What's next in toys? How about a 'kangru springshu'?

Monday, September 10, 2001

Over the past three years, toy fads have gone from Beanie Babies to scooters.

And this year, Razor USA is turning a high-tech version of the pogo stick to put more bounce into its sales. The "Airgo" pogo was launched recently during a New York toy fair.

If you're not familiar with pogo sticks, you still won't be when you see the new Airgo.

The old traditional pogo stick is a traditional wooden stick with springs, where you could bounce up and down a few inches off the ground.

The new pogo stick is a shiny contraption made with an aluminum frame, a built-in pump with adjustable pressure retractable footpads and no springs.

The pricing is different, too. The new version will retail starting about $79.95, compared to the $20 for the old favorite.

SBI Enterprises Inc., the world's largest maker of pogo sticks, also has its own Super Pogo this year, that lifts a rider 40 inches in the air. Hey, I had trouble dropping down when the pogo only went up a few inches. Anyway, SBI, the original pogo stick maker, also has plans to roll out a "retro" pogo, an old-fashioned, wooden pogo, for this year's holiday season.

SBI founder George Hansburg, an Illinois baby furniture and toy designer, patented the pogo in 1918, insisting that he got the idea from a poor Burmese farmer who built one for his daughter, Pogo, so she could hop across a rocky, muddy stretch to get to the temple every day.

The stick was a big hit in the Roaring '20s, when the Ziegfeld Follies and the New York Hippodrome chorus girls performed on pogos and marathon jumping contests were held.

Now we're waiting for some company to recycle the old kangru springshu, which has springs and could make you jump like a kangaroo.

Ads during the early 1940s ballyhooed the springshu as offering "an exciting new sport of springshu jumping," as well as "strengthening children's feet and leg muscles."

The spring toys, which fitted the feet similar to roller skates, were designed for children between 30 and 100 pounds.

"The action," claimed ads, "was not strong enough to be dangerous, but it is real fun."

Emerging from the product was a traditional hero, in this case "Flying Feet Johnny," who made it his business to use kangru springshu to play the hero.

In one cartoon strip, Johnny, attending a ship-launching, saw a saboteur place TNT in the path of the launching of the North Star ship. As the giant ship rolled down the launching pad, Johnny put on his kangru-springshus, leaped to a dangling cable hook, and landed on a plank which contained the TNT. The plank served as a teeter-totter, and when Johnny leaped to one end, it catapulted the TNT into the bay where it exploded harmlessly.

Or maybe someone will recycle a doodlebug.

The doodlebug, another big toy of the 1940s, didn't have any springs, but it used steel pulleys and a rubber belt to provide power via hand propulsion, over a tricycle frame.

There's always a lot of competition for the consumer's dollar for toys, especially around the Christmas holiday.

This year will be no different with such items as new video games, merchandise spun off from Harry Potter and other movies, Pokemon and Nutcracker Barbie. Right now, the pogo doesn't rank on any top-selling toy lists.

Old-fashioned toys are riding a wave of nostalgia, reaching new generations of children. Etch-a-Sketches are doing well in sales. And some of the old favorite toys still on the market include the yo-yo, introduced by Duncan Toy in 1929; Silly Putty, 1950; Mr. Potato Head, 1952; and Rubik's Cube, 1979.

B. Ray Owen is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: