An Underdog Favorite Makes Toy Hall of Fame The giant cardboard box -- the kind that refrigerators and washing machines come packaged in, was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame this week. Host Debbie Elliott talks with curator Christopher Bensch of the Strong Museum about the appeal of the simple box.
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An Underdog Favorite Makes Toy Hall of Fame

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An Underdog Favorite Makes Toy Hall of Fame

An Underdog Favorite Makes Toy Hall of Fame

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Another important reward related to children was given this week. The National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York, announced its 2005 inductees. The three toys that took their place in that coveted hall were the board game Candyland, the Jack-in-the-box and the cardboard box. Joining me from the studios of WXXI in Rochester is curator Christopher Bench.

Hi. Welcome to the program.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER BENCH (Curator, National Toy Hall of Fame): Thanks for having me.

ELLIOTT: So in this age of computer games, DVDs and talking dolls, the cardboard box?

Mr. BENCH: It's a relief to know that there are great toys out there that don't require batteries, wires, power supply, and that you can power them just by imagination. A shoe box can turn into a diorama or doll furniture. Another sort of box might also turn into a garage for your toy cars. But the ones that ring truest to all of us are those special boxes, those giant appliance boxes. Word went out over the kid network as soon as somebody in the neighborhood had an appliance delivered to their home, because we all wanted to get in on that refrigerator box, that washer box, that electric range box that was so much fun to imagine what it could be.

ELLIOTT: Time to build a new fort.

Mr. BENCH: You bet.

ELLIOTT: Now Candyland and Jack-in-the-box are also somewhat simple, traditional toys. How long have they been around?

Mr. BENCH: Well, the Jack-in-the-box has been waiting more than 500 years for its moment in the spotlight, and it's great to think of it being the latest technology of its time. It was powered by gears and levers and all those early industrial processes. And it's so great because it builds anticipation in kids. It's one of the first ways they learn about cause and effect.

(Soundbite of "Pop Goes the Weasel")

Mr. BENCH: And turning that crank, they know, is going to send them off on a journey to the exciting moment when...

(Soundbite of "Pop Goes the Weasel"; box popping open)

Mr. BENCH: ...Jack pops out.

Candyland, on the other hand, is a little more recent. It's been around since the 1940s. And its inventor, Eleanor Abbott, was recovering from polio, and she thought if she was tired and cranky during her recuperation, how must it be for small children? And she wanted to create a game that would keep those children happy during their recuperation, and Candyland has become the first game that so many American kids learn; the one that you don't even have to know how to read or count. You just follow the colors around that great board past the Peppermint Forest and the ice cream floats and all those other landmarks that live in our memories.

ELLIOTT: What are some of the toys that are already in the hall of fame?

Mr. BENCH: Well, they're a who's who of toys; ones that go back into ancient history, ones like Jacks, marbles and jump ropes; others that are more recent: roller skates, the bicycle, the Radio Flyer wagon, Tonka trucks, the Etch A Sketch or Play-Doh or Mr. Potato Head. And there are also those fads that have turned out to last: Frisbees and Hula-Hoops and yo-yos.

ELLIOTT: What about the Slinky?

Mr. BENCH: The Slinky is there, too. In fact, I brought a Slinky with me today and that Slinky sound is one that transports you to your childhood.

ELLIOTT: Can you take that Slinky and hold it up to your microphone and just let us hear the sound for a moment?

Mr. BENCH: Sure thing.

(Soundbite of Slinky sounds)

ELLIOTT: Christopher Bench, the chief curator of the Strong Museum, the National Museum of Play, in Rochester, New York. Thank you.

Mr. BENCH: My pleasure.


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