This summer I've been volunteering at the new Seymour Community Museum. I love that place like I love the Muehl Public Library, just a couple blocks away. They are the kind of places I like to visit. Actually, both would be super locations for a sleep-over like in the movie Night at the Museum … Sorry, I'm straying from my topic.
On July 14, there was a special event at the museum, celebrating the General Store Grand Opening. That day, penny candy actually sold for one cent and ice cream for a nickel, just like the old days - I spent my nickel on a different item though. I bought a dill pickle. It had pucker power.
My station for the afternoon was in the gazebo with old-time toys and games. As soon as I volunteered to help, I started thinking about handmade toys from the '30s and '40s to make. The first one my dad had shown me how to make when I was a kid. We called it a button spinner (also known as a buzz saw, bullroarer, and a whirligig).
All you need is a large button with two holes, and a two-foot long piece of string (kite string will work). Thread the string through one of the holes and bring it back through the other, so both ends come out the same side. Tie a knot to secure the string ends together and then slide the button to the center. You should have a loop of string on both sides of your button.
Hold an end in each hand so the button hangs in the middle. Now swing your hands so the button spins and winds up the string. When you have enough twists, pull your hands in and out so the string unwinds then rewinds the other direction - it takes practice. If you ask, you might find someone who can help.
One word of warning about working a button spinner: Be careful if you have long hair. Loose hair can get caught up in the winding string and that would not be fun.
Another homemade toy I made was a tin can telephone. All you need is two tin cans and string. I washed out two vegetable cans and had Bob punch a hole in the center of each can bottom. (My can opener does not leave sharp edges. If yours does, make the other string phone I made below.)
My first tin can telephone didn't work so well. When Bob and I tested it, all we heard was a bit of a muffled buzzing sound. I tried a different string. This time I used a heavy gage thread. The sound was only a tiny bit better.
The third phone I made used foam cups (no sharp edges and only a sharp pencil was needed to put the hole in bottom). A 10-foot end of the thread went through the bottom of each cup. The ends were then tied to pieces of toothpicks to keep them from slipping back through the holes. Next I bugged Bob to test this phone. It worked! Best of the bunch! I brought extra foam cups with to make more phones with our visitors at the museum.
I made another tin can toy that worked pretty well. As with the telephone, the can had a small hole punched in the bottom. One end of a two-foot length of string was secured inside the can. On the end of the string that came out the bottom of the can I glued a small rubber ball.
To play with this toy, you held the can, swung the ball, and then caught the ball in the can. The worst thing you could do was bonk yourself on the head with the ball if you missed.
One fun game involved saltine crackers. Only people who could whistle could play this game. "Ready. Set. Go!" Players ate their cracker and then tried to whistle. First one to whistle won. No fair spitting crackers on opponents! I always make sure players aren't facing me.
Other volunteers brought a homemade "Plinko" game and had prizes to give out. We also had hopscotch drawn on the floor for playing and Hula-hoops.
Everyone who came had tons of fun, even Bob. It turned out that my husband could make his button spinner whirl better than anyone else.
If you visit Seymour, come to the museum. It's open 1-4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. You might even run into me one day and then you can tell me about the homemade toys you made and played with as a kid.
Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; Sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net; http://www.facebook.com/susan.manzke