July is Journaling Month Part 9. Jarts and Clackers: Department of Bad Ideas

14 Jul


As a mother of the 90s, I was full of terrors of having my children choking to death on—“Yeah, yeah, I know, Mom: the big three, hot dogs, balloons, and hard candy.” Or strangling themselves on the strings in their sweatshirts. Or—the world seemed FULL of life threatening objects just ready to attack my precious young ones.

But Moms were cooler when I was growing up in the time of legend, far back in the mists of time. One of the big fads was clackers. They were two hard plastic balls at the ends of a string and you were supposed to try to bang them together quickly. So they had the advantage of many toys of my childhood, which were that they were both loud enough to blow your eardrums out and dangerous enough to carve a hole in your skull. They could shatter, too, so you could be full of brightly colored shrapnel. I remember the near hysteria of our school as they banned these frightening monstrosities.

They couldn’t burn the house down, however. That was reserved for unattended Easy Bake ovens and Incredible Edibles. Yum, hot gooey candy worms! See, kids of today, we had to MAKE our own gummy worms, you have it so easy.

Like most parents of the day, Mom and Dad had their own special way of inviting danger into the home by cigarettes by falling asleep while smoking, so their blankets were full of burn marks and holes, and there were usually two or three cigarettes burning, unattended, in the house, like very unpleasant incense, in case a parent wandered by to smoke it. To (the children’s) everlasting credit, we did used to try to get our parents to quit by giving prissy lectures and sticking matches INTO the cigarettes so they would flare up when you lit them, and we’d make a lot of wheezing noises and complaints when it was winter and the wood-paneled station wagon’s  were fogged up with smoke, but Mom would say  “stop exaggerating” and lift her cigarette to her beautiful lipsticked lips in a glamorous manner. She’s the healthiest person I know—perhaps it’s sheer perversity that cigarettes have preserved her lungs.

Oh, and my brothers discovered that you don’t even need toys to have wholesome fun. A pack of matches and a can of aerosol hairspray can provide hours of amusement. But my parents did not stint on actual toys. Another favorite was Jarts. Which is short for “lawn darts.” (why the J? For Danger?) In the hands of my three wild brothers in their Sears Toughskin jeans, these heavy, sharp projectiles were hours of fun and terror. Nobody bothered to read the package about how you were supposed to throw the stupid things as far AWAY from each other as possible. Like at a target or something. Not at whoever was stupid enough to not know when to run.

Don’t ask me why, these bad, bad things are making me feel very happy to remember. Perhaps because I, like my beautiful and dangerous mother, am full of perversity.

Anyway, I found a list of the top ten banned toys. I just wish I could have grown up in the fifties so I could get the Atomic Energy Laboratory!


Writing Prompt 9: What did you do or play with when you were young that would be considered way too dangerous today?

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