also interest my younger readers who love vintage enough to want to know more about "the way it was" when the stuff was made and enjoyed by us old folks.

The site is called I Remember JKF and is geared to the Baby Boomer generation. It sure took me back and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane. My thanks to webmaster and fellow Boomer, Ron Enderland, for all the great research and writing over there. It's all too great not to share, so I hope he will allow me to pass along his articles and images here for you all to enjoy. I am presenting the articles here with very few changes and all the credit going to Ron. Be sure to visit for lots and lots more!

Romney's Not the Only One Who Likes Etch-a-Sketch!
Etch-a-Sketch, one of our favorite toys of the 1960s, is still still proudly produced by Ohio Art! Sadly, they haven't been made in Ohio since 2003. However, we do celebrate the fact that they are still around, exactly like they were during the Decade of Change, when many of us were enjoying wonderful childhoods as Baby Boomers.

It all started in France in the late 1950's. A gentleman named André Cassagnes (another source credits Arthur Granjean) crafted a drawing device in his basement. He filled a plastic container with aluminum dust. The container had a clear screen, also a stylus mounted to two bars which was moved by small cables attached to knobs. Thus, an adroit artist could make subtle movements to create a single line which could create infinite shapes. In reality, he created a very cool toy which 98% of us could use to make basic shapes, and cause us to envy true artistes with the talent to create masterpieces.
He took his invention to the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany, where a US-based company called Ohio Art showed little interest. However, upon seeing "The Magic Screen" a second time, they decided to roll the dice and take a chance on it. Ohio Art tooled up their factory in Dayton in time to have a boatload of Etch-a-Sketches on store shelves by Christmas, 1960. The result was a smash hit, and a memory for many of us.
The Etch-a-Sketch was a familiar product in dime stores when we were kids, pricey enough to only rate being purchased for a special occasion like a birthday or Christmas. But untold millions were sold during the 60's and 70's. And we all learned a few lessons about them as we created our artistic attempts.
  1. Not all of us were artists. In fact, most of us were pretty bad, but we still spent hour after hour twisting knobs, then turning the board over and clearing our efforts, and trying again.
  2. A mistake meant either starting over, or turning the lemon into lemonade, i.e. integrating the mistake into your creation.
  3. The Etch-a-Sketch would eventually crack on the black back side, leaving silvery aluminum dust all over the place.
  4. Once that happened, your choice was to (a) talk mom or dad into another one, or (b) move on to something else. In my case, it was the Spirograph.
But it generally took years of being tossed helter-skelter into a toybox to crack the durable plastic. In the meantime, the investment our parents made in the toy had paid off with hundreds or thousands of hours of entertainment, and perhaps inspiration to make a career out of art.
The Etch-a-Sketch continues to be a successful toy, so you can go out and purchase one for your own grandchild. But rest assured, that when little Eddie or Nancy grows up, they'll have pleasant memories of a plastic device which allowed them to magically create all sorts of black shapes on a silver background.

Did you have one? Tell us about your favvorite toy of the 60s or 70s! There were so many great ones - and yes, many are now collectible and considered vintage stuff. Oh my! I guess that makes me vintage as well. 

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