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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Toys of Christmas Past

Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. I’ve been away from the internet for a few days and will likely have limited access for a few more so I wanted to squeeze in a Christmas post. I found this old commercial for “Mr. Machine” on Youtube last week, and it got me thinking about toys of Christmas past.

1960 Mr. Machine TV commercial


I got a Mr. Machine for Christmas 1960, the year we lived on Atkins Road in Port Huron, Michigan (the year before we moved to the Detroit area). I also got a sled that year. I still have the sled (no it is not named "Rosebud" for you Citizen Cane fans who may be wondering).

I wish I still had the Mr. Machine, but the manufacturers made the mistake of trying to make it a “hands on” educational toy that a boy could take apart and put back together—just like new. I did not take mine apart for a long, long time…and then I started feeling "educational" and…well you know the last line of “Humpty Dumpty”…it was kind of like that.

The first gift I remember getting was in 1959. I was almost four years old: Paul, Dave, and I each got a red Tonka fire truck. I still have that truck on a shelf in our downstairs TV room.

You still have a toy from nearly 50 years ago? You must have really taken good care of it.

Not really—though it is in very good shape. We played with it for years, and then it sat around in the basement toy box for a couple of decades surrounded by a tangle of toys held together by Slinkies and Kathy’s jump ropes and boxing glove laces and yo-yos.

That's what happens when four kids share one toy box. You reach in to pull out one toy and along come a dozen others. My writing here is sometimes like that. Especially these past several weeks as I've been mulling over the sixties…but it’s been fun sorting it out. Thanks for your patience.

It was only a few years ago that I brought that fire truck home from my mom's attic and put in on a shelf with some other “antique” toys—Ouch! That hurts… calling something I got brand new as a kid an antique. Let me change the subject by telling you about a gift I didn't get, one my Dad refused to give my brother Dave and me.

It was called a "Hump-A-Jump." I can't find a thing about it on the internet, so you’ll have to trust me. This thing existed some time in the late Sixties. They were advertising it on local TV in the Detroit area. It was basically one of those circus teeterboards—you know the kind that acrobats use to get each other higher and higher in the air.

The commercial showed kids catapulting each other like ten feet straight up right there in their own backyard. Dave and I had seen the TV spot for weeks, and finally it came on when Dad was home to see it.

“Hurry, Dad. See. There it is... that's the ‘Hump-A-Jump’ we’ve been telling you about.”

He watched for a while, because there was a side of Dad that loved us being athletic "risk takers," but there was another side of him that liked our daring stunts to be free—like climbing 50 feet up in a tree or diving off of fishing shanties into the raging St. Clair River. There were plenty of inexpensive ways for us to kill ourselves...

"Well, Dad. What do you think? Can we get one?" I begged.

"You gotta be kidding. You’d break your neck on that contraption. How do you stop once you get going? They don't show you that. Those kids are probably on crutches right now. I think they should call it a ‘Hunk-a-Junk.’” He couldn't help but laugh at his own joke.

"You'd break your neck" ranked right up there with "You'll shoot your eye out," but Dad did have a point. What were they thinking? I've said it here before... safety wasn't discovered until the Seventies. Years later my brother Dave pursued his secret circus desires by learning how to juggle and ride a unicycle. I have a feeling if my dad had gotten us our “Hump-A-Jump,” I wouldn't have lived to tell you about it—I weighed a lot less than Dave at the time.

Speaking of living to tell you about it. I hope to find some time this week (Christmas Break) to wrap up those missing epilogue posts from after 1964. I've got to get to the part where my little brother is born and we go back to Hudson's.

Until then...have a very merry Christmas!

Update: August 30, 2009. I had missed most of these comments since writing this back in 2006, but I found them today. Better yet, I found a Youtube clip by Steve Oatley demonstrating a Hump-a-Jump. I think they may be a bit over the recommended weight limit (I know I would be) but you get the idea. Enjoy!

27 Comments:

Blogger Nancy said...

Your Dad was a very special man and I am enjoying getting to know him through your posts. Blessings to you and your family.

28/12/06 7:04 PM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

I really liked seeing that Mr. Machine commercial. It was very sweet and innocent. I don't remember it, so I must have a bit young when it aired. But obviously my parents must have seen it, because we had a Mr. Machine as kids.

7/1/07 6:32 PM  
Blogger kat said...

I was reaching back into my memory and looking up the hump-a-jump. We as kids had one in our neighborhood and would line up and jump on it for hours.. doing various stunts that now would give parents a heart attack. your the first person I've seen mention this childhood memory :)

23/5/07 3:12 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Nancy,
I had been writing so long with little to no comments that I didn't start the habit of replying to them until after this.

Rhea,
Glad you stopped by in January. Hope you come again.

Kat,
If I hadn't seen this new comment I would have missed all three. You don't have a profile so I can't check your blog, but I do hope you come again. So you actually had a Hump-a-Jump in your neighborhood. See folks, I wasn't making it up even though I've still found no proof that such a thing was ever produced and sold. My how times have changed! They probably had a law suit that blew them into oblivion.

2/6/07 11:39 AM  
OpenID supanich said...

We owned two Hump-a-Jump's! We got many hours of fun and excercise out of them. Yes, we had a line of neighborhood (Madison Heights, MI - Suburb of Detroit) kids waiting to challenge the winner (the one who didn't fall off first!). Yes, there was an injury or two. Nothing major, but I still have a scar up my right shin. Stunts included splits, spins and toe touches. None of us ever attempted a flip though! I was hoping to find one for my kids online. No luck!

20/1/08 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

We had Hump-a-Jumps at Camp Michawana (near Hastings, MI) back in the early 70's. They were awesome. If anyone has pictures (or even better, a real Hump-a-Jump) I'd love to see them. I'm considering making one for my three boys and am scratching my head trying to remember how they were made... :-)

21/1/08 11:54 AM  
Blogger kay said...

I have been thinking about some of the old toys we had in the 60s, Creepy Crawlers, Cau-Form, Incredible Edibles..and I remembered the Hump-a-Jump. In my neighborhood, we had a common "field" where all the kids came for games...there was a Hump-a-Jump and we would line up waiting our turn to use it. Injuried were par for the course in our play. Back then our neighborhood had 24 hour bike races...dug forts underground, played tetherball, made movies, even worked at getting each other to faint...ages 6-15 "Hung out" and played all day all summer...I am sure someone broke an arm or got stitches...but we were tough. And we had fun.

21/1/08 5:44 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

We had a Hump-A-Jump at home when I was a kid in Birmingham, MI. I think I was about 7 or so and my brother about 9 in 1974 or 75. We might have gotten it new but more likely bought it used from a local church rummage sale.

It was Tons-A-Fun! We played for hours on it and you truly could be launched 5 feet in the air straight up, and more if you were angled the wrong way. We never hurt ourselves and the funny thing was that while our parents didn't mind us having this, we weren't allowed to play on our neighbor's trampoline for fear of hurting ourselves.

7/3/09 3:23 PM  
Blogger meann said...

Hello
I lived in Birmingham back from 1967 to 1971. Someone in our neighborhood had a hum-a-jump and my cousins Murphy's and Mccormick all played on it. We had a great time don't remember if anyone got hurt. If anyone was from birmingham I'm sure they who where harmon hill was that is the area where we played. Anyway, back to the hum-a-jump does anyone have a photo of one? I would really like to get one.
Thanks
meann

18/3/09 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also grew up in Birmingham 1962-1972. I lived on Yorshire Road. We loved our Hump-A-Jump. Does anyone know where to find one..or even a picture of one? I would love to have one for my kids. I think it was manufactured in Troy?

27/5/09 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the Hump-a-jump at a camp my brothers and I went to On Ford road (Real Life Day Camp) when I was about 11 years old. No, we never lost an eye or got hurt. It was just good clean fun!

29/8/09 9:03 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Wow! How did I miss all these comments? So sorry. This is interesting. So I was right... the hump-a-jump was a Detroit Metro area creation. I didn't think it was national.

Supanich,
Welcome. Wow! you owned 2 of them. Thanks for confirming the existence of this long-forgotten Detroit child launcher.

Brian, I'll bet no camp would have one now.

Kay,
I will be writing about "Jarts" in a little while. Now there's a safe invention: Let's give kids giant, heavy pointed darts to throw into the air and come straight down.

