Follow the leader


A fad is defined as something that becomes very popular for a defined group of people over a relatively short time period. We young boomers did have our fads. Things were going on that you just had to have, or do. While I don't fancy myself a follower, I was drawn to many a fad.

Two early schoolyard fads that I recall were jacks and marbles. Both would kind of come and go, as fads are prone to do. Jacks were played with ten or so small, metal, six pointed stars and a small rubber ball. You'd throw the ball up, grab a jack, let the ball bounce once, and try to catch it before it hit a second time. You would progress to picking up two jacks, three jacks, etc., until you were attempting to pick up all ten. There were variations of the game, some of which I recall were double bouncers, pig in the pen, and flying Dutchman. Jacks was pretty much thought of as a girlŐs game, since the guysŐ hands were usually too large and clumsy to be very effective, but I do remember challenging the girls. I forget who usually won. Marbles was another schoolyard game. A circle was drawn on the ground, or made with chalk on the asphalt. You attempted to knock the opponentŐs marbles out of the circle with a shooter, which was a slightly larger marble, usually made of glass. I remember there being some beautiful and prized marbles. Some of the kids had big marble collections, and there was usually a lot of trading going on. In a serious game of marbles, you kept the opponentŐs marbles that you shot out of the circle, and the winner got the other personŐs shooter. This was serious business.

Another early fad I recall was making colored sand. This was accomplished by buying white sand, generally a nickel or dimeŐs worth, and adding grated, colored chalk. Putting it in jars of various shapes and sizes, you would layer the white sand and chalk-colored sand, making an appealing, rainbow like arrangement. With just the right amount of shaking, you could get a wavy, zigzag configuration going. Some of the kids became very good at doing this, and their colored sand jars became highly prized. The very best might bring a quarter, which at the time could buy you a double scoop, chocolate and marshmallow sundae, complete with whipped cream, nuts, and cherry. Needless to say, we worked very hard at creating something appealing. I recall relatives being the best customers.

Another early fad I participated in was matchbook collecting. Just the other day I learned a person who collects matchbooks is called a philuminist. I never knew I was a philuminist. Anyway, early on, matchbooks were the primary source of advertising for many businesses. While there were various types of matchbooks, the most popular was the twenty strike. There were literally an unending variety of advertisements, so that one usually had to specialize, say, in tavern, service station, tobacco, beer, railroad, specific states, or political matchbooks. Hometown matchbooks were always prized. The matchbooks were displayed in albums. I must have ended up with 20 or more albums. I'm not sure what ever happened to them. I'd like to have them, if for no other reason than the memories.

Raising pigeons was another odd fad that swept our town. I remember an old gentleman who seemed to be an expert on pigeons, so I'm assuming he started the fad. Pretty soon, me and my buddies all had to have pigeons. I'm not sure what the sense of it was, but we all pursued the collecting and raising of pigeons with a vengeance. Building the coop was the first move in establishing your dominance. Next came the purchasing of matching pairs, which were highly prized. And finally, the ultimate in pigeondom, if they mated. From the start, I had something of an advantage, since there was a large, cement block chicken coop left on our property. Converting this to pigeons was fairly easy, as the picture indicates. I probably had 25–30 pigeons at one time. Oh, the glory.

High school brought with it a whole new set of fads, which I'll talk about in two weeks. I hope some of these early fads jog your memory. Or what's left of it. They say early memories stick around the longest. Maybe you can think of other fads, some that you may have participated in. Drop me an e-mail, I'll share them in a future article ... Hopefully, if I remember.