Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Summer of Klackers

I see kids of all ages out and about on the Bronx's summer streets who are completely mesmerized with their iPhones and engrossed in their iPods. This contemporary digital snapshot is a far cry from the way things were when I was a boy. You know: stickball games in the street; open fire hydrants cooling off the cool atop the blazing hot asphalt.

Once upon a time, we amused ourselves with outdoor games and objects. The walkie-talkie was high technology. The fads that blew in and out of our lives were at once less technical and less expensive. be young again and carrying around a pair of acrylic or glass balls. I'm speaking, of course, of Klackers: two solid balls connected by a single string, which debuted sometime in the late 1960s. However, they made a tsunami-like splash in 1972 as a very visible—and very loud—fad.

Klackers were merchandised by more names than can be chronicled here: Popper Knockers, Click Clacks, Nik Noks, Whackers, Quick Waks, etc. But whatever name they went by, the toys, which featured a handle device in the center of the string between the two balls, worked with the yo-yo principle. The object was to get the two balls banging into one another with some aplomb, and, if you were any good, performing neat tricks in the process. For one brief shining moment at least, it seemed that every boy and girl on the block had a pair of Klackers. They came in a kaleidoscope of colors, too, ranging from orange to bright pink to lime green—you name it.

The Klackers’ craze, however, rapidly went by the wayside amid persisting rumors of the glass balls smashing to smithereens like buckshot into youngsters' eyes and faces—something akin to what happened to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s former hunting partner. And, naturally, when two rock-solid balls crash into one another with brute force in the vicinity of unprotected body parts, there are bound to be never-ending stories of bruised arms, hands, and knuckles. Kids will be kids, too. Accidentally, and sometimes intentionally, many a youth got whacked on the head with the uber-active Klackers' balls.

You can see the problem here. Klackers had to go…and they did. They remain, however, knocking away in the hearts and minds of the boys and girls—now men and women—who let them rip some four decades ago. Now, if you want to get your mitts on a pair of Klackers, eBay and not Wal-Mart is where to find them.

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