Tom,
Dave and I imagined ourselves flying even higher than that if only Dad would have bought us a hump-a-jump.

Meann,
Let me know if you find a picture.

Anon,
Thanks for leaving a comment. Thank you all for remembering this with me. Sorry it took me till August 2009 to see these comments.

30/8/09 5:40 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hey. Get this. I just found a Youtube clip by Steve Oatley showing a Hump-a-Jump. I'll add it to this post.

30/8/09 5:52 PM  
Blogger Kai said...

I am so excited that you found this clip...I have searched and never found anything. Weird timing since the Bloomfield Village gang has been reminiscing on FB this week.
Thanks!

30/8/09 6:21 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Kai,
Thanks for the speedy response. Do you know the people in the Youtube clip? Tell your friends about POI. We do a lot of reminiscing here.
Tom

30/8/09 8:55 PM  
Blogger deigs said...

How do I get access to the Hump-a-Jump Video? We had those forever as kids. I never once broke my neck either.

25/10/09 8:45 AM  
Blogger kay said...

Scroll up. A You Tube video is posted on this site.

25/10/09 10:25 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

deigs,
At the end of the clip above there is one other clip and in the text above that is the youtube channel where I found it after years of no success.

Kay,
Thanks for directing deigs to the same info above.

It has been fun to see the post get so much attention through the years.

1/11/09 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memory.I tell friends now that I had a Hump-a-Jump. No one knows what I was talking about. Everyone in the neighborhood had one and I think the owner of the company lived down the street from me growing up.I am going to sent this link to my brothers and new and old friends, Thankyou

1/12/10 12:33 PM  
Anonymous gail said...

I had a hump-a-jump too back in the early '70's. I lived on Dorchester in B'ham, Mi. We had two fulcrums: a short one and a taller one so we could go higher if we wanted. My girlfriend had a hump-a-jump too and we would place them next to each other and at least 3 people would rotate 'round and 'round, from one 'jumper to the other. We also would "send" each other as high as we could. It was great fun and everyone loved it. What a blast we had. I'd love to have one or two for my daughters and and their friends to play on. Has anyone found one yet? My husband will probably have to make it. The video is helpful tho, it should be fairly simple to make. Any other B'ham-ers out there? thanks for the memories!! gail

8/4/11 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great! I tried to describe for my sons what a hump-a-jump was! I think they thought I was making it up.Summer playground at Pembrooke Elementary, Birmingham,Mich.,1963!! We had two hump-a-jumps, one smaller,one larger. I was six or seven, what a ride. Thanks for the trip down memory lane...

14/7/11 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Unfortunately, the video clip is now set to private.

If anyone know what kind of wood was used to make the long crossbars please let us know. I am going to try my hand at making one this summer.

12/6/12 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Novi, and my next door neighbors Dad brought one home the summer of '64 or '65. He had 3 daughters, they didn't want to try it out. My buddy & I were the first to try it out and learned how to stay on it. We set the record jumping over 500 times in a row without falling. It had a 6" fulcrum and a 12" one. That was the neighborhood entertainment for a couple of summers. We wore the friction finish off of the landing board. We'd jump off of a picnic table or a stepladder, and send each other high enough to see the roof of the house.

11/7/12 9:49 PM  
Blogger Marlo said...

I cannot get the video of the hump a jump to play I am trying to explain this to some friends of mine and they think I am crazy.

I loved this thing it was awesome and the best way ever to take out revenge on others (who decided this was a good idea especially for kids??)

How can i view the video or at least get a photo of the actual hump a jump???

22/8/12 10:31 PM  
Blogger Marlo said...

I loved the hump a jump and I have been trying to explain this to my friends who all think I am crazy.

I cannot get the video to play :o( Is there a way I can get the video to open or at least get a photo of this?????

22/8/12 10:35 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

We had one of the "Hump-a-jump" when were kids it was blue with yellow squares on each end - It was brilliant but I suspect it faded away because of injuries - this device with a picture of one should be on Wikipedia -

26/4/14 1:11 AM  
Blogger Danny Farah said...

I too played on one at a Mount Clemens city park. Last summer I found one at the Armada flee market for $ 20 and my kids live it. I wish I could upload a photo.

17/7/14 7:30 PM  

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