Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

July 21, 2013

HOPKINS: Playing into the hall of fame

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Every day I receive anywhere from 100 to 175 e-mails. Some of them I don’t even look at; even at work I get some of the same spam mail I get in my private e-mail accounts.

After the junk is eliminated, the daily task of reviewing the dozens of remaining electronic mail begins. Some are instantly recognizable as important, others merit much closer scrutiny. There are a few that are like Santa— they only come once a year but they’re greatly anticipated.

One of those greatly anticipated pieces of mail arrived last week: The National Toy Hall of Fame, located at the Strong Museum in Rochester, is seeking nominations for its annual hall of fame inductions.

I’ve never been to the toy museum, even though it’s just down the road in Rochester and despite the fact that inside this 42-year-old body beats the heart of a 10-year-old.

There are four criteria induction: Icon status (it’s widely recognized, respected and remembered), longevity (it’s not a passing fad and enjoyed popularity over multiple generations), discovery (it fosters learning, creativity or discovery through play) abd innovation (it profoundly changed play or design). What’s nice is all four don’t have to be met.

Every year when the new inductees are announced, I usually wonder why certain childhood favorites didn’t get in earlier. Then I look at the list and I understand. There’s pretty stiff competition every year; some of the items that have been inducted have been around for hundreds of years.

Take, for example, from the Class of 2005, the cardboard box. Who can’t deny this item, which has stimulated minds and provided hours of entertainment for children?

Cardboard boxes have been used to play hide and seek, to take imaginary trips across country or to a different planet and have even been used as castles, caves and other abodes. Fans of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes will remember how Calvin made his transmogrifier out of a cardboard box — before he turned it into a time machine. I once saw young children use a cardboard box as a sled.

Then there’s the stick, something that’s been used as a toy since man began to walk upright. Inducted in 2008, sticks have been used in several methods. It’s been used as a weapon in play-battles, as a rocket ship, a baton and in some cases larger ones have been used to substitute for a baseball bat or hockey stick.

Of course, there are many traditional toys that have brought endless amounts of joy, wonderment and imagination to children around the world. The Barbie doll, G.I. Joe, the yo-yo and hula hoop, Raggedy Ann, the Easy-Bake Oven, LEGO, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Crayola Crayons, Slinky, Mr. Potato Head are among the 51 toys inducted. The list goes on.

Still, there are many items that belong in the hall. And that’s where you come in.

According to the National Toy Hall of Fame, anyone can nominate a toy. A news release states that “An internal museum advisory committee comprised of curators, educators, and historians reviews the submitted nominations and determines which toys meet the criteria for selection.”

For me, a couple of toys stick out.

Hot Wheels are in, but somehow Matchbox cars haven’t been granted similar status. I don’t think it’s Mattel’s power over its British counterpart, Lesney. But, at least for me, Matchbox cars were more fun.

Sure, Hot Wheels has their tracks and the cars are super-fast, but Matchbox had a broader appeal. Hot Wheels were made for speed, and the cars — hot rods, dragsters, race cars and sports cars — confirmed it. Matchbox brought appeal to all vehicles: the family sedan, sports cars, police and fire, military, construction, you name it.

When I was young, my friends and I would play “Matchbox cars,” not “Hot Wheels,” even though there were Hot Wheels thrown in along with the occasional Corgi Juniors. And Hot Wheels, to my knowledge, don’t have any songs written about them by rock bands. Matchbox cars have “Mach 5,” a 1996 song by The Presidents of the United States.

How about remote-controlled toys, such as cars and airplanes? These toys allow their operators to almost realistically drive or fly the machines without having to place a hand directly on it; you have to push a Tonka truck but you can actually steer a remote-controlled car by using the control pad in your hand.

Whether these two items make it, or are even nominated, remain to be seen. Submissions for nominations must be received by the museum by July 31. The Class of 2013 will be announced Nov. 7, with a pubic weekend celebration Nov. 9-10.

For more information, visit www.toyhallofffame.org and be prepared to take a trip down memory lane.