Saturday, June 22, 2019

What a Bunch of Yo-Yos

My life of crime has been well-documented on this blog here and here.  Allow me to incriminate myself one more time.

In the 3rd grade, my then girlfriend (yes, girlfriend. I started early) told me she had overheard two boys on her bus talking about hiding their Yo-Yo in the bushes on the playground.  I'm not sure why they would hide a Yo-Yo.  Perhaps it was contraband at the school. But she told me the location and at recess, sure enough, we found a Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo hidden there.  So what did I do? I took it. Some kind of "finders keepers" logic I guess, but I do feel bad about it all these years later.  Imagine those kids coming out, excited they were going to be able to play with their Yo-Yo and.. "Son of a?!"  I still have it. It stares at me some nights.  Okay, it doesn't, but I do feel guilty when I see it.

I found this "Jo Jo" at a sale today.

 As the box indicates, it's "Luminoso" although I can't fit an AA battery in the compartment. I'm not sure what kind of battery it would take.

Perhaps some Italian battery variant as the "Jo Jo" appears to be from there given the "Venezia" logo and pictures on the box.

The kid that owned this Jo Jo was apparently obsessed with Yo-Yos.  There were at least a dozen vintage Duncan's there along with paperwork and some original cardboard backers.

They even had an invitation from Flambeau, owners of Duncan, inviting them to a local Duncan Championship at the Northwest Shopping Center Woolworth's in St. Ann, Missouri.  One of the possible awards offered is the "Best Girl Trophy", making the assumption First Place would never be won by a girl.

The contest was held June 17th, but no year is given.  The possibilities are 1967, 1972 and 1978.  Since Duncan wasn't acquired by Flambeau (I keep wanting to type "flambé") until 1968, so the 2 dates in the '70's are equally likely.  There were a couple different Duncan award patches for sale as well, so they may have won them there.

There was also this vintage Yo-Yo "Tournament Tricks" instruction sheet featuring Duncan's mascot, ummmm.... I'm going to go out on a limb here and say his name is "Duncan".  Let me just say the only Yo-Yo tricks I ever mastered (aside from "Steal the Yo-Yo") were "Rewind the Yo-Yo" and "Untangle the String".

Let's take a look at some of these up close.

At the time this was printed, according to it, the world's record for "The Spinner" (now known as "The Sleeper") was 15 seconds.  It's now 19 minutes and 39 seconds. Of course, Yo-Yo axles are now made with ball bearings.

 P.E.T.A. has recommended changing the name of "Skin the Cat" to "Peel the Potato". I'm not kidding.

 "This trick starts off like 'Loop the Loop'".  Well, maybe you should have made "Loop the Loop" #8 and "Three Leaf Clover" #9...

According to toy historians (I want that job), the Yo-Yo is the World's second oldest toy, the first being the doll. It was developed in China and was brought to the Philippines where it was used as a weapon to hunt animals.  Thrown by the hunter at the animal, its string and weight would entangle the animals legs allowing the hunter to close in for the kill.  I presume their Yo-Yos were much larger. It also made its way to ancient Greece and can even be seen on pottery from the period.

It was introduced to the United States in the 1920's by a Filipino immigrant named Pedro Flores. Donald Duncan purchased Flores' company in 1929.  The Yo-Yo's popularity declined post World War II and by the 1960's Duncan was looking for ways to increase sales which he accomplished through television and newspaper advertising as well as local and national competitions.  In 1965, Duncan went to court with a competitor over the use of the term "Yo-Yo".  The court ruled that "Yo-Yo" was a generic term and could not be trademarked.  Duncan's bitterness over the decision is reflected in their logo "if it isn't DUNCAN it isn't Yo-Yo." The financial cost of the legal battle forced Duncan to sell the company in 1968 to Flambeau Plastics who were the manufacturers of Dunan's Yo-Yos. Flambeau still own's the rights to Duncan Yo-Yos.

Yo-Yos remain popular today and have become a serious competitive sport.  Indeed, the passion for Yo-Yos is evident in heated online forum debates over the simplest things like how to spell "Yo-Yo" and the use of apostrophes when speaking of Yo-Yos.  Let's lighten up a little and enjoy this video of the first-place winner of the 2018 Pacific Northwest Regional Yo-Yo Competition.

Oh, and that Duncan Butterfly Yo-Yo I stole?  I still have it.

See how it looks at you?


  1. waitaminnit -- yo-yos were used in ancient greece? this changes my entire mental image of ancient greece. i now picture aristotle walking around doing tricks.

    1. Pretty sure he invented "Walk the Dog". But double check me.


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