A look at hall of famers

We’re just two days away from Christmas, and that means area residents will be turning their attention to toys.

Some will be making last-minute runs from store to store, looking in local communities, Robinson Township, the Highlands and St. Clairsville for that special last-minute present. Other Santa’s helpers no doubt are struggling with the thought of having to work into the wee hours of Tuesday morning to make sure that special item is put together just so.

Still others are waiting in anticipation for that package holding that one special item.

It really doesn’t matter how old we are — there’s something special about getting that new toy. They get more involved and complicated as we age, but the best toys encourage us to think, inspire us to create and provide many hours of enjoyment.

An annual reminder of that came in November, when the National Toy Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2018. Located in the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., the hall has welcomed 68 inductees since it was founded in 1998.

The latest three are the card game Uno, the Magic Eight Ball and pinball.

All three are solid picks, and each meets the simple criteria set up by the hall. According to the nomination form, a hall of fame toy must be widely recognized, respected and remembered; it must be more than a passing fad and have been enjoyed through many generations; it must foster learning, creativity or discovery; and must have had a profound impact on play or toy design.

That last item is so important that a toy can be inducted solely on its basis.

A field of 12 finalists is selected from all of the nominations, with a panel of educators, historians and others who exemplify learning, discovery and creativity through their lives and careers making the final selections.

It’s really tough to argue about any of this year’s selections.

Uno has been enjoyed by adults and children since it was developed in 1971 by Merle Robbins in the Cincinnati suburb of Reading.

The Magic 8 Ball is another toy that appeals to adults as well as children. Launched in 1946 by Abe Bookman in Cincinnati, it offers answers to yes or no questions. Its hall of fame biography says, “it plays with something people are curious about — the future.”

While children find it to be an amusing way to spend a couple of hours, adults have been known to keep one on their desks, using it as a paperweight as well as a trusted place to turn when it comes time to make a decision.

Coin-operated pinball machines as we know them have been around since the early 1930s and are important because they offer the opportunity to sharpen hand-eye coordination, its bio says.

It’s tough to earn a spot in the hall. In fact, Uno and Magic 8 Ball were finalists in 2017, but did not make the cut. Finalists that did not make the hall this year include Chutes and Ladders, American Girl Dolls, Masters of the Universe, chalk, the sled, Tickle Me Elmo, the Fisher Price Popcorn Popper, tic-tac-toe and Tudor Electric Football.

It’s perplexing that electric football has not been selected to the hall. I admit, it’s an all-time favorite of mine. The game, in which plastic football players face off on a vibrating metal football field, has provided many hours of enjoyment and entertainment. And, while it’s disappointing that the game was not enshrined this year, it was a finalist, which means there’s hope for next year.

A few of the toys that will find their way under Christmas trees this year will eventually claim a spot in the hall, some will be the subject of debate many years from now as their supporters lobby for enshrinement and others will quickly be forgotten. Those discussions are a long way down the road, though, and the hope here is that we’ll all find enjoyment in a favorite toy this year, either one of our own or one cherished by a special child in our lives.

Merry Christmas.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)

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