Toys that should have killed us

Most of us adults should have been dead long ago. Not necessarily because of our ages, but because we grew up around a collection of games and toys that should have surely done us in.

Big Wheel/Ryn Gargulinski

Big Wheel/Ryn Gargulinski

With all the hoopla about safety these days – and toys that are recalled because they have an extra 0.001 part per million of lead – it’s a wonder any child born before the turn of the century is not bleeding somewhere in a ditch.

Some moms may have been on to something, banning certain toys from the household and making me grow up without the thrill of being shot in the head with a BB gun.

But others let their kids play on or with the most hazardous of playthings – although the toys were certainly not considered hazardous at the time, but rather all in fun.

Like Slip ’n Slide. This product basically consists of slick piece of plastic that is made wet and even slicker by hooking it up to an outdoor hose. Kids then run full force at the thing, hurling all their weight in its general direction. If mixing slick plastic with high speeds and reckless children is not asking for trouble, we don’t know what is.

Trampolines are right up there with Slip ’n Slide for their ingenious way of putting young children at risk. Our neighbors kept theirs right on top of their cement patio.

Big Wheels could mean big trouble. This chunky little plastic tram-like thing looked innocent enough. It was short enough for some tiny tots, had a set of pedals that sweetly propelled the thing like a Flintstone car, and a fine hand brake on one of the rear wheels. It was also just the right size to fit behind a blind spot of a back bumper of a car pulling out of the driveway. Bye, bye Big Wheel. Oh, and the brakes sucked.

Yoyo/Ryn Gargulinski

Yoyo/Ryn Gargulinski

Yoyos were a big no-no in our house, thanks to my uncle who somehow managed to knock out one or more of his teeth while playing with one as a kid. If we think about it, a yoyo is akin to a large rock tied to a very long string that is meant to come back and smash you in the face. Why you’d be holding a yoyo up to your face is another wonder altogether. I had a green one with little flashing lights that lit up every time it unfurled.

Yoyos are, well, child’s play for injuries when compared to the Clacker. The Clacker is not a toy with which you may possibly hurt yourself – it is a toy with which you are guaranteed to hurt yourself.

I never played with the things, or even heard of them, until a friend of mine described how it consisted of two large marbles tied together with string. Kids were supposed clack the marbles back and forth while they swung wildly out of control and inevitably knocked in someone’s skull.

Speaking of skull fractures, we cannot forget those plastic platform sandals that, with the flick of a switch, turned into plastic platform roller skates. These faux shoes were hazardous even without the little wheels engaged.

These contraptions were kind of like tying a kid’s feet to a pair of plastic blocks with wheels on the bottom and telling them to stand up straight. Actually, it was exactly like tying a kid’s feet to a pair of plastic blocks with wheels on the bottom and telling them to stand up straight.

The sandal skates would be a great accessory to wear while riding the Big Wheel or hurling yourself down the Slip ’n Slide.



Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who got her first blood blister from stepping on a little metal car that had a devil’s horn on the hood. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at E-mail

logoWhat do you think?

Did you have any toys as a child that would be unheard of today? What?

Were you ever injured by one of your playthings? Do tell.


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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29 Responses to Toys that should have killed us

  1. Mike says:

    and how could you forget objects of nature… dirt clods, tree houses, tunnel forts, improvised swords, fire crackers, dad’s tools…  now that i think of it maybe my memory loss isn’t due to being a geezer

    • Rynski says:

      ahhh yes, mike, good point.
      the objects of nature. dirt clods were best when they had a rock nestled in the center. tree houses are just crying out for a broken back.
      i also recall playing in a quarry and a murky creek that would have parents today screaming just looking at them.

  2. amber says:

    Ha! those were some of my favorite toys growing up! my brothers loved those big heavy metal tonka trucks. those were deadly weapons when flung across the backyard at each other:) but i agree with Mike that natures ‘toys’ were much more dangerous but oh so much fun! spent most of my summers wandering around in the washes and under the bridges. never realized how much danger we put ourselves in till i was an adult. it was so much fun!

    • Rynski says:

      i agree, amber, tonka rocked!
      they go in that same metal danger category as erector sets – which i also recall being hurt from stepping on.
      random wandering under bridges is another fine childhood pasttime. no washes for me in michigan, but we did have lots of woods with sharp sticks, slick rocks and broken beer bottles for fun and games.

  3. leftfield says:

    I think the biggest danger with Big Wheels was in the annoying repetitive noise they made as they ran over the sidewalk cracks.  Any hyperactive little kid going back and forth in front of my apartment was definitely in danger of injury.

    • Rynski says:

      that noise, too, could possibly cause brain damage to the child. what kid can stay sane with that annoying repetition going through their head again and again.
      kind of like listening the song ‘funky town’ 5,681 in row.

      • leftfield says:

        Thanks a lot, Ryn.  Now that song will be in my head all day.  Just for that, I going to return the favor:

        “Brandy, you’re a fine girl
        What a good wife you would be
        But my life, my love and my lady, is the sea”.

        So there.

      • Rynski says:

        oh, i lucked out lefty, as i am not familiar with that song!
        but it reminds me somewhat of
        o my darlin
        o my darlin
        o my darlin clementine

      • radmax says:

        Geez, you guys! Now I’m gonna have a plethora of putrid tunes going thru my head all day! 🙂

      • azmouse says:

        Gosh, I always loved that song and once purchase $300.00 worth of TimeLife CD’s from an infomercial, just because of that song.
        I’ve got all the seventies greats!

        Brandy wears a braided chain
        made of the finest silver from the north of Spain
        a locket, that bears the name of a man that Brandy loved.

        SING IT, LEFTFIELD!!!!!!! (chorus)

        At night, when the bars close down
        Brandy walks through a silent town
        and loves a man that’s not aroun,
        she still can hear him say…

        SING IT LEFTFIELD!!! (chorus)

        Okay, I’ll stop, but it’s one of the coolest songs ever

  4. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! Hey, even as a child I realized that there was something not quite right about those clacker things. Talk about a headache on a string! Musta been dreamt up by Dan Aykroyd’s sleasy toy salesman on SNL-also came up with the ‘bag o’ broken glass’ and ‘invisible pedestrian’ Halloween costume.

    • Rynski says:

      mornin radmax!
      LOVE invisible pedestrian!
      i am sooo glad i never had a first hand experience with the clacker. i was too busy getting injured by stepping on erector sets and little metal cars with devil horns on the hood.
      oh, i also once fell out of a tree by attempting to do an in-air somersault to the next branch. didn’t work.

      • leftfield says:

        E. Buzz Miller – also the inventor of the Johnny Space Adventurer kit, which consisted of a plastic bag to put over your head.

      • Rynski says:

        hahhahahah. the only plastic bag that wasn’t stamped with THIS IS NOT A TOY
        and i just thought of tinker toys, which are quietly waiting around to poke out an eye.

      • radmax says:

        OMG-Hope you weren’t seriously injured! I did something eerily similar as a lad, got a ‘staple’ in my head from the doc and a nice scar for my rambunctiousness. Probably explains a few things… 🙂
        the slip-n-slide reminded me of a cute little contraption called a ‘mr. wiggle’. Consisting of a piece of tubing with a spray nozzle in the head, then attached to a garden hose, this little gem would fly about willy-nilly and slam into anything in it’s path. It would also coil around necks and limbs like a rabid python…they just don’t make fun toys like they used to Rynski.

      • Rynski says:

        oh, that rabid-python-like mr. wiggle. i never had the thrill of such a potentially injurous toy, but it sounds like a gas!
        where have all the good times gone?
        now the biggest danger in kids toys is their brains getting mushy from sitting there with a joystick in front of the TV  – haha.
        did the doc ever take the staple out of your head?

      • radmax says:

        😉 I think so….yeah, I remember he put it in with a gun-like thingamajig and used some other apparatus to remove it. I do remember at the time being relieved that I wouldn’t have to get stitches. It’s under the hairline, so I guess you could get away with that, because it left one hellacious scar.

  5. ricky says:

    I loved the clacker!!! when thrown at a friend brother etc you never had to be accurate just close!  and done forget the lawn darts!

    • Rynski says:

      i did hear clackers had a very big injury range – like anywhere within six miles of the thing!
      and good one, ricky, on the lawn darts. lawn darts supposedly killed several kids before they were pulled off the shelves in 1988.
      nothing like hurling a spike with wings across the yard!

      • Mark B. Evans says:

        The original clackers were recalled because they would explode and shower children with razor-sharp shards of plastic. (Damn near broke my arm trying to get mine to shatter after I heard that. Stupid things wouldn’t break)
        Newer versions are made from a sturdier polymer.
        My friends and I also used to throw them at each other like a gaucho’s bola.
        We used to do the slip and slide on concrete. Grass was for wimps.
        Today’s kids are wimps. What fun is it being an adult if you can’t get drunk at a party and play “Oh ya, well see this scar here? I got that jumping off the roof….”
        In my day, you weren’t a real kid unless you had at least two sets of stitches  (and not at the same time, either).

