Friday, May 11th, 2007
Show and Tell: Gee Wee Ball Toss Toy
In 1949, a US patent was filed for a so-called Ejecting Device. A few years later it became known as the Gee Wee, made by the Vera Toy Company.
The Gee Wee is a plastic rocket-shaped cone with a thumb trigger. Drop a plastic ball inside the cone, push the button and the ball goes flying. The trigger forces a strip of metal inside the cone to bend downward then snap up with a loud pop. The ball only flies a few feet, but that’s enough for you and a friend to play a game of simultaneous cone-catch.
I picked up a Gee Wee this week at an estate sale. I’m a devout garage sale hound, but I haven’t attended an estate sale for a few years because, well, seniors don’t own a lot of baby stuff.
So it was a bit of luck that I stopped by a Thursday sale and found a family who had moved into a home in the 1950s and never went shopping again. Their possessions were in great condition, a testament to the shoddy workmanship we complacently accept today.
The original game sold with two cones and four balls. For $1, I found one Gee Wee and no balls, but a ping pong ball was easily substituted. My almost-3-year-old daughter has a great time playing this peculiar form of catch with me, although I frequently remind her to point the cone up and away from peoples’ faces.
I also picked up Dr. Spock’s Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care from 1946. The cover proclaims that it’s the winner of the 20th annual Parents Magazine Award. Judy at GoodyBlog clued me in that Parents Magazine’s first issue was in 1926. Dr. Spock’s book is surprisingly well written and has my daughter pegged.
"Children at this age (three to six), being especially devoted to their parents, are easy to lead. Boys and girls around 3 have reached a stage in their emotional development when they feel that their fathers and mothers are wonderful people. [â€¦] The feelings toward the parents aren’t just friendly; they are warm and tender. However, the child is not so devoted to his parents that he always obeys and behaves perfectly. He is still a real person with ideas of his own."
A third find was a 1955 printing of a semi-fictional story called Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson. The story is about a family who moves from the city to the countryside, with the savages being the family’s four children. I picked it up because of the title, but surprisingly the story was reprinted as recently as 1997, has great reviews on Amazon and even has its own Wikipedia entry.
Now before you slap me silly for talking up the Gee Wee, a plastic replacement for playing catch with, you know, bare handsâ€¦ hey, you were going to slap me silly right? Come on! I totally deserve it. And doesn’t it remind you of a Flash Gordon ray gun? I didn’t see it right away. I’m a sucker for streamline and art deco design from the 1930s and 1940s.
Anyhow, I have to say that my daughter loves tossing normal bouncing balls around the house, her favorite being a squishy Gertie Ball someone gave us. I can lie on the sofa tossing the ball for half an hour as she chases it all over the room. The fun part is when she moves her rocking horse, Sit ‘N’ Spin and toddler rocking chair into doorways in an attempt to block all potential avenues for the ball’s escape.
And on top of that, you don’t even need a Gertie Ball. A simple balloon can provide an hour of fun. At some point you ask yourself, how can this activity be this fun for this long? Adults have their limits. Have your spouse swap places with you after the first 30 minutes of runaway giddiness.