Jewish World Review July 7, 2004 / 18 Tamuz, 5764

Jeff Elder

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Consumer Reports

Buying back childhood toys; Barbie's full name; How was the Slinky invented?; more | Q: Why do I want to buy back all the toys from my childhood? I really wish I had kept most of them. - Sandy Fischer

A: You freeze. Your eyes widen. "Oh, my Gosh," you murmur. "I HAD THAT VERY ..."

_Easy Bake Oven with snack center and bonus warmer on top.

_Daisy Red Ryder BB gun with cleaning kit and case.

_Kenner Super Spirograph Deluxe Studio with multicolor pens.

Or a thousand other hunks of childhood molded into plastic or die-cast into steel.

Every one of them has the power to zoom you back to your old neighborhood faster than a Schwinn Sting Ray with banana seat, sissy bar AND tassles on the handle grips.

Suddenly every bill in your wallet seems to have been made by Monopoly.

You're a kid again.

"So many of these things have no apparent or intrinsic value," says Ted Hake, who's been holding collectible toy auctions five times a year since 1967. Hake was eBay before there WAS eBay. "Toys from your childhood have a real emotional pull. It's very personal."

Hake, who runs Hake's Americana & Collectibles in York, Pa., admits to feeling like Santa Claus when he can find a Captain Midnight Secret Squadron Code Ring for someone in their 60s.

Want to find your old toys? Even Hake says, "The Internet has made the toys from one's childhood much more accessible."

The problem is often digging through it all. There are 3,253 CATEGORIES of toys on eBay. Looking for a doll? They only have a valley of 17,055. Want to find your old die-cast car? They're rolling in 6,758 of them. Including my old Corgi Batmobile with REAL shooting Batmissiles! (Which, unfortunately, immediately became Batmissing.)

Just be sure to do thorough background checks on the seller. Make sure he's sold similar items many times without complaint.

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Q: What is Barbie's full name? - Cheryl Aldridge

A: Barbie Millicent Roberts. The doll's creators, Ruth and Elliot Handler (co-founders of Mattel) named it after their daughter, Barbara, for whom they made the toy.


Q: How was the Slinky invented? - Buster Moore

A: Mechanical engineer Richard James of Philadelphia accidentally invented the Slinky in 1943. He was trying to develop a spring to stabilize ship instruments against the sea.

James tested many springs, piling the discards on his desk. One experimental spring fell off and "walked" down a pile of books. It cracked him up.

He took it home to show his family. Every kid in the neighborhood wanted one, so he turned the spring into a toy.

James later joined a religious sect in Bolivia, leaving his wife, family and the Slinky business. His wife, Betty, revived the company and ran it admirably for nearly 40 years.


Q: I was recently watching the movie "The Music Man" with Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. I thought I saw Alan Hale, "The Skipper" from "Gilligan's Island," in a bit role. Was that him? - Gary Greenfield

A: No.

And Gary, that's right where a lot of Q-and-A columnists would leave you. With a snooty, one-word dismissal.

Well, not me.

Because when I saw your question, I knew you were a person of quality. Substance. Integrity. A Glad You Asked reader. And I knew you somehow SENSED an eerie connection between "The Skipper" and "The Music Man."

So I scratched and I dug and I delved into dusty old Internet files. (Then I got me a Coke and checked out my fantasy baseball team while I chatted on the phone.)

And then, Gary, I dug some more.

"The Music Man" was released in 1962. Hale, son of the great character actor Alan Hale Sr., happened to appear on a TV sitcom in January 1962, "The Andy Griffith Show."

Hale appeared as Jeff Pruitt in the "Farmer Takes A Wife" episode. On that show he referred to Deputy Barney Fife by a friendly nickname. It was a nickname that stuck, not to Barney, but to Hale. It simply worked for him - at 6 feet 2 and husky - to call a skinny guy:

"Li'l Buddy."

That's right, the very same nickname he would famously call Bob Denver on "Gilligan's Island" beginning two years later. (After Hale beat out Carroll O'Connor for the part of "The Skipper.")

Remember I said there was an uncanny Alan Hale-"Music Man" connection? When Hale appeared on "Andy Griffith," one of the other actors, of course, was young Ron Howard, who played Opie.

During that time Howard was also filming a big movie musical.

Called "The Music Man." source: internet movie database


Q: Are the mileages given on highway signs the distance to the city center, or to the city limits? - Harold Cumbie

A: In most places, those numbers give the miles to the city center, according to state transportation departments. Why do they do it this way?

Because the city limits change so much that otherwise they would have to regularly update the signs.



On the Summer Olympics ...

1. What 14-year-old Romanian was the first Olympic contestant ever to receive a perfect score in any women's gymnastics event?

2. In a "Saturday Night Live" spoof, what cereal did decathlete John Belushi train on?

3. Mark Spitz won seven gold medals in swimming in 1972. How many world records did he set?

4. Who won four golds in 1936, disproving Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy?

5. What Olympic track champion lost his gold medals because he played minor league baseball?



1. Nadia Comaneci

2. Little Chocolate Donuts

3. Seven

4. Jesse Owens

5. Jim Thorpe

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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.


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08/05/03: Where have you gone, Calvin, Opus and Cow?; fine feathered friend pecking on itself
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