Jim likes to relate to me interesting items he hears on the radio during the drive home. The other day he came in with news of the Toy Hall of Fame's latest inductee.
If you're like me, you're thinking, "There's a Toy Hall of Fame?" Heck yeah. It's at the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, and it showcases "toys that have achieved longevity and national significance in the world of play and imagination." Being a contrarian by nature, I can't say I agree with all their choices, but I like the idea of recognizing the importance of toys.
Anyway, Jim informed me that the latest to join the Hall of Fame was the Stick.
That's how I heard it: with a capital letter, indicating it was some sort of commercially offered whatchamajig I hadn't heard of. Seemed odd that something so obscure would join the august ranks of such toys as the Easy Bake Oven and the Etch A Sketch. I imagined it might be some sort of electronic gadget that had somehow bypassed me.
As it turned out, the newest inductee is the stick. You know, the kind that falls off trees and makes a good spear, gun, drawing tool in the important artistic medium of dirt, fishing pole, horse, and so on. (I was also happy to hear that the cardboard box had already been inducted in 2005.) The reason for this honor?
Curators said the stick was a special addition in the spirit of a 2005 inductee, the cardboard box. They praised its all-purpose, no-cost, recreational qualities, noting its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed in myriad ways by a child's creativity.
"It's very open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price — there aren't any rules or instructions for its use," said Christopher Bensch, the museum's curator of collections. "It can be a Wild West horse, a medieval knight's sword, a boat on a stream or a slingshot with a rubber band. ... No snowman is complete without a couple of stick arms, and every campfire needs a stick for toasting marshmallows.
"This toy is so fantastic that it's not just for humans anymore. You can find otters, chimps and dogs — especially dogs — playing with it."
No rules or instructions. No expensive price tag. It doesn't beep, talk, move on its own, play tunes, or star in a zillion TV commercials. It doesn't come in eye-popping colors, wear clothing, or have accessories. The only way it transforms is via a child's imagination. There are many sticks, just as there are many Matchbox cars or Webkinz, but mostly, a stick is used for a while and then discarded until the next one comes along as needed--it doesn't call out to be one of a whole collection, that clever marketing device designed to make parents part with their hard-earned cash. Yet without marketing, without packaging, without flashy colors or moving parts, the stick remains a popular toy, ready to hand, incredibly versatile, and free for the taking.