Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tinker Toys: Greatest Toys Ever?

This is not a "Reminiscing" article, though it seems like one. Possibly it could be added to to make a nice "Reminiscing" piece, but this just struck my fancy today. I originally wrote it for my personal blog, and re-read it this morning. I did some editing and decided to post here. Enjoy.

I had a love affair with Tinker Toys when I was a kid. Well, I guess you could say I still do. I loved creating cityscapes with those toys. When I talk about Tinker Toys, I'm talking about the old, wooden ones, not the supersized plastic pieces of crap being sold today.

Our Tinker Toys came from a garage sale. Back in my day, garage sales were the best places to get the best toys. It's where we found a model train set, a suitcase organ, countless books, and Tinker Toys. Those were the days when garage sales were still popular spots for getting great bargains, before eBay ruined it all. Today people think they're going to make a mint on the junk in their attics or basements. I miss real garage sales.

But, this isn't about garage sales. At least for today it's not about garage sales. Today is about those really cool, wooden toys. I can't even start to calculate how many hours I spent building with them. I had skyscrapers, houses, cars, planes, and and even people. I built rocket ships and used the upstairs as outer space. I can remember one time that I built a high-rise all the way to the ceiling in grandma's house, which was one of those tall ceilings like you find in old houses. There's a picture somewhere in the mess of pictures I have in my library.

The best part of Tinker Toys? You were only limited by your imagination. They were like Legos, but just a little bit better. The box we had was full of wooden rods and spools. My sister and brother also played with them, but I was definitely the most adept at making huge creations.

Some time after we became adults, my grandmother gave the box of Tinker Toys away to a friend's grandchildren. It was definitely an unpopular decision. We still loved them, and I wanted to show Wendy how awesome these toys were. Although those toys are long gone from our homes, I hope they are still being enjoyed after years of being infused with our memories.

Tinker Toys were invented by Charles H. Pajeau, Robert Pettit, and Gordon Tinker in 1913 or 1914, in Evanston, Illinois. For all you math-letes out there, the differing length sticks were meant to be based upon the Pythagorean progressive right triangle. Hopefully one of my math friends can explain that fully. In order of length, the sticks were orange (1.25 inches), yellow (2.15), blue (3.35), red (5.05), green (7.40), and purple (10.35).

According to their website, each successively longer rod is (with allowances for the size of the spools) the nest smaller size times the square root of two; thus any two of the same size will combine with one of the next size up, and three spools, to for an isosceles right triangle (45°–45°–90°).

In 1992, they changed from wooden sticks to plastic ones, and also increased the diameter of the sticks. I own some of the new style of Tinker Toys, but I still prefer the old, wooden sets. I have a couple of small sets in their cardboard containers that I found here and there. I'm always on the lookout for a set of the 1960s version. If you happen to see any around, let me know.

What about your favorite toys? Were there any that stick out in your mind even today?

Craig Bacon still plays with toys. I bet you do, too.