  6. Ferraribubba says:

    I guess it wasn’t imtended to be used as a toy, but in the late 1940’s the Buster Brown shoe store in town had this x-ray machine that you could use to see your toes wiggle even when you still had your shoes on.
    I never tried it, but a couple of my friends used to hang out there and play with it my the hour, or until the manager kicked them out.
    Both died in their early 30’s. one of Lukemia, and the other of some strain of deadly cancer.
    At the end, both his feet looked like basketballs and had to be amputated. Alas, to no avail.
    But on a lighter note, it’s sunny and 12* here in East Jesus with a wind chill factor of 04F.
    Where is Algore and his Global Warming when I really need him?
    Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

    • Rynski says:

      hiya ferrari bubba,
      when i started reading your comment, i thought you were going to say the buster brown shoe itself was a dangerous toy. those big clunky things could def. cause some head injuries.
      but, alas, playing with an x-ray machine is much more fun. wow and yuck on the outcome. scary!
      thanks for the weather report in east jesus. i like peeking in on brooklyn’s, too, where it’s currently 30, cloudy and has a chance of snow. you win with the windkill factor!

  7. andrew says:

    And now they come out with new “NonToxic” crayons. What the hell were we puttin’ in our mouths with the old ones? And the “Air Blaster”gun, that shot a clump of air across the room, or if you put in a rock or arrow then it’s “Air projectile gun”.
    “rometoday tidiness”

    • Rynski says:

      dear rometodaytidiness,
      crayons never tasted as good as play doh – but good point!
      clumps of air could still be hazardous if you shot it in someone’s ear drum.

  8. Ferraribubba says:

    Anybody out there have a set of Lawn Darts? Like pub darts only the size if a hand grenade with feathers on the back end and a short metal spike on the other. The game was played like horseshoes, only with two tagets on the lawn, one at each end.
    Many pierced skulls and child fatalities until it was taken off the market.
    Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

  9. Karen Nelson says:

    Oh man… one bad apple… all it takes to take such fun things off the market! I had a slip-n-slide as a kid… and then again as a college student (nothing like a bottle of Wesson oil, a Slip ‘N Slide, and a long dormitory hallway to get those juices flowin’!!). Lawn darts… played with them all the time… never an injury… Tinkertoys, slinky, erector sets, Tonka trucks, creeks, rocks, gullys, trees, tree houses, forts, ditches… it was ll good! I felt sorry for my kids… they were stuck with Legos and computer games… sigh…

    • Rynski says:

      so cool to hear you were never injured by that aresenal of weapon-like toys! hahah.
      oh man, i can just IMAGINE wesson oil on the slip ‘n slide – weren’t there dorm mothers to stop such shenanigans?
      it also reminds me of how two of my neighbor friends used to sunbathe slathered in crisco oil.
      again, those were the days…hahaha.

  10. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    hiya Ryn! our favorite toy as kids was called ‘rock’ – we had rock fights and there were no real rules . . . except the ‘scatter’ rule – when someone got hit in the head, everyone scattered.
    Big Wheel was my fave!
    Another game we used to play was with these little cars that came with a ‘T-strip’ to rev ’em up with! They were especially cool when you added an M-80 to them and then sent them off.
    Finally we have the ‘model rocket motor sans rocket’ . . . Do you know what happens when you light a rocket motor without attaching the rocket? Well, first you duck REAL fast and stay there for awhile if you’re smart.
    I saw a TV documentary about Slip-N-Slides. They were sued countless times due to injuries incurred by adults, namely spinal chord injuries and broken necks. The toy was designed for kids and the extra weight of an adult seems to be a bad thing when you throw yourself down face first on one of those.
    Yikes! I’m still here and most of my childhood friends are too. Funny how that works . . .

  11. azmouse says:

    Slip-n-slides were fun, as was Mr. Wiggles.
    I also use to love my pogo-stick and got hurt every time, but that was part of the fun. I’d be jumping and hit my head on a tree limb, or hit a rock and go flying off face first.

    During monsoon season, me and my older brother couldn’t wait to go butt-surfing down the roaring Tanque Verde Wash. The good ol’ days!!! Who knew you could drown? It was just hecka-fun!

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