Remembering Childhood Toys

There were many childhood toys produced for the ‘Boomer Generation” of the late 1940s into the 1950s and early 1960s. Here are a few. See how many you remember or that your parents had as kids.

The Magic 8 Ball – Since the 1950s, the Magic 8 Ball has been a consistent source of advice for all of life’s problems. The toy’s inventor, Albert C. Carter, was the son of a Cincinnati clairvoyant. Carter’s mother, Mary, would often use the fortune-telling invention the Psycho-Slate — a small chalkboard sealed inside a container — with her clients. When someone asked a question to the “other world,” Mary would reveal the answer on the Psycho-Slate, as if the spirits scribbled it down themselves.

In 1944, a grown-up Carter completed his version of a fortune-telling tool called the ‘Syco-Seer’, a liquid-filled tube with a window allowing a view of two floating worded dice. The Syco-Seer attracted the attention of Cincinnati store owner Max Levinson, who turned to his brother-in-law, Abe Bookman, to help with production. The company formed was Alabe Crafts with improvements to the Syco-Seer’s design with a smaller tube and only one floating die inside a crystal ball.

One more design change in 1950, replaced the crystal ball with a black eight billiard ball.

Alade Crafts went on to the market the now-named Magic 8 Ball as a paperweight before repositioning it as a children’s toy, which launched its international popularity. Today, the Magic 8 Ball continues to respond with its 20-sided die that includes 10 positives, five negatives, and five vague responses. Now owned by Mattel, over a million Magic 8 Balls are sold every year.

Play-Doh – It was launched in 1956, the product was only available in white and would harden when left exposed to air. With the help of a chemist, Dr. Tien Liu, had come up with a formula that allowed Play-Doh to remain pliable longer and make its colors more vibrant.

Sales were slow but by 1958 sales soared when Play-Doh was featured in ads during the popular kid’s show ‘Captain Kangaroo.’

Other colors were added and the first Play-Doh Fun Factory was available in the early 1960s.

In 1965, Joesph McVicker sold his Play-Doh company to General Mills, with Hasbro taking the brand in 1991. Today, more than 3 billion cans of Play-Doh have been sold in more than 80 countries.

Photo: Magic 8 Ball

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