Past Due Tribute to the Stick

Negativity abounds across this country today. It has for months now. In this complex world, we yearn for simplicity to reduce the ever-growing level of stress.

The holiday season is upon us now, and we’ve been given an early gift. It is simplicity personified. It brings a smile to a frowning face, triggers memories we thought were long forgotten and provides a peace of mind, innocence and serenity of heart that today’s generation may never experience.

Within this veiled “gift” is a critical message for all who seek success. Talk about “back to basics”… listen to this!

On November 6 at 2:52 in the afternoon in Rochester, New York, what might be considered the most versatile and gratifying toy in history was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, the lowly stick—a wooden piece of a tree—has joined the coveted ranks of 41 other favorites that meet the demanding criteria of a “toy.”

But allow me to digress for just a moment. Yes, Virginia there IS a Toy Hall of Fame. It’s an organization that recognizes the contributions of toys and games that have sustained their popularity for many years. Criteria for induction include: icon-status (the toy is widely recognized, respected, and remembered); longevity (more than a passing fad); discovery (fosters learning, creativity, or discovery); and innovation (profoundly changed play or toy design). Established in 1998, the National Toy Hall of Fame was originally housed at A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, Oregon, but was moved to the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, in 2002 after it outgrew its original home.

Now—back to the stick!

I was fortunate to grow up in the midst of great riches. My family had little or no money, but I had a lake in my front yard, a dense woods behind my house and my loyal dog, Scout, constantly at my side. What more could a young boy ask for?

That mystical woods kept me supplied with an unlimited supply of sticks … and each individual stick rendered a myriad of magnificent memories to my young mind and imagination.

Every day when I played and allowed my imagination to transport me to other worlds, my stick disappeared. However, it quickly reappeared in a variety of appropriate forms.

When I defended the Alamo in my coonskin cap as Davy Crockett, my stick was transformed into a trusty Flintlock rifle.

As Captain Ahab guiding my raft across my lake in search of Moby Dick, my stick was modified into a powerful and lethal harpoon.

My faithful stick played many other crucial roles throughout my childhood. I remember them all very well—a medieval knight’s sword, a magic wand, a fishing rod, a royal scepter, a witch’s broomstick, a snowman’s arms, a hurdle, a baseball bat, marshmallow toaster, and, by merely adding a rubber band, a slingshot.

I was limited only by my imagination, which meant the sky was the limit! And, compared to today’s toys—no contest. My stick cost nothing, was multipurpose, required no batteries or maintenance, and was easy to replace. It also required no rules, regulations or instructions. The stick was, by far, my favorite toy throughout my childhood.

I’m going to share the list of other Hall of Fame toys but first want to mention my second favorite toy which was also inducted back in 2005. Are you ready for this one? It’s your everyday cardboard box! I’m sure you see the obvious common thread—my creativity and imagination! Boxes of all sizes allowed me to travel anywhere my mind might want to go and do whatever I wanted to do. A simple box would become my race car, space ship, submarine, robot, and, when we were fortunate enough to have a neighbor purchase a new washing machine or refrigerator, we would have the world’s greatest fort until the first rain came.

Some of my warmest childhood memories revolved around a simple stick and an unassuming cardboard box. I often wonder how today’s youth would react if given a stick and a cardboard box and asked to let their imagination run wild.

While I fully understand that things have changed and the toy industry has made great strides over the years, I sometimes fear we’ve lost a real treasure somewhere along the way. I’m sure it’s just me.

The other members of the Toy Hall of Fame include:

  • Alphabet Blocks
  • Atari
  • Baby Doll
  • Barbie Doll
  • Bicycle
  • Candy Land
  • Checkers
  • Crayola Crayons
  • Duncan Yo-Yo
  • Easy Bake Oven
  • Erector Set
  • Etch-A-Sketch
  • Frisbee
  • G.I. Joe
  • Hula Hoop
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Jacks
  • Jigsaw Puzzle
  • Jump Rope
  • Kite
  • Lego Blocks
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Lionel Trains
  • Marbles
  • Monopoly
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • Play-Doh
  • Radio Flyer Wagon
  • Raggedy Ann
  • Raggedy Andy
  • Rocking Horse
  • Roller Skates
  • Scrabble
  • Silly Putty
  • Skateboard
  • Slinky
  • Teddy Bear
  • Tinkertoys
  • Tonka Trucks
  • View Master

About Harry K. Jones

Harry K. Jones is a motivational speaker and consultant for AchieveMax®, Inc., a company of professional speakers who provide custom-designed seminars, keynote presentations, and consulting services. Harry's top requested topics include change management, customer service, creativity, employee retention, goal setting, leadership, stress management, teamwork, and time management. For more information on Harry's presentations, please call 800-886-2629 or fill out our contact form.

3 thoughts on “Past Due Tribute to the Stick

  1. I feel I speak for many my age when I say I received my first early Christmas gift today in the form of your column saluting a stick.
    I live in Vermont and assume you live in Michigan near your corporate headquarters. But hearing your childhood reflections of your stick, cardboard box,and Davy Crockett,brought back many memories as I felt you were describing my friends and our neighborhood. I forgot how simple life was in those days. I appreciate you reminding us. Merry Christmas.

  2. A stick, a stick, my kingdom for a stick or cardboard box or childhood memories! If I thought my children would understand, I would this year grace them with the greatest of Christmas gifts: a common stick in a humble box. Sadly, they wouldn’t understand.

    L. Earls

  3. Ahh the stick. What a great read… My stick became an oar as I paddled my way through an imaginary river on top of an old rusty car frame in the woods behind my house. It also became my first fishing pole in that same river. It later had a real purpose as a “litter stick” at my first job where I pounded a nail in the end of it and then asked my dad to ground the nail down to a pointed end so I didn’t have to touch the garbage I had to pick up in the county park every so often.

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